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News

CSIRO builds smart farm

CSIRO : 23 May, 2007  (Technical Article)
CSIRO is working towards the 'Smart Farm' of the future with research focussing on Wireless Sensor Networks and their potential to transform the Australian agriculture industry.
“As water and labour resources become more scarce and costly, the viability and sustainability of our agricultural industry hinges on the ability to effectively utilise and manage these resources,” says Project Leader, Dr Tim Wark of the CSIRO ICT Centre.

“A key factor in this process is the availability of timely, accurate information and know-how that can revolutionise how daily management decisions are made.”

WSNs are a rapidly growing area of research and provide access to environmental information in greater detail than ever before possible.

A WSN comprises a group of 'nodes' each measuring a variable, for example soil moisture, which wirelessly interact with their neighbours creating an ad-hoc network which passes information to a central database.

“By covering a farm with these nodes the farmer can always have an accurate picture of soil moisture levels to determine the most effective irrigation needs for a field,” says Dr Wark.

The research is a partnership involving CSIRO ICT Centre and CSIRO Livestock Industries based at the JM Rendel Research Laboratory near Rockhampton.

“We are also investigating the potential of WSNs for monitoring and understanding cattle behaviour. The nodes are worn by cattle with the information retrieved being used to help develop methods for classifying and modelling herd behaviour under different environmental conditions.” says Dr Wark.

“A WSN comprises a group of 'nodes' each measuring a variable, for example soil moisture, which wirelessly interact with their neighbours creating an ad-hoc network which passes information to a central database.” “By combining this important information with additional information gained from sensor networks, a wealth of knowledge can be gained as to the effect of environmental and herd factors on animals’ development over their lifetime,” says Dr Wark

Researchers are also investigating ways of combining information from WSNs with the National Livestock Identification System. As part of the NLIS, all cattle are required to wear RFID tags which enables tracing of their locations and interactions throughout their whole lifetime.

“Wireless Sensor Networks provide the opportunity to autonomously monitor and manage livestock production systems in real time. For the first time we will be able to simultaneously deliver triple bottom line (environmental, economic and social) benefits by allowing land managers to develop and deliver precision management options in a more labour efficient way” says Dave Swain, Group Leader, Autonomous Livestock Systems at CSIRO Livestock Industries.
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