Western Australia holds hackathon to seek new digital solutions for agricultural sector

An agriculture hackathon (AgHack) was held in Perth to seek new digital solutions to drive growth and keep the state’s agricultural sector globally competitive. Attended by innovative Western Australian ICT experts, AgHack 2018 was held at Spacecubed in Perth CBD, from 27 to 29 July 2018.

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan highlighted how developing and adopting new technology is essential to keeping WA’s agricultural sector internationally competitive.

According to the announcement made by the Government of Western Australia, the AgHack event was sponsored by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), in partnership with the Office of Digital Government and not-for-profit organisation Ministry of Data (MoD).

Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly said that the McGowan Government has once again partnered with the MoD to collaborate with WA innovators and start-ups using open data to solve real-world problems in one of the state’s most valuable sectors.

In order for the participants to create concepts and prototypes that will improve productivity and overcome obstacles to growth, they were given access to the application programming interfaces for weather and radar of the DPIRD. They were also informed of the new APIs for soils, science, organism and Pestfax Map.

Minister Kelly explained that events like this bring together the best and brightest minds in the tech community to develop their ideas into potentially commercially attractive propositions and create WA jobs in the digital economy.

Minister MacTiernan explained how the government needs to engage the best and the brightest minds in agriculture, and AgHack was a fantastic way to develop digital solutions to agricultural issues while making agriculture cool again.

Eight challenges were endorsed by the MoD for their relevance and value to the industry. They are:

(1)    How might we better grade and sort grain on the farm before the point of delivery to maximise the return of farmers?

(2)    How might we better track and provide feedback to lamb producers and processors to maximise price and customer satisfaction of meat?

(3)    How might we better monitor the condition, health and usage of WA’s remote rangelands?

(4)    How might we better link ewes and lambs on the farm to prevent them being stressed when separated, and connect breeding and productivity data to make better breeding decisions?

(5)    How might we better detect pests through photographic evidence to improve WA’s biosecurity?

(6)    How might we better track grain from individual farm properties through the supply chain to improve food safety and protect access to markets?

(7)    How might we better choose the best cropping mix to optimise long-term land sustainability with seasonal economic return?

(8)    How might we better collect and collate farming data from different sources in different formats to enable better decisions and precision agriculture?

The concept developed by Dex, which dealt with better pest identification, won. Other concepts that were created during the event were using of data to improve grain grading at the farm-gate and a digital mapping tool that would measure carbon offsets.

The agriculture hackathon provided an opportunity to stimulate technological innovation in order to solve real-life problems. Moreover, the participants of the event got the chance to generate a potentially new commercial digital product.

The concepts that they have developed can be adapted for on-farm use in applications for mobile devices, monitoring and surveillance devices, decision making aid or other digital tools.

Minister MacTiernan shared how the support of this event is part of the McGowan Government's commitment to create an environment that supports new ideas, technology and business models that build opportunities to generate growth and jobs.

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