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Liam O'Callaghan

BY LIAM O'CALLAGHAN

Wednesday 21st April 2021, 17:45 Melbourne

Space tech new frontier for agriculture

Harnessing the power of satellites could unlock billions of dollars of value for Australian agriculture

Space tech new frontier for agriculture

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A new report has outlined the potential value ‘space technology’ could deliver Australian agriculture and the country’s horticulture sector is already moving on the opportunity.

The Australian National University (ANU) study, Space-based technologies – opportunities for the rural sector (commissioned by AgriFutures Australia), found that improvements to geolocation alone could benefit Australian agriculture by A$2.2bn over a 30-year period.

It also suggested satellite connectivity could add A$15.6bn to the gross value of production across agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries each year.

Space technologies have already become part of the toolkit for the horticulture industry with growers using satellite imaging, low bandwidth sensors, GPS tracking, autosteer and weather forecasting to drive better decision making. 

Jennifer Medway, senior manager, rural futures of AgriFutures Australia, said space had traditionally been the realm of sectors like mining and defence and the agricultural sector was only on the cusp of unlocking opportunities.

“It’s exciting. The farmer of the future will have space technology fully integrated into their everyday production systems and decision making. For instance, dashboards will enable farmers to remotely manage manual processes, and interoperable data systems will radically shift the way on-farm decisions are made,” explained Medway.

“All this is made possible through space technology, which has the potential to revolutionise the working day of tomorrow’s farmers.”

Examples of parts of the horticulture sector already embracing this technology include DataFarming, which uses Sentinel satellite remote sensing to identify underperforming vineyards using a normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI).

The University of New England, in collaboration Circul8 and Hort Innovation, has also developed an application called CropCount, which combines satellite images with on-the-ground sampling to produce avocado yield forecasts.

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