Webinar series showcasing approaches to support growers to understand, consider information and potentially adopt tools in response to current and future climate impacts.

These webinars are part of the Future-proofing horticulture in a changing climate program. This information also includes recorded presentations from the Horticulture Field Day in March 2023.

On this page:

Links to Webinar series

Horticulture Field Day - Tatura SmartFarm, March 2023 (Goulburn Valley)

Agriculture Victoria hosted a free horticulture field day at the Tatura SmartFarm on Thursday, 23 March providing an opportunity for industry to discuss what is happening on farm, what is working and what isn’t, after a few challenging years.

The Tatura SmartFarm is one of Australia's leading horticulture research centres. It aims to deliver precise and efficient fruit systems and applications to industry - from the fruit orchard all the way through to the export market.

Horticulture Field Day

Aimee McCutcheon, program Manager for Horticulture Services (Agriculture Victoria) talks about Agriculture Victoria’s Tatura SmartFarm in supporting horticulture resilience

Horticulture Field Day recorded presentations:

  • Introduction, the Goulburn Valley and the event.
  • If only I knew what future weather would be like? Future climate outlook.
  • I need some tips on managing disease in my orchard. Black spot / Brown rot.
  • How can I make sure my soil is healthy after waterlogging? Transition to soil health.
  • How can I prepare my orchard for extreme conditions? Climate Adaption.
  • What does a future orchard look like? Future Farming.
  • Why should I track and capture orchard data? Farm Data Management.

Aimee McCutcheon, I'm the Program Manager for Horticultural Services for Agriculture Victoria. We're hosting the day. The day's the Horticulture Field Day and it's about future proofing for changing climate.

It's bringing the horticultural industry from growers, service providers, to associations and government together to discuss the recent conditions that horticultural industry and businesses have experienced and looking towards the future of a profitable and sustainable industry and taking advantage of opportunities while minimising challenges. We've actually heard a number of speakers talk about various topics from what to do when my soil is waterlogged through to how do you predict that changing climate and had some insights into agri tech and how to manage the orchard through these challenging climate conditions. Then we've spent the afternoon out in the Tatura Smart Farm. The Tatura Smart Farm is one of Australia's leading horticultural research centres. It really does provide an integrated approach from orchard fruit right through to the export market and everything in between. And the audience has gone out and looked at the research and the technology that's taking place to manage the orchard and how to better get yield and quality.

It's been a good day. There's been a lot of interaction from industry. There's a real vibe given that it's one of the major events we've held post pandemic. So after this great day, we've got another event to look forward on the horticultural calendar, and it is the International Symposium for Precision Agriculture in early December, and looking forward to hosting that.

Webinar series

Webinar:  Autonomous Machinery June 2023

  • Burro electric self-driving platform robots
  • GOtrack retro-fit systems for tractors for AutoDrive or Line Assist control

For more information, reach out to Agri Automation Australia

Copy of presentation: Agri Automation GOtrack and Burro (Note: this document does not meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines)

This webinar is brought to you by Agriculture Victoria, Horticulture Services.
Autonomous Machinery - Webinar June 2023

Agri Automation Australia presents their autonomous GOtrack and Burro products in this webinar / Q&A session, joined by a product specialist from Burro in the US.

GOtrack is a retro-fit system, designed to transform your tractor to AutoDrive or Line Assist control, allowing remote operation or steering support while operating tools like sprayers and mowers.

Burros are electric self-driving platform robots that can carry and tow, they are designed to work with people and optimise productivity on farms. Agri Automation Australia are responding to the challenges of farm labour shortages, providing practical and proven technologies to enhance operations and reduce worker fatigue.

  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 02:05 Chris Thiesene - Burro
  • 24:18 Cam Clifford - Agri Automation (GOtrack)
  • 38:12 Q&A


Autonomous Machinery

Well thank you everybody for coming along. It's a fantastic response to our webinar so far, and I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, which we all meet today, the lands we all meet from today. And I'd like to pay my respects to elders past and present. This webinar is a first in a series of webinars I'm hoping to run on the last Thursday of every month with a timely piece of technology that's relevant to growers within the horticulture space.

But today we're hearing from Cam from Agri Automation Australia with their GO Track system, which is a retrofit system that goes on, that's retrofit auto drive system for existing tractors. And from the US we've got the guys behind the Burro self-driving platform. If everybody can hold onto their questions or post questions in the q and a function, we'll get to all those questions after the presentations. I'd also like to say that we are recording this presentation and hopefully to distribute later. So if you're a bit worried about being able to be recognized, change your name to something, to anonymous. Over to you Cam.

Thank you very much Andy. Much appreciated, the invitation to present on the Ag Victoria webinar and from my side, managing director of Agri Automation Australia we specialize in automation and technology in the AgTech sector. Also like to introduce Chris Thiesene from Burro Agri Automation and Australia and New Zealand as a very proud distributor of the Burro product. And thanks to Chris for staying up late and taking us through the product today. So, take it away, Chris.

All right, so let me give you, let me take one second to share my screen. We'll jump right into it. So, again, cam and Andy, thanks for having me as well to be a part of this. Love every opportunity that we have to talk about Burrow and to kind of showcase what we're doing and how we're being applied around the world, really. So Cam, real quick. Can you see my screen?

Yes. Okay, perfect. All right quick introduction on myself, Chris Thiesene here at Burro .I'm our head of California Sales and Support. However California, we're not limited to California. Cam has and the team both in Australia and New Zealand have come on board and done an excellent job starting to promote and really get the word out and already start lining up orders for the equipment that they have headed their way right now.

My background, I come out of farming, so I grew up in stone fruit, so your peach, plum, nectar, and apricot. Went into construction for a little while, so I got a little bit of logistics and management background. And then I came back to commercial farming where I managed same thing, stone fruit table, grapes, citrus, a little bit of kiwi and persimmon.

From there we were looking to, to get Burrough into our operations, but Burrough was still pretty, pretty young at that time. So right as Covid hit, I hopped on board with Burrow, and it's been an awesome ride. So, moving on. Growing up, kind of one of the main things or some of the main pressures that you would talk about around the dinner table, right, would be water weather and obviously labour. And so the main thing that we're trying to accomplish here at Burro is with the ability to carry things, to tow things, to follow people around while carrying things. You're really able to take away or take away a lot of that non-productive time when you're walking around or moving fruit out of the field or from a tree to a, to a trailer and whatnot. And over the last three years, we're going into our fourth year right now with about 55,000 autonomous miles roughly travelled to date, fleet-wide. We have a couple hundred Burros on the ground with customers now. We're expected to have a few more hundred delivered by the end of the year. And to really accomplish work in the field and autonomy in the field, you really have to have this plug and play solution that is in our terms, popup autonomy. So the ability to take a robot to a field, get a team of six to eight people per robot running with that robot. All really quickly and really rapidly without pre-planning. That's really the name of the game and the goal. And so as you can see on the screen right now, the goal is to get to the point where we can have attachments that hop on or connect onto row as well. So things like a mower we're working on ourselves things like the Bumblebee pollination equipment that, that you saw as well. Those are all things that we're working on and we'll talk a little bit more about that in a little bit, but really we feel like it's the first steps towards more mobility and more autonomy in the field.

