In an unprecedented showcase, Western
Australia’s Muresk Institute has recently unveiled the state’s first public
demonstration SMART farm on 13 June.
According to a press release by the
Western Australia state government, the SMART farm integrates digital equipment
into conventional agricultural infrastructure and utilises cloud-based
technologies to help inform farmers and improve efficiency and decision-making.
By integrating digital equipment such as environmental
sensors and GPS into modern agriculture, the SMART farm will be able to provide
farmers with data on a deeper and wider scale. Access to better data is
expected to boost agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability,
safety and workflow, all of which make a farm more self-sufficient.
"As a local farmer, I understand the
importance of new technology and the efficiencies and opportunities it presents
to our industry,” said Agricultural Region Member of the Legislative Council
(MLC) Darren West, who represented Australian Education and Training Minister
Sue Ellery at the inaugural FarmSmart Showcase on 13 June.
"Not only is
technology changing the way we do things, it is also opening up new
opportunities for jobs. Muresk is leading the way in teaching and adopting the
latest innovations in technology and systems to allow us to keep pace with the
rest of the world."
Known as Muresk Agricultural College until
1985, Muresk Institute is a specialised agricultural training facility that
seeks to provide access to latest innovations in agricultural technology,
processes and equipment; It places an emphasis on industry-driven education,
and focuses on scientific research and professional development in Western
Australia’s agricultural sector. The launch of the public demonstration of the
SMART farm not only underscores Muresk Institute’s commitment to driving
innovation in the agricultural sector, but also affirms the institute’s
excellence in agricultural research and development.
Muresk Institute’s SMART farm comes in light of
similar smart farming projects across Australia; in March 2015, The University
of New England in the Australian state of New South Wales had established a
SMART Farm Innovation Centre at one of its Armidale commercial farms; the
Sustainable Manageable Accessible Rural Technologies (SMART) Farm included
technologies such as sensor networks, immersive communications technologies and
autonomous agricultural systems, all of which were capable of generating
real-time data on a 24/7 basis.
Besides smart farming projects, Western
Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development also
recently conducted a Digital Farm Grants Program to boost digital connectivity
of farming businesses. The program was budgeted at 5 million AUD, and evaluated
applicants based on network coverage, network sustainability and price
In addition to appraising the merits of
cloud-based smart farming, Agricultural Region Member of the Legislative
Council (MLC) Darren West also added, “We need to up-skill and keep ahead of
the game in farming technology, especially with the competition from the Black
Sea”. According to commodity reports by
the high prices of Australian agricultural produce like Australian Premium
White wheat have led to a significant loss of market share in Southeast Asia as
key importers turn to cheaper substitutes from Black Sea agricultural exporters
such as Russia and Ukraine.
In June 2012, Australia’s market share of the
Southeast Asia wheat market was nearly 60 percent; as of 2017, this share had
slid sharply to below 40 percent. According
to the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre, grain production in Russia
and Ukraine averaged 121 AUD and 133 AUD per ton respectively; in Australia,
that figure stands at a staggering 216 AUD per ton.
As a significant
source of employment and state income, Western Australia’s agricultural sector
needs to find new ways to improve price competitiveness while maintaining high
quality. Muresk Institute’s SMART farms will provide a testbed for improving
farm productivity and efficiency, ensuring that Western Australian farms keep a
technological edge above the competition.