New ag-tech facility in Melbourne to explore use of AI, automation, robotics, sensor technology in farming

Image credit: Monash University

Monash University is establishing an ag-tech facility in Melbourne’s southeast with the vision to innovate new smart farming techniques including automated harvesting and driverless vehicles in response to the growing challenges faced by the agriculture sector.

A partnership between Monash University and Bosch Australia to work together for driving digital agriculture innovation and build on their respective expertise, will enable the establishment of the ag-tech launch pad facility and accompanying development centre that will occupy one hectare at Bosch’s headquarters in Clayton.  

The facility will house a prototypical ‘smart farm’ and will enable collaborative industry partnerships and research. Research and development will be conducted on cropping trials and early-stage prototype development, enabling the use of artificial intelligence, automation, robotics and advanced sensor technology.

Monash Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Enterprise), Ken Sloan, said that the facility would leverage the University’s close connections to industry and multidisciplinary capabilities across Engineering, IT and Science, to drive technological advances in agriculture. The facility is expected to become a key component of food and agricultural innovation at Monash which already includes the Food Innovation Centrethe Food Incubator, and the Australia-China Dairy Manufacturing Centre.

“With rising temperatures and rapid population growth requiring food production to double by mid-century - it’s clear we need major innovations in how we eat and farm. We need inventions to increase yields, nutrient quality and sustainability of our food production to cope with the world demand and climate. This ag-tech launch-pad could prove instrumental in driving long-term collaborative efforts to address global food security and significantly advance farming practices to safeguard against rising demands,” Mr. Sloan said.

Bosch, a leading global supplier of technology and services, has increasingly focused on agricultural solutions. Recently, Bosch entered in a research collaboration with global enterprise, Bayer, to safeguard yields by sustainably clearing weeds using “smart spraying” technology.  

In Australia, Bosch is a lead investor and technology partner of The Yield, an Australian ag-tech company with a vision to use real-time microclimate data to transform agriculture and food production practices. Bosch Australia has also partnered with SwarmFarm, another Australian ag-tech start-up, to provide engineering and manufacturing services for its autonomous agricultural robotic platform.

Agriculture Victoria Research is also collaborating with Bosch Australia on research using cloud based technologies to make the most of data-rich smart farms for more of our producers.

Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, said, “This is a glimpse into the future of farming in Victoria. We lead the way in both on and off farm technology adoption and we’re proud to work closely with organisations like Bosch Australia to give farmers the edge they deserve.”   

“This facility is an asset and brings together some of our state’s biggest strengths: agriculture, education, innovation, technology and advanced manufacturing,” she added.

“More than 3,200 jobs have been created through tech investment since we were elected and it’s great to see agtech playing a big role in our innovative economy,” commented Minister for Innovation and the Digital Economy, Philip Dalidakis.

The Victorian Government has been driving initiatives to transform the state into the smart farming capital of Australia. In September 2016, the Government invested AU$1 million into an agri-tech accelerator program SproutX at Marcus Oldham College in Geelong. The Government has also invested AU$12 million for an Internet-of-Things Demonstration Project. In August 2016, the Government made Electronic Identification of Sheep and Goats mandatory and provided an AU$17 million industry and farmer support package. 

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