Alright, so let me see if this will go to the next slide. There we go. Before we really get into much else, we'll talk about the autonomy or anatomy of the Burro. So we have a touchscreen up at the first or at the front of borough that you're Burro to control to give it cues. Follow you, train a route, things like that. And then you have a top tray with many mounting options. And then inside that brain box, what we call it, you have high power processing where you can only, you can not only use that for the autonomy, but you can also interface with that, with things like dip wise we process their software on board. And I think I have a slide that shows a little bit more of that, about that than it as well. For our connectivity, we have LTE and radio, so the LTEs for all your cell connectivity. And then you have an online dashboard that you can view the fleet and each Burro's stats individually. We have a radio that connects with our RTK-GPS base station, and then we have the RTK-GPS base or GPS unit itself on the Burros so you have that triangulation. Four independent motors, and we have capacity for swappable batteries with our advanced tow package, you have the ability to actually also add four batteries on top and expand your charge time or your run time and your battery capacity, three x. In addition to that, we use cameras for just about everything. So cameras see you, they follow you as you're training a route, they're following you when you're indoors and your GPS denied. The cameras are used to localize indoors to follow a route over and over, and we'll show a little bit more on that as well.

In terms of specs, max payload 500 pounds or 226 kilos roughly. That can be expanded with our Excel kit. So it's about 340 kilos max towing capacity our base model is right around 2000 pounds. And that's also expandable up to about 5,000 pounds with that advanced sow package. Max speed, we're generally traveling right around two and a half miles per hour. I don't know how that translates necessarily to kilometres per hour. But 2.25 meters per second would be kind of the high end standard is about 1.2 meters per second. So kind of your walking space or walking pace.

All right, so how do we do this? So the popup autonomy, if you can see that really little icon down at the bottom that's how we're navigating, that's what's showing up on the screen. So you have a little four arrow icon that you can click. You can manually move it around a little bit. You can put it in person, follow, that'd be the Burro behind the person, and it'll just follow you when you activate that. And you can also just put it in a row and navigate the row. From there that lower right hand corner, there's a little map icon. You can click that and that engages autonomous mode. From there, you have about five slots where you have five slots that you can click. You can train a route on each of those. You can make them run individually or make them run in series. So just like tracks on a CD player, how they're just running through and then they go back and they repeat the whole list. In addition to that, all of those routes can be pushed to the cloud, over cell. They can be named and stored, and then they can be recalled at a later time. So where this is really important is, when we get into nurseries where I might have a route that I'm traveling one day, the next day, I want to do a different route. The next day, another route yet. And so your ability to name and track those, and then be able to recall them late at a later date is really important in how you start to, to move from the pop-up autonomy to the more established guided work. And so as we develop in our, in our product that naming and tagging and organizing of routes, we'll also become more of a guided product as well where you'll have a desktop that you can preplan some of that as well. We follow the rows. We know what a row looks like. Within our training models and within the user interface, you have the ability to select which type of row you're in, which helps the Burro understand, okay, I'm in a table grape row right now, I'm not in a citrus row. Or if you go to a citrus row, then you just change that model. It's all right there on the user interface. And if you look at that little pink and green and yellow image as well, that's how we see and that's how we see and identify what we're trying to follow. So we call it segmentation. So you, you segment the canopy, you segment the edge of the row, you segment the traversable space, which would be that dark purple. And then you have your, your lighter purple, which would be, hey, that's a tote. I know what that is and I can't run into it. So that's how you see and stop for things, especially that grey person there as well. We don't want to hit anyone, so we know what they look like. We'll approach and we'll stop for 'em. We could get into all the other details as well, but, we'll, I think for the sake of time we'll just bump forward.

So, the goal again is to amplify work, amplify people that are working today and try to really drive an ROI on the equipment to then at that point, start saving on the labour that you have in the field. So carrying is really that first, that first task. We can carry stone fruit, we can carry citrus, table grapes, blueberries all of that and as well as other nursery products. And then when you get into the nursery, you start looking at towing. Do we want to replace a tractor? And the time that driver is spending on the tractor, he could do something else. He or she could do something else, be more productive somewhere else, and then we can save that money back on, on the labour sitting on the tractor. Beyond that we also have the ability to patrol a yard. So Burro already knows what people look like. So if it's out and about driving around the yard, why not have that thing send a text notification if it sees a person after hours when they shouldn't be there. In addition to that, if I go back, let me go forward. Let me try to do that again. We've got the ability to dock. So Burro will charge itself and it will make its way back to that dock and charge when it needs to be charged. And then it will resume its path, you know, and it's scouting after it's been charged. That bit of being able to dock and charge when you need is the next thing that ties into the items that we attach to a Burro. So in, in the video that you're seeing on the right, that's a grower that didn't have the people to put on a quad to spread ant bait. He knew that Burro could go row to row. You just put Burro in one row, you send it and it just goes row to row through the field without any pre-planning. In time, you have docking, you have row to row, and you have the ability to do other tasks potentially with that autonomy. So why not pair those two together? And so with that guided work that I kind of talked about before, a lot of that will bleed together and become directed work in the field where you have Burro that charges, it goes to the field, it knows that, hey I made it through 50 rows, I need to return and get a top off. Then from there it'll go and resume, but we're working that direction. We have all of the pieces. Now it's starting to put those pieces together. And again, the purpose of this slide is to really show some of the ROI. But that's all still to be discovered on some of these other use cases. Skip forward to the next.

