Smart project links to future

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
SAgriculture Minister Ken Baston, DAFWA principal policy officer Art Diggle, and RAS president Rob Wilson at the launch of the high-tech e-Connect Grainbelt project.
Camera IconSAgriculture Minister Ken Baston, DAFWA principal policy officer Art Diggle, and RAS president Rob Wilson at the launch of the high-tech e-Connect Grainbelt project. Credit: The West Australian

WA Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston and Nationals MLC Paul Brown have announced a $10 million e-Connected Grainbelt project to help connect grain growers to the information they need to make profitable decisions tailored for their paddocks, for their businesses and for the variable conditions they face each season.

According to Department of Agriculture and Food WA project researcher Art Diggle, the key aims of the project were to allow a better flow of information between grain growers, their consultants, suppliers, buyers of grain, researchers, suppliers of weather data and other industry participants, and better decision tools that used this information to help with management decisions in grain production.

"Grain growers may find that their smart phone is their most important farming tool in the future," he said.

The outcomes of the project, launched at the Farmtech site at the IGA Perth Royal Show, would be achieved through four project components, implemented in partnership with the private sector and other government agencies.

"First, will be the e-Connected Grainbelt Network data system which will be the rails that the system runs on and we'll be working with industry partners to communicate all of the information," Mr Diggle said.

"Second, the decision tools that farmers and associated industry people use; and again we'll be partnering with others and the tools will be able to communicate their information using the Grainbelt Network.

"Third, training that will help growers and others to use portable information devices and connectivity by helping groups in low coverage areas to apply for funding to contain better access to the network.

"Fourth, analysing uptake and value to ensure farmers are getting value from the system."

Mr Diggle said the department estimated the project would generate an extra $41 million from the grains industry by 2025 and $181 million by 2037.

"The value will come from farmers being able to make more than they otherwise would have in the past," he said.

"And more farmers will make better choices than they would have because the system will allow them to make better choices, more easily. "We're also bringing down the cost of getting all the information together."

Speaking after the announcement, Mr Baston said the project was designed to provide WA grain growers with more timely, accurate and relevant information to make informed management decisions about their cropping program.

"Smart phones and tablets have become an integral tool for grain growers, who rely on them to access valuable weather, scientific and market information to optimise the seasonal conditions, and manage threats to their crops, like pests and diseases," he said.

"The project seeks to establish the e-Connected Grainbelt Network, an open data exchange system to harness and combine a range of information, like paddock records, weather observations, weather forecasts, financial updates and research outcomes.

"This will help identify future opportunities to adopt new technology to improve and stabilise production and profitability."

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