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Students’ smart solutions are in the air

Posted 28th July 2017

Forget hours of driving around on a quad bike with a spray pack and hoe looking for weeds; the smart farm of the future will use drones to seek and destroy them, according to The Armidale School’s Owen Chandler. Owen and classmate Julian Vogt imagined the future of agriculture at UNE’s 2017 Agmentation on 23 July, where students worked with farmers and Cisco engineers to come up with solutions to manage agricultural challenges.

Working with Kentucky farmer Anita Taylor, Owen’s group looked at ways of identifying, mapping and controlling weeds in to save time and production costs, while Julian’s group assisted Bill Perrottet from Guyra in solving how producers can optimise profitability and productivity through the enterprise mix.

Owen’s group named their solution the Weed Automated Search and Eradication Platform (WASP).

“It has three components: a portable drone recharging station with a computer that idenifies weeds called a hive; a big drone called the Queen Wasp with cameras which survey and photograph the land and relays information back to the ‘hive’, and then we have worker wasp drones which have a laser mounted on them to burn the weeds, in this case, African Lovegrass, nodding thistle and serrated tussock,” he said.

It was a solution that found favour with participants, who voted it the People’s Choice.

Julian’s group was awarded overall runner-up for their remote solution that would help tell farmers when grass has enough height and density that it is ready to grazed by cattle, and for how long, given other inputs such as rain and fertiliser.

“We would do this by using a drone to analyse information at four sites in a paddock, and also seeking to optimise the enterprise mix of a farm given all the variable inputs.”

Owen said the event was an eye-opening experience.

“It was interesting to go to UNE’s Smart Farm to see how technology is beginning to intercept with agriculture and process huge amounts of data to raise the efficiency of agriculture and farming, and see the advances in both,” he said.

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Julian Vogt (front left) and his group which developed a system to analyse feed optimisation

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Owen Chandler (second from left) and his teammates won the People’s Choice award

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Farmers worked on solutions in the field