A bold new project will combine technologies including autonomous vehicles, drones, sensors, data analytics, geospatial mapping and remote sensing to create Australia’s first fully automated farm.
At a cost of $20 million, the Global Digital Farm will be established at the AgriPark at Charles Sturt University’s Wagga Wagga campus across 1,900 hectares, operated entirely without hands-on human labour. Currently, the farm is operated commercially, growing a range of broadacre crops including, wheat, canola and barley, alongside a vineyard, and cattle and sheep enterprises.
The development of the property into a fully automated operation will include the use of a variety of technologies to demonstrate their potential to the wider community including fully autonomous machinery such as tractors, harvesters, survey equipment and drones. Farm operations will be streamlined using artificial intelligence to better inform decision making, while state of the art cyber security will protect the farm from emerging cyber threats. Sensing technologies will be used to enhance the performance of plants, soils and animals.
Carbon Farming and Sustainability in Focus
In addition to developing best practise models for the various technologies involved in the Global Digital Farm, the Food Agility CRC and Charles Sturt University will be using the opportunity to develop their understanding of carbon management and evidence based sustainability practices.
Charles Sturt University Professor of Food Sustainability Niall Blair said that the farm will act as a combined commercial operation, educational campus and extension facility.
“This ambitious and unique project will arm Australia’s primary industries workforce with knowledge and technology in crucial fields like data analytics, geospatial mapping, remote sensing, machine learning and cybersecurity,” he said.
“The Global Digital Farm will utilise Charles Sturt University’s world-class research and development capability in the agriculture space to help ensure the next generation of Australia’s farmers are at the forefront of innovation and efficiencies.
Automated Farming Closer than We Think
Food Agility CEO Richard Norton said that the commercial application of hands-free farming is closer than many realise, with the purpose of the Global Digital Farm to accelerate real-world adoption.
“Full automation is not a distant concept, we already have mines in the Pilbara operated entirely through automation,” he said.
“It won’t be too many years before technology will take farmers out of the field and immerse them in the world of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence.
“Food Agility, Charles Sturt University and the Riverina will be at the forefront of that transformation in Australia courtesy of the Global Digital Farm.”