Getting started with precision ag

Precision agriculture technology in vegetable production

Adoption of precision agriculture technologies can benefit Queensland vegetable production in a variety of crops. But how do you know which technologies and approaches are right for your business? Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) senior development horticulturist Julie O’Halloran worked with producers and commercial AgTech providers to trial off-the-shelf precision agriculture technologies in vegetable farming systems across Australia. Julie and the team have developed a series of resources including factsheets, grower-based case studies and videos to help you choose the right precision technologies for you. You can find these resources here.

The technology

Precision agriculture uses AgTech to collect detailed field and crop data, mainly using sensing technologies combined with geo-referencing. Julie describes the range of commercially available precision agriculture technologies they have trialled in vegetable cropping systems.

‘We often think of AgTech as something for the future, but a lot of technologies are ready for use now,’ Julie said. These include:

  • soil sensing technologies for measuring how soil characteristics vary across a field or farm
  • precision drainage technologies for land planning to optimise surface water flow
  • harvester-based yield mapping for machine-harvested crops such as carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • variable rate application technology for variable rate applications of soil amendments like lime and fertilisers to amend variable soil pH and nutrient distribution, and for variable irrigation in response to changing soil/crop water requirements
  • crop-sensing imagery using drone-captured imagery and low and high resolution satellite imagery for creating crop variability maps. These maps are used to direct field sampling locations to identify causes of field variability and to direct crop scouting.

Benefits for agribusiness

Growers and agronomists can use the information from sensor technologies combined with targeted field sampling, to determine management options that address crop performance issues and improve farm profitability.

‘The available technology and supporting practices provide the precision needed for vegetable growers to move towards more innovative approaches to crop management,’ Julie said.

‘Our works shows that spatial variability on vegetable farms in Australia has a large enough impact on crop productivity and profitability to warrant using precision agriculture approaches.'

‘But remember that precision agriculture adoption should be targeted at addressing particular production issues rather than focusing on the technologies alone.’

'I am very excited about the future of AgTech and its use in horticulture. Trialling new ideas and implementing precision farming techniques will help to save resources and utilise them to the full potential. We want to build a sustainable industry that we want to pass on to our children and their children.'  – Jaco Pauer, Irrigation Manager, Zerella Fresh

Next steps

DAF is continuing to promote the applicability of precision agriculture technologies for Queensland vegetable production systems.

Contact: Dr Julie O’Halloran via email at Julie.OHalloran@daf.qld.gov.au
Partners: University of Tasmania, University of New England, Vegetables WA, Society of Precision Agriculture Australia, Harvest Moon, and Primary Industries and Regions South Australia
Location: Gatton Research Facility
Industries: Vegetables
Tech type: Sensors, GPS, Big Data

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