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Beyond the Bale : March 2018
AWI ALREADY ON FRONT FOOT AWI Program Manager for Farm Automation & Reproduction, Carolina Diaz, said AWI is already on the front foot by having a Farm Automation & Software Development strategy in the company’s current three-year Strategic Plan. “Through our program of investment, AWI seeks to ensure Australian woolgrowers are availed of practical, low cost digital tools which automate routine operations, support productivity and welfare improvements, and genetic progress,” she said. “In seeking to actively lead and catalyse developments in this space for woolgrowers, AWI is working with leading edge commercial technology developers and IP owners to minimise R&D costs, risks and development timeframes, and also actively co-invest with relevant partners including other RDCs.” In 2015, AWI set up Digibale, a commercially focused company responsible for developing and distributing digital tools for Australian woolgrowers and other supply chain participants. Some of the products developed to date include phone Apps like Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM), Sheep Breeds and Bale Weight Calculator, LandLinks website, several collaboration tools and wireless sensor and data analysis projects. The program’s current research focus includes the development of low-cost smart tags capable of generating maternal pedigree (mothering up), monitoring the location and movement of individual sheep in a flock, and other behavioral information such as wild dog and flystrike alert notifications - see article to the right. Other initiatives under way at AWI include the development of simple and cost-effective wireless networks that enable the remote monitoring of, and the provision of internet to, distant parts of a property, and the development of platforms to enable automated pasture production assessment and its integration into farm Apps such as the LTEM App. "AWI looks forward to continuing to work with the other RDCs to transform farm business management and decision making through effective digital agriculture adoption,” Ms Diaz added. MORE INFORMATION www.farminstitute.org.au/p2dproject The next generation of smart sheep tags, capable of tracking real-time location of sheep, are being trialed on-farm by AWI. With bluetooth technology now a proven technology for pairing ewes and lambs for parentage, the challenge now is to explore the benefits of tracking the location of sheep in real time. When coupled with predictive software, algorithms and passive data collection, such technology will evolve to become a valuable on-farm tool, offering woolgrowers brand-new insights into sheep behaviour and flock management. By tracking individual animals across a flock, the technology ultimately could assist in optimising grazing management, alert woolgrowers to animal husbandry issues including predation, lambing trouble, flystrike and could potentially prevent stock theft. The early detection of the dangers of wild dogs or foxes, ewes at lambing, flystrike or even footrot is an example of where state-of-the-art digital technology could be incorporated with best practice animal welfare for the benefit of both sheep flocks and woolgrowers. AWI CEO Stuart McCullough said the technology had been trialed in the lab and undergone initial field trials by AWI’s digital farm automation platform known as Digibale, but placing the latest generation tags on farms to focus on real-time location services was the important next step to developing the suite of commercial tags in the future. “We have to make wool-growing easier and more profitable and by trialing the very latest digital technology in an on-farm context is very exciting,” he said. “Expanding the basic parentage functionality with the real-time location data will take time to collect much more real-life data as there is still a lot of work to do to test further our proof of concept of our advanced features. In turn, predictive analysis and decision- making may lead to better monitoring and management tools to help save on time and labour. “I know these technologies at first appear a way off for some woolgrowers given poor connectivity in many wool-growing regions but it is AWI’s role to explore what potential there is for woolgrowers in this age of exponential digital growth.” MORE INFORMATION www.wool.com/smarttags NEW GENERATION LOCATION TAGGING TRIALED BY AWI Ear tags in place during an AWI farm trial. ON FARM 53
In the Shops - March 2018