— Satel­lite crop mon­i­tor­ing

The faces of re­mote sens­ing in­no­va­tion

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and pro­jected yield. The im­pli­ca­tions of this re­search are rel­e­vant to all agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties, both in Aus­tralia and abroad.

Be­fore join­ing the UNE PARG group three years ago, Rob­son started his agri­cul­tural ca­reer pick­ing or­anges in the Rive­rina, be­fore be­ing em­ployed by the Queens­land and New South Wales de­part­ments of pri­mary in­dus­try for nearly 20 years. The ma­jor­ity of his re­search has fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of re­mote sens­ing ap­pli­ca­tions spe­cific to agri­cul­ture.

Rah­man joined the group in 2015 af­ter com­plet­ing a doc­tor­ate in pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture at UNE. Be­fore set­tling in NSW, he had com­pleted a Masters de­grees in farm power and ma­chin­ery in Bangladesh and agri­cul­tural and

Re­mote sens­ing is a key tech­nol­ogy for PARG and ARST. It al­lows grow­ers to as­sess crop per­for­mance with­out phys­i­cally mak­ing con­tact with it. Es­sen­tially, it means grow­ers can open a com­puter or smart­phone from any­where in the world and mon­i­tor crops, as­sess pests and dis­eases, nu­tri­ent lev­els

PARG, es­tab­lished in 2002, of­fers cut­ting-edge re­search and learn­ing that sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of mod­ern tech­nolo­gies such as satel­lite and ground-based re­mote sens­ing, ge­o­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, sen­sor net­works and live­stock track­ing. Its man­date is to eval­u­ate tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices that ben­e­fit the agri­cul­ture sec­tor and to work with in­dus­try part­ners to see them im­ple­mented ap­pro­pri­ately. An­drew Rob­son, Muham­mad Moshiur Rah­man and Jas­mine Muir. Re­mem­ber th­ese names, be­cause they be­long to three very tal­ented sci­en­tists who form the core of the Agri­cul­tural Re­mote Sens­ing Team (ARST) within the Univer­sity of New Eng­land’s Pre­ci­sion Agri­cul­tural Re­search Group (PARG).

The trio, with sup­port from other PARG mem­bers David Lamb, Derek Sch­nei­der and Ash­ley Saint, have es­tab­lished them­selves as the lead­ing agri­cul­tural re­mote sens­ing group in Aus­tralia. The team cur­rently leads or col­lab­o­rates in re­mote sens­ing projects that span nine Aus­tralian agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries (su­gar, rice, av­o­cado, mango, ma­cadamia, ba­nana, peanut, pineap­ple and mul­ti­ple veg­etable crops). A unique com­bi­na­tion of re­search ex­per­tise and strong in­dus­try en­gage­ment puts a univer­sity re­search team at the global cut­ting edge of agri­cul­tural in­no­va­tion. AN­GUS BEZZINA re­ports.

bio-re­source en­gi­neer­ing in the Nether­lands. His ex­per­tise in plant growth mod­el­ling us­ing re­mote sens­ing tech­nolo­gies is an ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial skill-set for the team.

Muir brings to the ARST 15 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the spa­tial in­dus­try, pre­dom­i­nantly through her em­ploy­ment with Queens­land’s De­part­ment of Science, In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion, as well as pri­vate in­dus­try. Her ex­per­tise in re­mote sens­ing, in­clud­ing radar and LIDAR anal­y­sis, com­puter pro­gram­ing and eco­log­i­cal field sam­pling are of great value to the team.

“Hav­ing the abil­ity to en­gage and lis­ten to in­dus­try, to iden­tify what are the rel­e­vant is­sues to pro­duc­tion and farming ef­fi­cien­cies and then to ul­ti­mately work with them to eval­u­ate and adopt new tech­nolo­gies is a what sep­a­rates the PARG team from other agen­cies,” Rob­son says.

The team’s project port­fo­lio has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in the last 18 months. High­lights in­clude a $7.2 mil­lion na­tional Hor­ti­cul­ture Tree crop project, jointly funded by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Ru­ral Re­search and De­vel­op­ment for Profit scheme and Hor­ti­cul­ture In­no­va­tion Aus­tralia (HIAL) and a $1.3 mil­lion sug­ar­cane project funded by Su­gar Re­search Aus­tralia.

Al­though led by the UNE, the na­tional tree project in­cludes col­lab­o­ra­tors such as the Univer­sity of Queens­land, Univer­sity of Syd­ney, Cen­tral Queens­land Univer­sity, QDAF, DSITI, Agtrix and Simp­son Farms.

The na­tional su­gar project aims to au­to­mate the pro­cess­ing and de­liv­ery of crop vigour, de­rived yield and fo­liar ni­tro­gen maps to more than 80,000 in­di­vid­ual su­gar crops an­nu­ally as well as pro­vide train­ing to grow­ers on bet­ter ni­tro­gen man­age­ment.

The project is a di­rect col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween UNE and the agri­cul­tural com­pany Far­ma­cist.

To com­ple­ment th­ese projects, ARST is just about to kick off an­other ma­jor na­tional project, funded by HIAL and led by the Queens­land De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries. The project worth $4.7 mil­lion aims to in­crease the veg­etable in­dus­try’s adop­tion of pre­ci­sion agri­cul­tural tech­nolo­gies.


Muham­mad Moshiur Rah­man, Jas­mine Muir and An­drew Rob­son pre­pare a sens­ing drone.

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