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New ag-tech facility in Melbourne to explore use of AI

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 Centre
the
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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