SE govt farms to show agtech potential

SE govt farms to show agtech potential

Beef
EXCITING INNOVATION: Thomas Elder Consulting's Bruce Creek with an Optiweigh crate - the first piece of agtech equipment to be trialled at Struan Research Centre.

EXCITING INNOVATION: Thomas Elder Consulting's Bruce Creek with an Optiweigh crate - the first piece of agtech equipment to be trialled at Struan Research Centre.

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Two state government owned research centres, Struan and Kybybolite, are putting the latest agtech to the test under commercial conditions.

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Farmers often want to look over the fence to see emerging technology at work before adopting it themselves.

It is hoped the state government-owned Struan and Kybybolite research centres in the South East will become just that - demonstration farms for trialling new ag technology, after the government signed a partnership with Elders in November.

Thomas Elder Consulting agricultural management consultant Bruce Creek, who has been appointed to help oversee the project, sees it as a great opportunity for the state's livestock sector to better utilise 1080-hectare Struan and 300ha Kybybolite.

We want to take the farms on a journey, and producers with it, to be in the top end of farms in the area rather than the bottom to middle. - BRUCE CREEK

"The soil types and the sort of (livestock) enterprises at Struan and Kybybolite represent so much of the South East and even across the (SA-Vic) border, so we have the perfect farms to show what can be achieved," he said.

"We want to take the farms on a journey, and producers with it, to be in the top end of farms in the area rather than the bottom to middle," he said.

A walk-over weighing system, Optiweigh, is the first piece of technology to be installed at Struan, measuring weight gains in weaner cattle in the paddock.

Developed by NSW backgrounder Bill Mitchell, it works by using an a enticement such as a loose lick to get animals to walk into the crate and put their two front feet onto the platform containing solar-powered scales.

The animal's radio frequency identification tag is read and an algorithm generates whole body weights for each animal, with the data then uploaded to the cloud.

Mr Creek says the Optiweigh will help producers hit market specifications without regular yard weighing and even ensure animals maintain a rising plane of nutrition.

It can easily be towed from paddock to paddock by a quad bike.

"You are getting daily weight gains and you are not knocking cattle around, every time you walk cattle, even if it is only 500 metres to the yards, you are walking a couple of kilograms off them - this way they come and do it themselves," he said.

SARDI-PIRSA and Elders have called for expressions of interest from tech suppliers wanting to have their products trialled on the farms, from remote water monitoring systems to soil moisture probes to autodrafters and ag management software.

"Anything agtech we can measure and use as an efficient resource we are interested in," he said.

"We might have three or four tank monitors - it is about giving the end user the opportunity to come and see something and compare apples with apples."

Mr Creek says there are many labour savings - one of the biggest on-farm costs - to come from agtech but also the chance for farmers to be more proactive in their decision-making.

"Most cockies get up and the first thing they do is check their weather, my personal end goal in all this would be if they could check a dashboard which has the weather, but also their water (trough) levels and temperature on it, that sets them up for the day," he said.

Mr Creek will work closely with local agronomists and other advisers to ensure world's best animal health protocols at Struan and Kybybolite, as well as improving irrigation efficiency and finding the most cost-effective strategies to fill feed gaps.

And he insists any investment will be done within the financial constraints of any working farm.

"We don't have an endless amount of money, it must be something that could be done on Joe Bloggs's farm," he said.

Mr Creek expects only "surface changes" in the first year but the techno grazing system at Struan being used to finish Friesian bulls will focus on beef steers, and the sheep flocks are expected to be electronically tagged.

An agtech field day will be held at Struan on April 7.

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