There we go. So, if you really want to dig into some of the gains that we've seen in blueberries, as an example, we've seen roughly 25% bump in productivity day over day. And that's really between California and Australia. This is randomized data, so you don't know where it came from, but we can show you pretty linearly that, you know, on average we're seeing about 25% bump in gains. The lower percentages, if you look at that percentage column, those lower percentages tend to be your lighter fruit, your lighter crops, where somebody would be walking in and out of the row pretty rapidly anyway, so they wouldn't be walking back and forth, when you're comparing a Burro to a non Burro crew. When you get into the higher percentages, it tends to be your higher volume fruit. So somewhere a field where people would typically be walking a lot, they fill up their buckets, they need to walk out to unload 'em, or they fill up their totes and they need to walk 'em out quite frequently. All of those steps are what we're saving and that wait time at quality control. So if you want to look at blueberries and how they operate as an example, this first little bit is an example of how you can train a route and then share it to the rest of the Burros. The trailer was a ways away. We wanted to get 'em all to the field. So we shared a route. In terms of how blueberries work, typically in California, they weigh their fruit on Burro in the field. They put their tag on the tote, so they're tagged for their piece rate, and then they send Burro back to the trailer. And so for you guys a carriage. And so at that point you have an unloader and a quality control, and those are the two people who are really taking everything off of Burro, accounting for it, loading empties back on and sending it back to the field. And so that picker, not, not the manager, not the crew boss, none of them, but the picker is the one who says, Hey, I'm in this row. I'm going to train Burro to that row. When I get to that row, I'm going to press the forward button and Burro's going to know how to navigate that row. When I'm in the row, it will stop for me. If I don't need it to stop for me, because I don't yet have fruit. I move out of the way and it moves past to the next picker. Whoever needs to, to load it up, just steps out in front of it or reaches out and hits the stop button. Burro stops when they're done loading it back up, they press the reverse button and it's this conveyor belt just coming in and out of the field.

So switching over out of the field and more into nurseries. So nurseries we've seen really two key takeaways. One is carrying, and the other is towing. So in carrying, what we've seen really do really, really well is where growers or where nurseries, sorry, will have conveyor belts that they set up on occasion. That, that conveyor belt, it takes time to set up, it takes time to tear down. It is a consistent motion, so your feed is pretty consistent, but it's also a huge red flag when you, when it comes down to safety audits. Where we have seen the conveyor belt be replaced, we've started to see some really positive results and really solid gains. You're starting to see roughly about 120 day payback just based off of replacing conveyor belts. And that was just in the one process that you're seeing here. When you start to look at some of the other processes where you're going further distances around corners you can start to see roughly the same, better, sometimes a little worse depending on the application. The other thing to note with that is, that what you've seen there, and I'll click it again, this is under roof, so you're totally GPS denied. So Burro's operation, in this case, a hundred percent vision retrace. So this grower has two options. That's a really nice corridor. It's basically a row. They could put it in row, follow and have burrow follow that row. Since they have a little bit of a gap in a vestibule moving across the corridor, it kind of loses that row. So it would stop. So instead they've just trained it. They said, I want to start here. I want to end over there. I'm going to train three or four or five Burros all in that row, and they're just going to keep moving. In addition to that, the guy who's receiving the product at the other end, he can also do other tasks that he otherwise wouldn't. So in the case of some citrus growers, they want to take that plant out of the pot. Put it in a sock, then take that and put it back in the pot. That's an added motion that typically with a conveyor belt, everything's just coming. They're just moving it onto a rack. Now that you have a little bit of play, a little bit of downtime, that person can do another task. In addition, the other guy that's loading, he's also doing other tasks, prepping that, those plants to bring them out, things like that.

And then you get into strawberries. This would be another case where these guys were basically a chain gang, handing plants down the line. Now they don't have to do that. Then to advance past that, our advanced tow package is something that we're really proud of, and it's, it's started we're about three weeks into our first user. It is already proven itself, and it's something that, that we're taking orders for now, for delivery later in the year. With that, that is the three x battery capacity. It's a higher capacity charger, so that charger will maintain, it's about an eight to 10 hour charge cycle standard. When you add the batteries, you need a bigger charger to, to maintain that eight to 10 hour charge cycle. In addition to that, you have LiDAR mounted on top. I'm driving a truck down the freeway with my tractor on the back. I need to look further in advance so that trailer doesn't start wagging me. And so the LiDAR does the same thing, that LiDAR is looking further in advance. I have about 5,000 pounds on the back of Burro so I need to slow much more gradually. LiDAR helps us do that. In addition to that, then you also have counterweights on the bottom, so we can add a little bit of weight to Burro. Helps with stability a little bit. And you can also ballast your tires. So we've got growers and nurseries who have put water in their tire as well.

Tim, how am I doing on time? We okay? All right. I won't spend too much time on, on this one, but basically what we're trying to point towards is our ability to move towards that, that Wally character that we were talking about before. It's kind of a silly pictorial that we use for now versus Wally later. But the goal is to be able to provide the autonomy before you can do any of the dexterity or any of the fancy work that a lot of investment is put into these days, such as crop counting, such as soil monitoring, such as you name it. You first have to have that mobility. So our drive is to have that mobility, then start moving towards all of these other tasks. The ant spreader that I showed you a little bit ago, that was something that was powered off of our auxiliary power. We have a 24 volt unregulated power. You can connect to it, you can step it down to 12 volts, which is what that ant spreader was using. In addition to that, we're in design on a mower. We've done a pre-production with the one that you see here, the little green one. That was just to test the waters, get some feedback from our customers. Now we're chasing it full on. Also taking pre-orders for that. Our tow package, we've already talked about that. That comes with some added autonomy. The added autonomy would be that LiDAR integration. It would also be that the ability to share those routes. Name 'em. Run loops, run loops indoors, run lines indoors, things such as that. And then scouting. We have the ability to scout right now in table grapes with Bitwise, and that's all a turnkey package with Burro. There's a lot of scouting companies out there as well that all you need to do is put whatever that piece of equipment is on top of Burro and let it run through the field row to row. Green Atlas would be a perfect example of that. We have a customer here in the States up in Washington called Innovate, and Steve Mantle has been doing some awesome job, an awesome job working with Green Atlas pairing Burro with Green Atlas. We don't know each other in terms of an agreement or a relationship, but our autonomy and our solution work really, really well together. And then Bumblebee and Bloom X would be another example of that. So moving past that. Really to reiterate that last slide and to show a few examples. The image on the lower left for the video on the lower left is it is that Burro plus Green Atlas solution. But then also on the back is a soil optics rig. So he's doing two things at one time. He is counting fruit, he's also scanning his soil for dexterity or texture all of those different things. And then the video on the right is Bloom X. So it's a bio mimicking pollinator that as you travel through the field, it's vibrating to, to replicate the vibration of a, of bumblebee's vibrations as it flies, and that's in essence something to help with pollination. Earlier reports that we're hearing from Bloom X is roughly 10 to 30% bump in productivity in the trials that they've run this last year.

