Farmers around the globe benefit from smart Aussie technology
Australian technology is helping farmers around the world improve their practices. Photo: Getty
Australian technology is revolutionising the way farmers do their important work.
From monitoring livestock to keeping track of the emissions a farm is creating, smart Australian companies are spreading their technology all over the world.
Launched six years ago by two Australians with backgrounds in farming and a vision for tech, this group aims to give farmers an accurate view of what’s happening on the farm through their mobile phone.
“You see a farm map that gives you an outline of your paddocks, where your animals are, and other information you can overlay as a management tool,” said Phil Chan, chief product officer with AgriWebb.
The technology works through a mixture of online and offline methods.
Because farms are often telecom connectivity black spots, farmers can go into the fields and feed information into their phones about the numbers of stock in a paddock and where they are situated. When they get back to coverage at the homestead all this information is uploaded.
Using a product called AgriWebb Marketplace, the data from the farm is integrated with other web-based systems popular with farmers.
“The most popular ones are border monitoring – seeing how much water there is in tanks and troughs and how much grass is in a particular paddock,” Mr Chan said.
“You can overlay that onto the farm map in a way that means you don’t have to go into a number of different tools. It gives you contextualised information in one spot that help make management decisions.”
The information gathered makes it possible to get a good picture of the productivity of the farm and how it can be maximised with optimal stocking rates and pasture types.
Medical treatment monitored
The technology also delivers information on medical treatment for animals and sprays and fertilisers that are being used on farm.
“It gives guidance around when you can move animals in or out of a paddock based on when it was last sprayed with pesticide or treated with fertiliser,” Mr Chan said.
That in turn enables easy, app-based reports to be given to food processors or agricultural regulators to ensure farm produce complies with health and safety regulations or food label information.
The company began more than eight years ago, and its technology has been quickly taken up.
“Probably 25 to 30 per cent of cattle and sheep in Australia today are managed with AgriWebb,” Mr Chan said.
AgriWebb expanded to the US and UK in recent years and employs 65 people, 20 of whom are offshore, he said.
“Something we’re really proud of is that we design and build the product here in Australia,” Mr Chan said.
This multinational agri-tech group launched in Australia by CEO and co-founder Anastasia Volkova in 2016 is “improving resilience, both environmental and economic, all the way from the farm to big brands on the shelf”.
The ultimate aim of Regrow’s technology is to enable farmers to reduce their carbon emissions.
It also aims to allow groups who buy or process farm produce to calculate their carbon footprint and emission levels, and work with farmers and other suppliers to introduce methods that reduce greenhouse emissions over time.
Anastasia Volkova co-founded Regrow Ag in 2016.
The on-farm technologies enable farmers to detail their practices and integrate their information with other software and records.
“They would be using that information for planning and implementing potential scenarios for climate smart practices,” Dr Volkova said.
The software is also used to ensure that farm practices meet the needs and demands of downstream users of farm products.
“We need to show that crop rotation is diverse – that the use of no-till seeding, cover cropping [soil preservation crops] practices or the use of synthetic fertiliser has been appropriate.”
She said it also stores information on past and current farm practices and uses this information to help determine future outcomes like carbon dioxide emissions relating to farm output.
“Some of the information used can be from the public domain like weather forecasts and crop types, and that can be used to independently verify that farm records are true.”
Those farming records can be used to pay farmers to implement low-emission practices that enable a processor to produce goods with the level of greenhouse emissions that they promise consumers or are demanded by regulators.
“Our software calculates how many tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per hectare you should expect,” Dr Volkova said.
Regrow Ag technology closely monitors farming practices.
Payment to farmers for emissions reduction is not yet widespread but is beginning to take hold.
“What we’re seeing is prices in the US of between $US20 [$30.15] and $US25 per tonne and in Europe it is $US35 a tonne and growing,” Dr Volkova said.
“Regrow shows farmers the potential outcome for their farms and fields if they sign up for certain practices. Then the brand would underwrite that with a contract with a price for carbon.”
Regrow has spread across the globe, now employing 120 staff and operating in 17 countries. Most of the staff are employed in Australia and the US, and it has Australian and international shareholders.
Regrow’s client list includes food giants like Aussie group General Mills and global players like Pepsi, Cargill and Kellogg’s, right down to small farmers, retailers and fast food groups.