IN the not-to-distant future, farmers could sow a crop, watch it grow and analyse its yield all in a matter of seconds on a 3D model of their farm.
The tool is a three-way collaboration that combines the digital modelling techniques of Australian ag-tech start-up Agronomeye with data channelled through Microsoft's FarmBeats program and AI-infused analytics and modelling from CSIRO.
It sounds complicated, but Agronomeye co-founder and chief executive Stu Adam said the program made life simpler for farmers by bringing all their data into one place and turning it into usable information.
"There is an incredible amount of data available to farmers, but being able to integrate it, apply it directly and specifically to their own farms, and act on it, has been difficult," Mr Adam said.
"It removes the farmer's need and dependency on a whole bunch of technology glue and having to figure out how all these things fit together. It's about giving technical data to people who are not necessarily data-driven people in a really managable way."
The first step is to build a "digital twin", or 3D model of the farm, which is done with a plane flyover with Agronomeye's mapping technology, which captures all features of the property down to the minute details, such as logging individual trees.
Data from CSIRO's sensors, planted strategically across the property, is then fed into Microsoft's FarmBeat program. Agronomeye takes the raw data and overlays it on the 3D farm as a visual representation. Customised data streams also can be plugged into the system to suit the individual needs of a farm.
The result is a richly detailed, easy-to-understand historical and real-time data, that can show everything from water flow patterns and soil moisture levels to paddock yields and soil carbon levels.
Mr Adams said at its core, Agronomeye turns the numbers and graphs of data into the "language of farmers", allowing them to optimise their processes.
"I don't think if any farmer said that their farm was fully optimised, so there is this immense opportunity to get all these one percenters, all the low hanging fruit across the farm," he said.
In the future, the digital twin could be used to predict outcomes - farmers will be able estimate yields by putting in the season's forecast climate data.
Microsoft national technology officer Lee Hickin said agriculture was an increasingly data and technology driven sector, but the real challenge was using that data in real time - a problem that FarmBeat aimed to solve.
"The intention here is not to replace farming processes, it's to give farmers a digital version of their view of the land," Mr Hickin said.
"When you bring those two together, you get to confirm that understanding of the land and make better decisions about where to put your resources. You can use the digital twin to plan what to plant, when to harvest, and how to manage the environment."
Agronomeye has already mapped two million hectares in NSW, while another 600,000 hectares in the state's west, along with the South Australian vineyards, are in the process of being mapped.
The 3D tool is already being used extensively at CSIRO's Boorowa Agricultural Research Station.
CSIRO senior research scientist Rose Roche said the biggest cry from both farmers and agricultural scientists was data integration.
"A lot of this is not new technology, some of it's 30 plus years old," Dr Roche said.
"But until now they were just pretty pictures or pretty squiggles on a graph, and they're not really translating.
"So until that integration is happening, and all that data isn't just sitting in a giant file in an old computer, it's hard to take the next step and use that data."
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