New technology allows irrigators to become more water wise

CSIRO and Goanna Ag develop new technology to predict crop water needs

Machinery
KEEPING AN EYE: A Goanna Ag canopy sensor on a tomato crop near Swan Hill, Victoria.

KEEPING AN EYE: A Goanna Ag canopy sensor on a tomato crop near Swan Hill, Victoria.

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The CSIRO and Goanna Ag have teamed up to provide irrigators with new technology to improve water use efficiency.

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The CSIRO and local agtech company Goanna Ag have teamed up to give irrigators the technology to get maximum value out of every drop of water.

They are claiming WaterWise will be Australia's only water-use efficiency product for irrigated crops that measures crop water stress and predicts future water needs in real time.

The tech is set to help growers save water or produce more crop per drop, they said.

Goanna Ag, which produces farm sensing systems for water-use efficiency, will be delivering WaterWise's smart analytics as a data stream to their on-farm customers.

Goanna Ag was set up in 2018 to deliver the next-generation smart farming practices through low cost, low power, long range sensors and networks which provide data-driven solutions to improve resource management and water efficiency.

Its CEO Alicia Garden said for Goanna Ag and its customers, being involved in this innovation means they can access brand-new, Australian-made, science-based technology and incorporate it into their existing GoField system.

"Being able to predict when to irrigate will allow our clients - farmers - to plan based on what the plant needs," Ms Garden said.

The WaterWise system "lets the plants do the talking" with in-field sensors that measure the canopy temperature of crops every 15 minutes.

It then sends the data to CSIRO's sensor data infrastructure, adds in the weather forecast and uses machine learning to apply CSIRO's unique algorithm to predict the crop's water requirements for the next seven days.

WISE LEADER: CSIRO team leader, Dr Rose Brodrick, with a proptotype WaterWise sensor.

WISE LEADER: CSIRO team leader, Dr Rose Brodrick, with a proptotype WaterWise sensor.

WaterWise team leader Dr Rose Brodrick said predicting the future was the real breakthrough science.

"It means for the first time, growers can see the water stress of their crops at any point and predict their future water needs," she said.

"Just like humans, plants have an optimum temperature. When things are normal it's easier to predict when a plant will need water.

"But when conditions change - like with a new crop, a new field, or unusually hot or cold weather forecasted - farmers want back-up with their decision making.

"The usual strategy is 'if you're unsure, just add water'. This is where using high tech can help give them data and more confidence in their decision making, because every drop counts," she said.

Developing and commercialising WaterWise involved a range of skills from agronomists to plant physiologists, data and machine learning experts, software engineers, social scientists and innovation specialists. And it was done in record time.

The next step was to take WaterWise from in-field based canopy sensors to drones or satellites.

Goanna Ag expected the system incorporating WaterWise would be commercially available in time for the 2020 summer cropping season.

The story New technology allows irrigators to become more water wise first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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