News and Views

Future of farming focus of conference

A capsicum harvesting robot and an automated destroyer of weeds are just two of the exciting new technologies that will be on display at the AgFutures Conference at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, 22-23 November 2016.

Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson said AgFutures would be Queensland’s first national conference focusing solely on future technology in agriculture and agricultural investment opportunities.

“Pioneering agricultural technologies, including robotics, greenhouse gas monitoring systems, drought- and disease-resistant crops and new biofuel and biochemical production methods will be demonstrated,” the Minister said.

“The Conference will highlight the major trends and issues driving the global development of agri-technology.

“There are tremendous opportunities for Queensland producers and those who embrace the latest technological advances stand to gain the most from the growing demand in Asia for sustainably produced, safe, high quality food.”

Minister Donaldson said the Palaszczuk Government continued to invest in agricultural innovation.

“We are spending $3 million on agricultural industry research projects, plans to reduce costs and increase efficiency in the beef industry, improvements in the productivity of prawn farming, using biotechnology to produce new animal feed supplements, and value-adding in tropical pulse cultivation,” the Minister said.

“The Palaszczuk Government has a strong commitment to fostering innovation in agriculture through the $405 million Advance Queensland innovation and jobs initiative.

“Through the Advance Queensland initiative we have already funded a range of agtech research and development projects and encouraged innovation within local agtech businesses to explore global market opportunities, grow and create jobs

“We recognise the important ongoing contribution of agtech in improving the productive capacity and sustainability of agriculture, but also the creation of new industries and opportunities for local agtech companies.”

Professor Bronwyn Harch, Executive Director of QUT’s Institute for Future Environments (IFE) said QUT was looking forward to sharing ideas on farming technology for the future.

“Making agriculture more sustainable and profitable is critical to the world’s economic and social future, and we believe Queensland can be an engine room of ideas and innovations that transform the way we farm,” Professor Harch said.

“At QUT we are developing various pioneering agricultural technologies, techniques and products.”

These include AgBot II, a weed management machine, and Harvey the robotic capsicum harvester.

QUT Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Tristan Perez will be speaking at the conference on advances in robotics across the agriculture sector, such as the Agbot II.

AgBot ll’s technology enables it to navigate through a field, apply fertiliser, detect and classify weeds, and kill weeds either mechanically or chemically; potentially reducing the cost of weeding operations by approximately 90%, saving the Australian agricultural sector A$1.3 billion per annum.

QUT’s Strategic Investment in Farm Robotics (SIFR) program is co-funded by the Queensland Government.

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) is also researching new ways to innovate in farming by developing a prototype called ‘John Conner’ to terminate heat, which is major challenge for vegetable growers.

The prototype uses data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and the Queensland Government to predict and measure localised heat-stress events, sending warning messages to vegetable growers in the affected areas via email or text-message, enabling them time to take preventive actions such as irrigation or early harvest to minimise crop losses.

Conference attendees will also hear from a range of speakers including US-based, Jaleh Daie, a Women in Technology Hall of Famer, recipient of a US Congressional Citation and leading plant biologist who will provide a global perspective on attracting investment in agri-technology.

Students attending Conference can receive a discount off the two-day conference package (excluding dinner), as well as Day One or Day Two individually by providing their tertiary institution name and student number.

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