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Low cost precision agriculture for Aussie farmers

Low cost precision agriculture for Aussie farmers

Image: Aerial drone flying over wheat field. Image credit: The University of South Australia.

New smart aerial drone technology developed by the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Wheat in a Hot and Dry Climate (ARC Wheat Hub) could literally change the landscape of Australia’s billion-dollar wheat industry, by delivering cost-effective mechanisms for farmers to plan and deliver precise water and nutrients to their crops on a need-by-need basis.

Until now, drones required an expensive multispectral camera to scan agricultural land and indicate where there is a need for additional irrigation or application of fertiliser to selected crop segments.

The new technology delivers detailed information using RGB (red, green, blue) cameras—which is a standard accessory carried by drones. The drone identifies healthy plants exhibiting a high vegetation index—shown as bright green regions—and mature, stressed or dead plants and soil manifesting a low vegetation index are displayed as yellow areas. This data is then processed offline and modelled into useful information through deep learning (or machine learning)—all without the additional cost of a multispectral camera.

  Developed by the University of South Australia with the Plant Accelerator at The University of Adelaide and LongReach Plant Breeders, the drone senses a vegetation index—signifying the crop health, moisture and nutrient content, making it easier and more efficient for farmers to manage agricultural land and for breeders to generate new varieties.


Image: Aerial drone flying over wheat field. Image credit: The University of South Australia.

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