And then from there, really this is kind of a key goal for us. You have so many robots, so many different applications that we really feel that autonomy and mobility autonomously is an answer to a problem. The challenge though, with a lot of groups that come in, a lot of projects that come in and try to address problems is that they require change on the back end or not on, not on the back end. On the front end for the grower. We don't want to do that. We want to come in, we want to slot into a production system that's already in place, and that's what we've really proven that we've been able to do. Table grapes haven't changed their planting. Stone fruit doesn't change its planting. Citrus doesn't change its planting and nurseries are permanent structures that we have to slot into. So the goal is to take that autonomy, make it something that's approachable and put it into environment that already exists without having to saw cut and put varied lines in the ground or pre-planned to any extent.

So beyond that's really it. So I think we'll have a q and a at the end. Again, Cam, thanks for having me on. And looking forward to some questions and I wish. Thanks very much, Chris. Hand over to you. There you go.

Thanks very much. Chris was very interesting and as you say, look forward to seeing question answers. If you've got any questions that's you want to pop in immediately, feel free to drop 'em in the right hand side and the q and a tab. Cam, are we taking those questions now or at the end? We'll take them at the end, Chris. Okay, great.

So again, thank you everyone for joining. Cam Clifford, for those who joined the little late. Cam Clifford managing director of Agri Automation in Australia. We're part of the many of you would know me and we are part of the AME group with the background in mechanical equipment and vineyards and horticulture across Australia. I trust everyone can see a screen. Yep. Looking good. Thank you. So I'm pleased to present the GOtrack technology, which is part of the Agri Automation portfolio. We've been working with GOtrack for a number of years now in the automation space driving profits without driving the tractor. To introduce GOtrack, it's a technology developed and based out of Poland, EU. They're a very grower focused team in, in the GOtrack company. They are probably not what we know as the atypical ag tech startup, but more working from a practical development perspective. All of the key members of the team have a background in horticulture or viticulture, and a lot of their testing and refinement is completed on their own farms throughout their technology. So from a, from a productivity and practicality of operation perspective, we see the GOtrack product is something where it goes into the field and practically works for growers as opposed to coming from an ag tech or a technology space where you feel like you need an engineer to operate it.

So the GOtrack range throughout their product range, we have their vision steering system, which is what we call a Lin Assist Pro. We have the GOtrack Auto Drive, which is the full autonomous solution. We also have the e-spray computer, and we have the remote control function, which allows us to operate a tractor while the person's beside the tractor, but maybe on a planter or a, some something like a platform. Line Assist Pro. Line Assist Pro is a automatic steering system simplified. It works with infrared camera technology. It steers precisely without needing a GPS-RTK or cellular connection. So there's no need for route mapping or any pre-work. It is truly plug and play type operation. So the infra camera assesses and adjusts to the rowing canopy conditions, whether it's vineyard as we see it in this video playing here on the right hand side or in orchard conditions. This can be set up to operate in the middle or centre of the row, or it can be offset to the left or right side for functions such as hedging or under tree mowing. As we can see in the video here, this operator is working at a speed of around nine kilometres an hour in quite sprawled vineyard conditions without touching the steering wheel. So the system activates as you go into the row, either automatically or it can be manually activated as you see the operator touch the button on the left hand bottom corner of the video. The system then switches to full control of the steering until it exits the row when it releases the steering for the operator to complete the turn, and as they re-enter the row, they can either manually activate or the system can reactivate a definable number of seconds after it's re-entered the row. Where we see use for this technology is to enable the operator to focus on their task at hand. But whether it's under tree, under vine, mowing, spraying, whatever it may be, if you're having issues with driver concentration, driver fatigue, sprayer damage, anything where the operator needs to maintain complete vision across the machine, the steering system allows 'em to do so. Again, it can be fitted across any tractor might make and model, and it is a very non-obstructive system. So what we see in this video, the small box here along with the steering control on the centre of the wheel and some steering sensors with the camera on the front of the cab, is all the system consists of. So it is, it can be stepped back into and operated as it was before.

The applications for this type of technology is in trimming and pruning, slashing and mulching, spraying, and really any task that requires focus on the task at hand rather than staring in a straight line or between the rows.

It's one thing that's very unique about GOtrack is they are focused completely on permanent tree and vine crops as opposed to most autonomous or steering systems are largely focused on more broad acres or intensive horticulture for such as vegetable growing. Whereas the GoTrack system, their entire development is based on permanent tree and vine crops.

GOtrack auto drive. It is the most advanced system for autonomous tractor operation available commercially in the market today. We have a number of units operating throughout the Australian market and New Zealand market with 50 plus units working throughout Europe.

The system is very simple and intuitive in its operation. You simply drive once to record the path on the computer, and then from there, the attractor in the system will do the rest. Each path is saved as a separate name program, so it's then easy to pick the program for each day's plan tasks by the easy to use interface. The screen we see on the top right hand corner is the screen we see in the cab, like we know up from a standard spray controller in this industry. What you see on the below is the app that's used to activate and to monitor the GOtrack Auto Drive system. So from this we can see our path, what's been completed, what's to be completed. If it's in spraying mode, we can see the spray rate that's been applied, the spraying pressure, and how many litres are left in the tank. We can also start and stop from this app.

Here. We'll show you a quick video that gives you some overview of the safety systems that are included with the GOtrack Auto Drive system. This video is courtesy of our team and partners, Agri Automation New Zealand. So thank you for the video.

Now. Perfect. Yeah, sorry about that. Multi levels of safety on this machine. On the roof we have a obstacle detection camera. It comprises of two infrared cameras on the outside and an RGB camera in the middle, which uses artificial intelligence to detect humans and objects such as vehicles and animals that might run past the machine.

On the front we have a LIDAR sensor, which is very good at detecting hard objects or. Anything that might get in the way. And then the last line of defence is the bump stop, which you should never, should never need, but it'll immediately cut off the tractor at the moment that bump stop gets hit, and on the side there you'll see a couple of e stops, which is another way you can stop the tractor. So there's four levels of, of safety on the machine.

Okay, so recording a route is really easy. You just press routes, go add, we're going to do a route. And then once we press start, it'll remember everything that the operator does. So from now you can lift the hitch up or down or just simply drive off. So I'll show you what that does, and it's dropping bread crumbs and remembering exactly where you drove and exactly what you're doing. So if we lifted the hitch up at the end of a row, it'll lift the rear hitch up. And then once you finish your path, you basically press finish. Give the route a name, press save, and then you've got the saved route. So there you go. Go back in there. Choose test that we just did select and there's our route, and away you go. To start the tractor, you simply go into the app, press start, slide to confirm. The tractor will do a few checks, and after about five seconds, it'll, it'll take off.

