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The Anvil Episode #5 | Ben Fleay | Precision Agriculture

For years you know I think farmers have tried
to collect yield data relatively unsuccessfully, mainly because in part it’s the collection
process itself is quite poor, they don’t calibrate to the the crop or the paddock for example,
so some of the actual data that comes through is not great. And then secondly even if that’s done properly
and they produce a yield map of sorts, it’s invariably just printed off, put in the top
drawer if you like and ever be seen again. So I think the issue is is people probably
don’t understand or don’t use it effectively to then draw some sort of action from, so
it just becomes basically just another pretty map I suppose that never gets used really. Despite that frustration, you guys at Precision
Ag are helping to close that gap, tell me about that? We always want to try and derive an action
from the data being collected in the first place otherwise it’s a waste of time and money
on the on the farmers parts. So yeah so we will nurse them through, help
them with formatting data cards, collect the yield data, check it during harvest time,
download end of harvest, process it and calibrate it to the tonnes produced on the paddock itself
and then produce a meaningful and accurate yield map. So that’s sort of the first step and then
it’s actually I’m sitting down with a farmer and their agronomist and ground-truthing the
yield map trying to validate why there’s areas performing well, why there are areas performing
poorly you know, and then generally looking at other datasets as well so it might be more
than one season’s worth of yield data because the vagaries of the season could throw
up some things that maybe aren’t consistent with the with the paddock, so you look look
up two or three years. Or look at a set of yield data from
one season and then overlay it with the likes of satellite imagery so NDVI maps where they’re
quite easy to go and get so you can overlay those with the yield maps and start to see
some you know some correlation I guess with the production across the paddock. So what other data do you correlate with
that to produce a decision, how do you produce that decision? From a yield map or an NDVI if you like so
we would do some some ground-truthing in terms of an EM38 survey to measure to basically
measure soil type or go and do some grid-based or strategic soil sampling, so try and look
at the nutrition of the paddock. And then from that you know build a profile
for the farmer too so that they better understand what they’re looking at because they’d have
a particularly should I want to drill down on whether it’s sodicity
or acidity if you like the end game obviously is to try and build them some sort of variable
rate activity, be it lime or gypsum or phosphorus or nitrogen. So it’s sort of using whichever tools are
a necessary Darryl I suppose to build that picture and get them into an action. We’re confident you know we’ve saved in the
order of around 60,000 tonnes of lime so which is valued around two and half million dollars
in savings to farmers so that’s quite a consistent saving we’re seeing across the board and there’s
also the yield unlock, so areas that were being probably under fertilised previously
are getting more lime now because they are identifying areas that are more acidic. Certainly, we’re saying probably a 10 or 20
per cent increase in yield but that’s one of the things we’re sort of working on now
is to try and better understand what that yield unlock is I suppose so you’ve got a
better sense of about of the extra yield being produced. What’s your vision for the future? A lot of those issues are common to many so
whether it’s trying to be smarter with their decision-making around fertiliser applications
so I think we sort of said there’s a big market anyway so we’re hoping to roll these services
across a you know a broadacre as well as pasture and viticulture and horticulture so
certainly anywhere they’re applying inputs anyway we think there is a role to play. Ben thanks so much for joining us on The Anvil. Thanks Darryl, thank you.

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