Digital FarmHand Focus Areas
Australian SMALL FARMS
Farmers are faced with a number of significant operational challenges, including labour shortages and high labour costs, and an ageing farmer community. Small-scale famers in particular face additional profitability constraints as they do not benefit from economies of scale and can often ill afford expensive equipment for their farms.
There are currently a number of commercially available tractors and intelligent systems capable of autonomously completing tasks such as tilling, sowing, and harvesting of grains and horticultural crops. Autonomous agricultural robots have also been developed for mechanical weed control, and for selective weed spraying with herbicide. UAVs are widely used to gather crop and weed intelligence. Such commercially available intelligent systems are, however, generally priced out of the range of small-scale farmers. They require specialist skills for their operation, maintenance and repair, which may be unavailable, especially in remote areas.
FARMERS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
An initial field trial in Bandung, Indonesia in 2016 allowed us to gain insight into the challenges faced by famers in developing countries, and we are currently investigating further field trials in Fiji and Samoa to see how a platform like Digital FarmHand, or a subset of its technology, can be used to help farmers in the Pacific Islands.
In addition to being a useful tool for farmers, The Digital FarmHand platform will also be used to develop an appreciation of how robots can be implemented in real world applications such as agriculture. Our aim is to get students (especially those in rural communities) excited about STEM subjects and work in agriculture through robotics and automation. This is to encourage high school students to take on STEM related careers such as those in digital agriculture. In 2018, we will partner with three rural schools in New South Wales and develop a robotics STEM program in partnership with teachers.