DESPITE big advances in agricultural technology, more conversation is needed for ag-tech experts to gain a greater understanding of what farmers need to enhance their businesses.
That was the message from Agristart managing director and co-founder Natasha Ayres, who spoke at last week’s Farm SMART Showcase at Muresk Institute.
Dr Ayres said it was vital agricultural technologists and growers communicated their ideas, to ensure that new technology met market demand.
“It’s important for regional businesses to think about strategic business planning, including agricultural technology,” Dr Ayres said.
Although not every grower was tech-savvy and the average age of farmer continued to increase, Dr Ayres said adapting to technology had become more difficult. “Without a user-friendly interface, people find it difficult to use the computer systems available,” she said.
Dr Ayres said few farmers had access to IT assistance in their tractors at 10pm to help fix the computers, which created further difficulties.
With more than two screens in a machine at any one time, she said the average farmer often struggled with troubleshooting technology issues.
The connectivity crisis in regional WA was also a contributing factor, which made the use of computers harder in areas across the State lacking reception.
Dr Ayres said there was plenty of room for improvement in connectivity and she hoped for advancements in the near future.
During her presentation, Dr Ayres outlined five technologies that were in the development process or already adapted in WA farming practices, including drones, robots, sensors, precision agriculture and connectivity.
She said drones could collect data at a pace faster than before to help growers make more informed business decisions, while the idea of farm robots were also creating a hype within the sector. Dr Ayres said the propect that a farmer could be sitting at their kitchen table, drinking coffee and could simply press a button to turn on the tractor and send it out for a day’s work was exciting growers.
However, she said the use of robots to spray or autonomously drive farm machinery was often financially impractical.
Dr Ayres said although the cost of these systems was unviable for a broadscale farming operation, the concept was something most farmers would love to put in place on their properties. “When the cost comes down, the implementation of these systems will grow,” Dr Ayres said.
Farm practicality and viability came down to more than just automated tractors.
Dr Ayres said sensors were improving the way farmers managed their business and collect data.
She said the collection of data through sensors, similar to drone technology could increase business efficiency.
Sensors can pick up data on livestock locations or grazing habits or crop growth and weather patterns.
Dr Ayres said the technology for monitoring crops and soil through sensors was continuing to improve, paving the way for a more efficient future for WA farmers.