So why GOtrack Auto Drive? The GOtrack Auto Drive is designed for simple intuitive tasks such as spraying, slashing, and mulching, designed to free you up to focus on difficult tasks where human intuition is required, such as pruning, mulch, under underlying work where it requires someone to take notice and to work around tree structures and so forth. It's overcoming staff shortages, also overcoming night spraying and so forth. The system can operate in all conditions. It is the only system commercially on the market today, which works with your existing tractor. It works with both avario transmissions and manual transmissions. So we have the system currently working today on Kubota and Fendt, New Holland and other tractors. You can control and monitor the auto drive from your phone. And as mentioned, it enables safer night driving or night operations. The auto drive retrofit kit components, so on top we have the obstacle detection camera, we have the GPS and 10 a array on the top of the cab. We have a steering control inside the cab.

The screen, like we noticed earlier in the video, we have a brake in clutch activator, an RPM regulator. On the front we have the front bumper and LiDAR system. We have emergency stops on the left and right of the tractor and on if we have an implement such as a sprayer and yes, you can see a small blue wireless box here which controls the sprayer or sends signals back from the implement to the control system.

As mentioned from a safety system, we have two. We have an infrared camera and RGB camera mounted on the roof of the cab. That can also give us a live video feed or take images of any obstructions to send back to the app. With the infrared camera, it also has an element of AI in there to detect people and other objects in front of the machine. Obviously, things obstructions like people are a much higher priority for avoidance than basic structure for a safety reason.

So in the GOtrack range, we have the GOtrack Auto Drive as we've just gone over. The GOtrack Line Assist Pro and the eSpray Pro for advanced spray control. On the front here, we see the LiDAR, the bump stop, and emergency buttons. We have a short video here.

So the system is suitable for many makes and models of tractors. These can be assessed as required. And that finishes the presentation. And thank you for everyone and we can back to you, Andy, for q and a.

Yeah, no, thank you both Chris and Cam. That was awesome. So I'm, yeah, truly impressed in trying to work out how I can get a Burro to, I don't know I've no idea what I would have any use for it, but just having one would be fantastic. So q and as, we haven't got any yet, but I'm sure there's questions out there. So if you've got a question, stick it in the chat or in the q and a section, if you've got something really long that you want to talk about, let me know and I can have a go at unmuting you.

There is one that, there is one there for Chris on the Burro.

Okay. How does it perform in tree rows that are bumpy and not perfectly straight? And what if there are weeds or a row crop? So there's upper limits to everything depending on how bumpy your, your rows are. You're going to have some issues but if it's relatively smooth the occasional bump here and there, I mean, we've run in, I wish I could show you a few videos of Burro tracking through mud where you've had drippy, a leaky irrigation line. We do make it through some of those scenarios. But again, there's some upper limits to that. Same thing with weeds and cover crops in particular. Generally, I mean, Burros only doing what it can see, so if there's something that is occluding its vision it's not going to have the ability to navigate that. So I hope that answers your question. I don't have specific inches or size of bumps or things like that. One thing that you can do to improve some of the stability is you can go to an XL kit, so you lengthen and widen your wheel base. So as an example in, in citrus we've, we did this in, in Sumo harvest. And they were able to put 750 pounds of totes. So that's 30 totes. It's pretty tall. I believe that actually showed in one of those videos as well. So when you go back and you, and you get this presentation, pay attention to that, that citrus video that shows up. Yeah, hope that answers that. That's good.

Thanks Chris. Also one on the price, question on the price for auto drive and line assist. So the auto-drive system is on a subscription basis here in Australia and New Zealand. So the broad spectrum pricing for an install of auto drive to attract it is approximately four to $5,000 depending on make and model of tractor. And from there it is 3,700 per month subscription, which includes all software and hardware updates into the future. Line Assist Pro. Again, subject to the tractor make and model, but between 27 and a half and 32,000 as a capital purchase for Line Assist Pro. One of the other questions was, is it cheaper or easier to retrofit tractors with ISO buss? Right now, today, it really makes no difference to us whether it has ISO bus or not. It does, however, enable a little bit more information to show on the screen if the tractor has ISO bus. Okay. Excellent.

There's also more questions in here. One of the questions was for the borough financial calculations, that was in US dollars. Correct. That was in US dollars. Yep.

And one of the other questions is when we, when might be we be able to see a Burro at work in New Zealand? I think you can answer that. Yeah, so I think there's, there is units on their way right now to New Zealand and we can loop you in with a team from Agri Automation New Zealand who can hook you up. They will be running some demonstrations throughout different regions and industry in New Zealand. So we can connect you later on with the team out of New Zealand. I believe the first ones arrive pretty quick, maybe a week to two weeks out.

There is a question about the permits for self-driving machinery and regulations if there are any.

Yeah, that's good. Sorry. I set up on the no there is, right now in Australia and New Zealand there is no current legislation related to autonomous operations, so no permit is needed. However, that said, it is up to duty of care for an operator the same as we operate today with machinery. So the system or all autonomous systems are not designed that you should set them going and head to town for the day. It is supervised autonomy. One of the advantages of the GOtrack Auto-Drive system is it is designed from a drive and repeat system rather than a Map type system.

Yeah. And there is just one more question that's popped up in the chat, which is about, so Cam, in your experience, how many units can one person oversee with the Go Track Pro?

Yes, thanks Andy. So the answer to that is probably subject to what task has been taken, something where you require to refill, for instance, a sprayer. We see the limit is probably somewhere around three to four units. Again, if that is something more simple like slashing or mulching where the task is simpler and it's not required constant service, then that number could be increased. However, how we see the intention to deploy multiple numbers of units in a spray operation is the units themselves don't necessarily leave the spraying field. They're then serviced, serviced by a nurse cart, which increases the efficiency. So, substantially.

Just double check the q and a. So, just I've got a quick question. What kind of feedback does, is transferred back to the operator like on the tablet or the phone that they're using while the tractor's going around? Does it give them location information if there's an issues or..., yes, that's good question, Andy. So from, you can at any time look at the app and see where the unit is operating. From a Google Maps perspective, you can see it operating in the field. You can see its current speed, its current spraying rate. If it's spraying how many litres left in the tank, how many kilometres or meters left in its path, how many meters or kilometres the original path was. If the auto drive system comes across an obstacle, it will then send a message to the operator on the app or on SMS and say, here's my location. I'm stopped for this reason. And now we are seeing a photo of the obstacle getting transferred to the app as well.

