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CSBP, Google map way for farms

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
York farmer Bruce Gentle checks out one of the CSBP apps with the company’s York area manager Abi Pont.
Camera IconYork farmer Bruce Gentle checks out one of the CSBP apps with the company’s York area manager Abi Pont. Credit: The West Australian

Local fertiliser producer CSBP has formed an alliance with Google in an effort to give WA farmers fresh insight into how their paddocks are performing.

Wesfarmers-owned CSBP said the tie-up with Google was part of a growing focus on precision agriculture and associated technology, a field where billions of dollars are being invested outside Australia.

It has high hopes for a custom-built app, which will be unveiled to farmers at this week’s Dowerin Fields Days.

The app marries the plant and soil sample data CSBP collects from customers with the Google Maps platform and its data, including paddock-specific biomass readings.

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CSBP has negotiated the exclusive use in Australian agriculture of Google Earth Engine, which has also been targeted for research and philanthropic organisations because it can show changing climatic conditions.

CSBP, the dominant supplier of fertiliser to WA farmers, sold more than one million tonnes in the year to June 30. It was the first time CSBP had hit the mark since 2008 as growers reacted to recent big harvests.

Revenue was up by more than 15 per cent to $564 million on higher volumes, particularly in nitrogen.

General manager of fertilisers Charlie Perkins said CSBP had been investing heavily in adding value for customers so they could use fertiliser more effectively and increase productivity.

Mr Perkins said the new app, known as FERTview, would allow farmers to see soil and plant sample data on a map of their farm.

“(They can) plan fertiliser applications, manage their spatial data, including yield data, crop rotation information and historic fertiliser application rates, and view historic peak season satellite imagery to understand how each paddock is performing,” he said.

Mr Perkins said CSBP was one of the few agricultural companies in the world with access to the new Google spatial processing engine.

“It will allow customers to interact with their data and supports improved decision making across their farms and paddocks that would otherwise be extremely costly and time consuming to generate,” he said. “In the future, we see the tool being used for zone and prescription mapping by our customers, allowing them to use the variable rate technology available in their machinery to distribute fertiliser based on their current and historical farm data.”

CSBP estimates only 2 or 3 per cent of WA growers are using precision agriculture tools, which is significantly less than in leading agricultural nations.

Many of the products on the market are designed for the US industry, something CSBP grappled with before opting to develop precision agriculture tools for WA. Farmers embraced the Sampling Pro app launched last year to the extent that 70 per cent of soil samples are now GPS referenced.

Research presented at the InfoAg Conference in St Louis this month predicted investment in precision agriculture and technology could top $4 billion this year after reaching $2.4 billion in 2014. A breakdown of investment showed Australia was not in the top 10 nations.

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