Victoria's Longerenong College to become home to an IoT model farm

It will give students and farmers hands-on access to new machinery, sensors, and data.

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Image: Longerenong College

Longerenong College in Horsham, Victoria is currently constructing a 1,000-hectare demonstration farm at the college to give students and commercial grain farmers hands-on access to learn about new technologies when it opens in August.

Speaking with ZDNet, Longerenong College general manager John Goldsmith said the idea came about when the local region put forward a proposal to the Victorian government identifying that agriculture was one of four key priorities for the region.

"Agriculture is enormous for our region; it's one of the key economic drivers because we're in prime cropping land," he said.

"One of the issues that were identified was the lack of digital uptake by farmers. It was seen as a real limiting factor for progressing the industry. So, our region came up with the proposal to build a farm where students and farmers could go to become more comfortable with the technology in a whole range of areas."

The AgTIDE Demonstration of Agricultural Technology Applications (DATA) farm project has received more than AU$2.5 million in support from the Victorian Government's Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund.

The 131-year old college will be establishing the DATA farm project to complement its existing 1,070-hectare commercial farm that specialises in crop, sheep, and cattle.

See also: Cattle farmers use AR, dairy robots, and wearables to make the business more sustainable (TechRepublic)  

The college is also partnering with Sydney-based Internet of Things (IoT) company LX Group to implement sensors, such as weather stations and moisture probes, to measure "everything we possibly can".

"What all of this is about is about improving the productivity of our farm and capturing the data we can ultimately make our farms more profitable," Goldsmith said.

"A majority of farmers are kinetic learners, so they like to see and touch things, so we'll have our model farm where they come here, see how things work."

One part of the college's library is also being refurbished into an innovation centre, which will be used to view a live-stream of the data from the paddocks.  

"It'll look a bit like what you see in the TV shows like CSI with all the technology screens," Goldsmith said.

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Top-soil mapper

Image: Longerenong College

Ahead of completing the model farm, the college has recently upgraded its existing machinery by acquiring a new airseeder, self-propelled boomspray, and a variable rate fertiliser spreader.  

A top-soil mapper has also been purchased, which provides information about variation in soil types across the paddock to allow more efficient fertiliser use.

A controlled traffic farming system will be another feature of the new farm. Goldsmith explained how controlled traffic farming will be "like putting tram tracks in your paddocks" to ensure all the equipment travel along the same wheel tracks "so you're not driving over [the paddock] willy-nilly".

Goldsmith is optimistic the farm will help plug the knowledge gap farmers have when it comes to adopting new technologies.

"As an industry, we have been adopting certain technologies, such as auto-steer, but we want a broad-scale adoption here," he said. 

"There's a large proportion of the agriculture community who want to adopt technology to become more profitable and make their lives easier, but it's just so hard to navigate because there's just so much out there. This will be a farm where they come and see it, and say, 'Yes, that's what I want on my farm.'"

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