Okay, cool. And is that similar for the Burro Chris? It gives you a bit of feedback on what's, what's going on when it's, while it's out and bound? Yep. So for everyone on the call, when you go back and you receive the this presentation, if you look, there's the slide that has all the different icons that kind of describes the autonomy. There's a little teeny icon that shows our dashboard, our online dashboard. And so whether it's your full fleet or just an individual Burro you can really drill down into where Burro is, what distance it's travelled, what has it been carrying a heavy load or not. So there's some, some correlation to draw on the batteries all the way down to CPU temperature, and all of our stats. That's all available on that dashboard.

Yeah. Cool. So you've got two quick, two good ones. One is about insurance. If you guys have come across that. Cam, is that something that you've had? So I think the question is, yeah, does an insurer still cover or cover an autonomous machine? Yes. There, there is dependent on the insurer. Some insurers are more advanced in their cover of this type of equipment. Again, to repeat the GOtrack system in the sense that is a drive and repeat type system rather than a map system, makes quite a large difference in this respect because it's not a desktop type operation where someone hasn't been in the field. The GOtrack auto drive is two centimetres accurate and it will, beyond 30 centimetres off its path, it will immediately stop and send an alert so it can't leave its path. So from, from a safety perspective, that is a much safer operation than a sense where a path is mapped out from a desktop where they're not necessarily aware of the conditions or obstacles in the field, which it might come across.

Yeah. Cool. And so then from, Ben's got a question and is what are the, in regards to spiderwebs, et cetera, growing throughout the season, can that interfere with either equipment? So it's come down to the camera? Yeah, that's good. That's one of the major steps for the system has made in the last six months is moving to the extra cameras and the obstacle detection system because it's allowed us to reduce the reliance on the LiDAR camera, which has then enabled us to work in multiple canopy conditions. So it's especially seen when we think about a operation such as fruit growing, where your canopy structure changes majorly through the season with the fruit load coming on the branches and then dropping down into the row and causing that obstacle. Earlier in the piece we should say earlier in our trials, we, we seen that causing an obstacle for the LiDAR camera system. But now with the with the new cameras mounted on there, we're not seeing that the same as what we've seen in the Line Assist Pro system.

So to speak on the Burro, from the Burro perspective, we have not yet been in a scenario where you have webs that basically form a cape over your equipment. I've been in those fields and it's, it's pretty crazy. But in typical harvest situations you don't have that as an issue. At the same time as we get down into other tasks throughout the season where you're not in normal harvest season, it's fall. There's a lot of spiders out. We just haven't been in that scenario yet. But similar to what Cam was describing Burro would, if it's view as occluded, it's going to stop. And if, if it's in an autonomous application it, it will be sending a text notification to whoever needs to, to come rescue it, say, to clear off the webs. In addition to that, things like canes or branches or, or vines hanging down in, in, in the models that we have trained in and run in really frequently, Burro knows what that vine looks, coming down looks like, and it knows that to an extent it can traverse through that safely. Particularly if it's not, you know, occluded by a lot of vines, just totally breaking, its vision.

You got two. But to continue with you Chris, there is another question from Chris who's looking to go really big, because he'd like to know what are the maximum number of Burros that he can work, can work collaboratively.

There is no limit. So, basically so in terms of typically crews are running about six Burros per crew, and that's six to eight people per crew. That's one base station that everything is, is running off of. If your base station is high enough and has enough visibility to other Burros around it, it, there's no limit to how many Burros can relay and localize off of that base station. In terms of how many you can send routes to and have them follow and do the same route or the number of routes that you've catalogued, same thing. There's no, there's no limit to that.

Cool. And then back to you Cam, in the q and a, there is a question in regards to, could you elaborate on the spray pro model? What, what is added functions and then is this an add-on or different system entirely. Is it compatible with all sprayers or only AME sprayers? Wait, just unmute as well.

Thank you. So the e spray model is included in the auto drive in respect that that controller is a full auto rate controller in manual mode as well. It has added functions such as starting and stopping the spray nozzles autonomously. So at the ends of rows and so forth, it can change that. There's a number of functions that can push up to a spray recording program as well. It's probably getting fairly technical to dig right into it here, but feel free to reach out directly and we can go through some extra details. It is compatible with all sprayers, not only AME or FMR sprayers.

Cool. I'll just quickly click did you see the one there for Chris there, Andy? The maximum. Yeah, that's the one. Sorry, I've been jumping around. What was that one? Fuel use. So, we have a question in regards to any Oh yeah. Fuel use is do you see in between the normal running of a tractor in the same environment as with a GOtrack, is there any fuel efficiencies to using such a system? Not really. At the end of the day the system is operating the same as the operator would. The biggest saving for operating autonomous, autonomously is of course the labour saving and the, yeah, efficiency saving have been able to double up. What we are seeing is this task where they are quite a seasonal task, we are seeing operations able to reduce their overall staff count because they're not needing to step it up throughout the growing season, because they can deploy a GOtrack auto drive in this situation.

Yeah. Fantastic. I'll just, while we're see if any other questions come through, I'm just going to, oh...

Actually Andy, could I speak to that last one real quick as well? Yes, definitely. And we have another question as well yeah, cool. We don't have specifics on necessarily how much fuel is consumed in the typical harvest scenario where we're replacing tractors, pulling trailers, which would be like sumos. But for a comparison, if you're looking at number of acres that maybe you can cover in a day with a Burro, your cost per day to operate is roughly 62 cents USD per day, and that's taken off of some California pge rates. So that maybe gives you, I mean, it, you're under a dollar a day basically.

Cool. So there's one, one question in the Q and A, which is, we have a GOtrack system on a Kubota. Is Assist a feature that this or, is line assist a feature with this, or we'd need to add it to the system? I'm, yeah. That's cool. I do understand that one. And we can, so the Line Assist is a separate system currently. It is in their development pathway to have an integrated line assist in the, add to the auto drive system. But right now it is two separate systems.

Okay, cool. I'm gonna just take a moment while if we're, if everybody's thinking about any new questions, I'll just see if it refresh it again. So this is the first of series of webinars that I'm hoping to put together. So, everyone please keep an eye out for future and announcements about them. And the next one is on the 27th of July, which is from the onside guys and they have some software that helps growers meet OH&S and compliance requirements.

But thank you guys so much for your time and presenting. It's been awesome. I've got tons out of it and heaps of ideas and I'm sure everybody on the line has also got a whole bunch of yeah, thoughts on where they can optimize their properties and yeah, work practices.

So thank you both very much. That's good. Thank you very much, Andy. Just as a note, this will be recco, this has been recorded and link will be sent to everyone that attended, is that correct, Andy? Yeah, that's right. Yeah, we'll be making this and if you guys are comfortable, I might get a PDF version of presentations that, or some further information we can distribute. There was a couple of people who asked about that early on.

