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Automation, field-based sensors, weather station networks, protected cropping and supply chain tools are just some of the technologies that Australian horticulture growers will be able to test at a new $9M “Smart Farm” facility announced in late November.

The Gatton Smart Farm will comprise a ‘hub’ in Queensland, and a series of ‘satellite’ farms where equipment that suits various crops or regional needs will be trialled.

Being delivered through Hort Innovation and led by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), the facility will give growers unprecedented access to the latest Ag-Tech on the market.

Hort Innovation Head of Extension Jane Wightman said the technologies showcased through the Gatton Smart Farm will help growers across Australia better manage plant growth and production, and improve supply chain efficiency and customer satisfaction.

“Horticulture is the fastest-growing agricultural sector in Australia, with a 27% hike in value over the past five years to $15.1 billion, and our modelling shows that figure could double by 2030,” she said.

“Technology adoption will be key to keeping pace with this rapid growth, however, that can prove a challenge. It can be difficult to navigate the digital agricultural marketplace and to know where to invest. The Gatton Smart Farm will help growers to ‘de-risk’ Ag-Tech by enabling them to select and experience the latest technologies firsthand and understand the costs and benefits of adoption.”

All Smart Farm activities will be directed by industry demand and a range of industry partners will be consulted in the procuring of tools for use through the facility and on commercial farms. The technology being utilised target regional industry constraints and opportunities, identified through consultation with industry.

Some examples of the technology the new Ag-Tech initiative will feature include:

  • the latest controlled-atmosphere technology;
  • technologies to reduce labour inputs through mechanisation and automation of crop production operations;
  • tools and technology to manage pests and diseases;
  • artificial Intelligence and data analytics for crop production.

The project Driving ag-tech adoption across Australia (AS20007) is supported by the Advanced Production Systems Fund. All research outcomes will be shared nationally through Hort innovation’s regional extension team and VegNet.