The Van Trump Report

Agtech Company Promises “More Crop Per Drop” With New Sensor Tech

Australian company “Goanna Ag” is making its GoField water management system commercially available in the U.S. The water-efficiency system is designed to measure crop water stress and predict future water needs in real time. Goanna is currently trialing the system in U.S. corn and cotton crops in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Goanna’s GoField incorporates technology from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) known as WaterWise. The system features in-field soil moisture probes as well as sensors that measure the canopy temperature of crops every 15 minutes. The data collected from the sensors is then combined with weather forecasts before machine learning is applied to help predict the crop’s water requirements for the next seven days. Using CSIRO created algorithms, the technology adjusts for the daily fluctuations in local weather and spatial variation of individual fields. Meaning the system delivers field-specific irrigation scheduling.

According to WaterWise’s team leader, Dr Rose Brodrick, it is the system’s ability to predict the future that represents a real breakthrough. “When things are normal it’s easier to predict when a plant will need water. But when conditions change – like with a new crop, a new field, or unusually hot or cold weather forecasted – farmers want backup with their decision making,”explains Brodrick. “The usual strategy is ‘if you’re unsure, just add water.’ This is where using high tech can help give them data and more confidence in their decision making, because every drop counts.”

According to Dr Roche, just like humans, plants have an optimum temperature. “Plants can be hot but not stressed,” says Roche. “But if tomatoes go over a certain temperature, around 32 degrees, they do suffer. It’s just like fever is an indication in humans that there is something wrong. There is only a certain period of time that a crop can tolerate being above their optimum temperature before growth halts. We need to water them before that happens, so we use data to predict the best time to irrigate.” And on a tomato farm trial in Australia, WaterWise tech reduced water usage by 35%. “This technology is a massive opportunity to help farmers save water, using data to give confidence that every drop is counting,” says Dr Roche.

Goanna Ag currently has trials in corn and cotton in the United States, some of which are now in their third year. North Carolina based global research group RTI International recently published “Prospective Analysis of WaterWise” assessing GoField and concluded that the positive impact to growers through a combination of increased production and reduced expenses is in the vicinity of +12% water-use-efficiency increase and +14% Gross Profit uplift. CSIRO also has trials in tree crops in Australia and are expanding and testing in new crops, like almonds and wine grapes. Learn more at the Goanna Ag website HERE.

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