Webinar: Keep track of on-farm visitors, biosecurity tracking and tracing on your smartphone July 2023

  • maintain on-farm safety through visitor management
  • improve workforce communication, giving growers real time ability to be on top of management tasks
  • using this technology for tracing and responding to on farm biosecurity risks

For more information reach out to: sam.elder@onside.co.nz

AUSVEG Biosecurity Preparedness Guide  Pest and disease preparedness: How to protect your farm (Note: this document does not meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines)

This webinar is brought to you by Agriculture Victoria, Horticulture Services.
Keep track of onfarm visitors on your smartphone - Webinar July 2023

Sam Elder from Onside provides an insight into how the benefits of smartphone apps are being used to maintain on-farm safety through visitor management. Utilising the technology that is in everyone's pocket, these apps are designed to improve workforce communication giving growers real time ability to be on top of management tasks.

Learn how growers, industry associations and government are using this technology for tracing and responding to on farm biosecurity risks.

00:00 Introduction

01:39 Sam Elder, Onside

12:04 Discussion with Rose Daniel, AUSVEG

20:24 Discussion with grower Mike Fielden, CO Boratto Farms

26:10 Q&A


Thank you all for attending today's webinar. First of all, I'd like to begin by acknowledging the nutritional owners of the land on which we are meeting from today. I'd also like to pay my respects to elders past and present. This, webinar is part of a series called Future-Proofing Horticulture in a Changing Climate.

We started the year off in March with a field day at Tatura which got washed out at the end, and so we've extended that, throughout, and we're going to be having these monthly webinars to continue the kind of legacy of that field day forward. Today we are looking at the issue of keeping track of visitors who come onto your property and the associated biosecurity and OH&S risks that are associated with that. So with that we've got Sam Elder from Onside, and as well, we've got Rose Daniel from AUSVEG who will be presenting and discussing these issues and how they, how these guys have tackled them together. Once we've heard from these guys then we'll probably have a, that we will have the Q&A session, so please stick your, any questions you have as we are going through in the Q&A function and then, and then we'll get to them at the end there. Also, just wanted to let everybody know we are recording this session, so just keep that in mind when, yeah. So thank you guys and I'll hand over to you Sam.

G'day everyone, thank you for joining us today. I'm going to share my screen in a moment and take you through a short presentation on Onside and what we're doing within the biosecurity space, both in Australia and also in New Zealand. And then I will introduce Rose and we will speak about a project that AUSVEG and Onside have within the biosecurity space, and we'll also have Mike Fielding join us, who is the CEO of Boratto Farms in Bacchus Marsh, and he will give some insight into their use of technology for biosecurity and food quality reasons and just the general sort of practical thinking behind where technology like can really benefit producers in this space.

Please send through questions as we go. I might see them come through and we'll cover them as I speak. However, we will get to them at the end and we'll have a bit of a Q&A as well, so you can ask questions of myself, of Rose, and also of Mike.

Great, so I'll share my screen now. Onside is a app-based farm management tool. It actually started in New Zealand and was the brainchild of a dairy operations manager. So, our founder grew up in the dairy industry and he was managing a number of properties and found that there was just real challenges with managing people across all those businesses, but also real opportunity to tighten up OH&S, biosecurity and other operational processes by digitizing how they happen.

So with that, Onside has worked very hard to create an application that's as user friendly as possible so that compliance is as high as possible. They really are that sort of toolkit in your pocket and it's using phone technology and then the ongoing data that's collected from people just doing their job day to day to do other really special things around biosecurity and compliance.

Now we're gonna be speaking about the biosecurity part of things here today. But we also do help a lot within OH&S and other areas. So Onside intelligence is actually our, very new and interesting product that is all to do with biosecurity tracking and tracing. Now we have an on-farm element to it, but also an industry-wide element as well, which I'll take you through.

Like I said, Onside that toolkit in your pocket and we cover off a number of areas and the aim is to digitize your day-to-day operations so that all of that data that's collected just from doing your job can then be used later on in really valuable and time saving ways. When it comes to the actual usage of Onside, the power comes from the network and so you need properties to be mapped, people to be checking in to properties and all of that activity going on so that you can then collect that information to, to use later on. So, I'll show you very briefly on my phone what I'm talking about in terms of what you're able to do with smartphone technology these days. So, when it comes to the actual application, I'm just starting to broadcast my phone screen. There we go. Great. So here within the app we have an orchard mapped out, so combination of digital maps, also with digital boundary mapping and other tools, we're able to create a digital footprint around properties so that when someone arrives at that property and they've got the app on their phone, they'll be reminded to check in just as you would do these days with a paper logbook. And then when they're checking in, they're able to agree to all of those terms and conditions that are needed to actually come onto a property. Now these are biosecurity requirements and also OH&S requirements. So, as I step through, we're able to collect answers to questions and act on those answers as well. So by incorporating phone technology, mapping technology, and all of the powers that those include, you're able to create a data footprint of what's going on around your property. So with that, we then put all of that information in people's pockets as well. So you've got both safety information and jobs that need to be done on the property.

Now, that's the app part of it, and we designed that to be user friendly and really valuable for people to use on the property so that they actually check in because they need it to get what they need to do, done. But what that does from a biosecurity tracking point of view is, there we go, is creates a network of mapped properties and then allows us to collect that data of movement around those mapped properties and surface that to industry bodies and government so that they can see the trends and patterns of people's movement. So you can see here that you've got contractors and suppliers that'll be moving between multiple properties at once. You've got the individual farms, orchards and vineyards that they're moving between. And then you're also gonna have third party data, say food, sorry, say fruit crates or the movement of vehicles, or livestock between properties as well. So with the collection of all of that, we're able to then map out when someone moves from one property to another, which then creates a network of movement between multiple properties and that gives amazing insight into the risks that are present within a geographical area or within a particular industry of actually where the bottlenecks of movement of people are so that we can work with government on targeting areas for tracing and tracking biosecurity incursions. But we can also work with industry on dealing with and responding to incursions that have taken place. So with that network, we get wonderful insight, and you can see here that there's multiple ways of visualizing that insight, either from direct movement or heat mapping, or even having regional response plans based on where exposure sites are.

