ABC Rural

At a research station in North Queensland the future of farming is fast unfolding. After almost five years of work, researchers have finally unveiled what is known as a digital dashboard.

Essentially it is a computer software system, which brings all farm data to one central location; a single computer screen.

The system will allow the data from weighing systems, pasture and soil sensors, and weather stations to be delivered to the one place. The technology was recently revealed to graziers at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Spyglass Beef Research Station in Charters Towers.

Professor Ian Atkinson has been involved with the development of the innovation since 2011. He said the system would increase productivity and profitability for graziers.

“A producer can get a holistic view of what’s happening on the farm and not just on-farm data but off-farm data,” Professor Atkinson said. “The information can be about markets or information about long-term weather forecasts, or even information about when boats are coming in.

“It could even be extended so that producers could work more cooperatively, so if someone is in a drought they may be able to do something with nearby producers.”

Clermont grazier, Richard Hughes, and Charters Towers grazier, Michael Lyons, would like to implement the digital dashboard on their properties.
Clermont grazier, Richard Hughes, and Charters Towers grazier, Michael Lyons, would like to implement the digital dashboard on their properties.

The technology has yet to be implemented and tested by graziers but Professor Atkinson said the digital dashboard would also simplify data. He believed that in turn it could make on-farm management decisions easier and quicker.

“The information is presented in a way that they [farmers] can action it. They can understand it and they can put it together,” Professor Atkinson said.

“These digital tools are about aligning different pieces of information and getting smoother flows to enable you to manage better. It gives you that extra few percentage points of profitability.”

When asked how reliable and accurate the technology really was, Professor Atkinson admitted there was still work to do.

“The outback is a really challenging environment to build sensor networks in, but people have been working a long time and the sensors are now increasingly reliable,” he said.

He said the technology had improved farm productivity and management.

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