Drones, robotics and driverless tractors – the new era of farming

Australian farmers produce over 90% of Australia’s domestic food supply.

In the next 15 years, Australian agriculture has the potential to generate $1.2 trillion as world food demand doubles. Yet, with a labour shortage and rising population of older workers the question must be asked, how can farmers do more with less? 

Innovations in technology are no longer limited to science fiction. The reality of precision agricultural technology such as driverless tractors is here. There is now potential for a farmer to go to bed and have the tractor do all the work overnight, ready for the farmer to make a fresh start the next morning. Job done. This technology could optimise on-farm operations and provide a safer and less stressful working environment for farm workers and their families.

USQ is a leading innovator in agricultural research; working together with industry to develop new technologies. Researchers within USQ’s National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) are working to accelerate access to innovative driverless tractor technology, showcasing the benefits of this technology to key agricultural stakeholders. 

A key to this is USQ’s partnership with global agricultural machinery giant, John Deere. The focus of this collaboration is to develop machine automation and control and planning to improve producer productivity in all aspects of the growing cycle. The research partnership will benefit growers in Australia and globally by reducing agricultural production costs.
USQ has been a national leader in the agricultural application of sensor, robotic and computing technologies and now has a drone program that has taken flight with several industry collaborations. 

Tomorrow’s farmers will look to the skies and their hands, as tools of the trade, with piloting and systems engineering.

Clever agriculture

Australia's cotton growers now produce more crop per drop than any other cotton producing country in the world.

How? By routinely using information and technology including soil moisture probes, satellites and drones so they water only when it’s needed. In just the last decade, the Australian cotton industry has achieved a 40% increase in water productivity.

Even greater efficiencies and cost savings can still be achieved by integrating all these measures into fully automated irrigation systems that are able to monitor crops in real-time to better match water and nutrient application to a crop’s exact requirements while enabling deployment of farm labour to more productive tasks.

USQ has been at the forefront of this research and have developed IrrimateTM, a weather and soil moisture information system. Find out more.

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