Farmers urged to social network

Tim SlaterCountryman
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Farmers have been encouraged to become more engaged in social network sites and take greater advantage of a new "gold rush" of data that can be obtained through cheap and more efficient sensors.

Futurist and former farmer Paul Higgins, who was in Esperance last week to talk at a spring field day, said there was a risk of an increasing technology and innovation divide occurring between regional areas and cities.

"That's a bad thing for regional Australia because cities, which are largely the future of the planet, are accelerating further away in innovation value and production," he said.

"If you bump into different things and see different technologies you get more innovation."

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Mr Higgins said people in regional centres were exposed to less diversity in a range of fields, including culture and technologies.

"Australia should be adopting social networks to get new and different ideas and have conversations with people you would not otherwise meet," he said.

He said using social network sites such as Twitter or Tumblr enabled people to seek information in real time and not to have to rely on being given information.

Mr Higgins said his business had a Twitter account which had more than 247,500 followers, and he also monitored accounts of influential people and organisations around the world.

"We have deliberately set out to follow those people to form a network that drags in a whole lot of different perspectives, including cultural, economic and political," he said.

"They give us information about a whole range of stuff that is going on that otherwise we would not get to see.

"Innovation is about trying to pull together different perspectives that have different experiences."

Farmers are able to accumulate what Mr Higgins calls a new gold rush of data from their operations, with new, more accurate and cheaper sensors able to monitor plant physiology at cellular level.

He said they could share this data through social network sites to provide new insights into finding solutions for local problems.

He said the development of smaller, more energy-efficient sensors made it affordable for farmers to deploy them in their enterprises.

"You will be able to generate a massive amount of information in your crops that you don't currently have," he said.

"In the long-term that is going to be a huge boon in terms of research."

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