Now a good example of us actually trying out this particular program was a partnership between new South Wales Wine, the Department of Primary Industry in New South Wales, and also the Southern New South Wales Innovation Hub. So what we did, there is, got a region of wine growers, sorry, of vineyards, in and around orange to all start using Onside for checking in visitors, for a nine month period, and then collected all of that information and data and used that in a, they called it a war game in terms of biosecurity. So that involved two days where on the first day the Department of Primary Industry, put together a team and did a simulated response to a, phylloxera outbreak within a particular vineyard. So they war gamed the scenario. They went around, draw the five km radius around that farm, interviewed people and did all the stuff that they currently do to try and respond to a known incursion. That was day one. Day two, they used the data that had been collected over the previous nine months, and it was astounding how deep their understanding of the actual risks to the area were once they were able to actually see the movement of people. So their current operation is to draw a five km radius around a vineyard and then respond and interview, and then subsequently broaden their search. With the info from Onside and the use of check-in, they were able to see that a contractor had travelled almost 300 Kms from one area to another. So their exposure zone was way bigger than they ever thought. And you guys would all you know, feel that's a no-brainer, but to actually have the data to show where that exposure was, is incredibly powerful for responding to outbreaks like that.

Now, we've got projects with multiple peak bodies and government departments between New Zealand and New South Wales. Oh, sorry, Australia. But it's our partnership with Ausveg that is of interest to you guys today, and that's why Rose has come along to today's session is to give some context around what we'll be doing with Ausveg and the scope of the project and what it'll mean for growers like yourselves in and around both Victoria and more broadly around Australia. So with that, I will jump in and introduce Rose to the group. You may have met her before at a number of other events or conferences. But let me just stop sharing my screen and we'll have a chat with Rose. So thanks Rose. Can you just explain to the group a little bit about your role with AUSVEG?

So I'm one of two farm biosecurity coordinators at AUSVEG as part of the Vegetable and potato Farm biosecurity program that's run through Plant Health Australia. So the other biosecurity coordinator is Shakira Johnson, who I think is also online. So our role is to put it fairly simply, is to improve the implementation of farm biosecurity practices to help reduce the risk of spread of pests and diseases onto farms and to make sure that those farm businesses are prepared in the event of an incursion. I guess the better the biosecurity practices, the better prepared those farms should be. We also work with government and researchers and other industry participants to make sure that the industry's prepared. So it might be research to understand certain pests better and have control measures in place to make sure that we can respond more effectively in the event that there is an incursion. Yep. Great. For, for the audience today, so within, the horticulture industry, like what, if you feel in your gut, like what's the biggest biosecurity challenge today at the moment? What does it look like? What's the thing that you're worried about?

I think this is such a massive question with so many different answers. It's, yeah, look, it's incredibly broad and it could be quite political. But I think some of the most important bits, I guess parts for growers, is to make sure and us as the industry body is to make sure that we've got the skills and the science available that's underpinning their practices, that growers can implement and our ability to respond to incursions there, and I think some of these are not just challenges, but there are opportunities, there's so much new technology available now that we can do this in a more effective way. Things like surveillance, making sure that we're conducting good surveillance so that we can detect pests and pathogens more quickly and respond more quickly. Making sure that we've got processes in place and frameworks in place to enable growers to continue their businesses. Business continuity so that they're not raising money when there are incursions in place, underway. And continuing to build those partnerships between the growers and the industry bodies and the researchers and government. So yeah, it's massively broad and I'm sure everybody on that's on this meeting could, if it give you another answer to that. So a lot of challenges, but I think even just improving the uptake in biosecurity. It's such a horrible word sometimes, just improving the uptake and making biosecurity part of people's everyday practices is probably the most simple thing, that it's not scary and it's not awful. It's just part of what you do. Like you don't leave a band aid lying around in your house. So it is a bit like that on a farm, you clean up and make sure you've got good hygiene and sanitation practices, and it's just a normal thing to do.

Yep. Cool. Yeah, good answer to a broad, complex question. You mentioned it's not a nice question to have to answer, but Yeah. No, it's massive. It's big. So anyway.

Yeah, good one. You mentioned technology and the role it plays. Look, today we're talking tech. What is it that, that sort of brought together, that, that AUSVEG and Onside project, and what does that project look like?

I've only been with AUSVEG for four months, so this all started before I joined. But, I think, when I first started with AUSVEG, Onside was involved in their Victorian vegetable innovation days and helped us, it was organized by AUSVEG Vic. But, help to, at the entrance point, we implemented biosecurity measures, so people needed to walk through foot baths and, where normally or frequently you would see a paper registration slip, we had Onside, had their app there and it was much easier to see who was coming onto site and probably provided some reassurance for those growers that were hosting the field events that they knew where people were coming from and if something did happen that there's the potential for traceability. I think the, I don't know the history of Onside and AUSVEG but from my perspective, there's, it makes it easier to have this kind of format to sign in visitors and one of the, so I guess in the AUSVEG biosecurity space, we've identified a number of risk pathways by which pests and diseases could come onto farms. And one of those risk pathways, or a couple of those are, vehicles, staff visitors, sorry, staff visitors to farms. So your, seed reps and all those kind of service providers that come onto farms. And the attractive thing about Onside is that it's, and these kind of apps is that it's provides not only the ability to register who's coming onto the farm, but also there's an opportunity to include into that sign on procedure, a couple of points about what the farm's practices are and what you need to abide by when you're coming onto farm. And that takes away some of the tediousness of doing that in person or, if you are not on site, you can still make sure that people understand what you need to do when you're coming onto that site, whether it be, are you parking in our, allocated parking, have you washed your boots, have you done this, where have you been? And so on. Whatever the farm's practices are. So I guess that's the attractive thing and that's what going forward, what some of the, the project that AUSVEG and Onside will be working on will be to incorporate that kind of farm biosecurity planning into the visitor registration processes.

Yep. Okay. Great. Great. Now, we've got Mike who has hopefully sorted out his mic, mike things. I can. Good work. I amaze myself sometimes. Yep. No, it's good. You weren't speaking first up. Could have been a bit of a challenge, but No. All good. So Mike is here. He's the c e o with Boratto Farms in Bacchus Marsh, and Boratto Farms has, look, you've probably gone through a bit more, more thinking than we necessarily know about the tip of the iceberg with your engagement with Onside, but you've started using technology for that biosecurity and food quality side of things. So I guess, can you talk us through what challenges you guys were facing and where you see technology stepping in? So technology like Onside and that sort of thing. Yeah.

Yeah. So clearly as mentioned, like biosecurity is a major issue, and we were looking to protect not only the industry but protect ourselves. So in a previous role, I was National supply manager for a large salad processor in Australia and I know and have seen firsthand the where of supply that is out there. And therefore, I think the protection is both for fellow members in the industry and also for growers, farmers as an individual entity. We're also looking through that source, we were lucky because Onside was used at the International Spinach Conference, which we hosted the trials day. So we were able to see how Onside worked and how easy it was for people to sign in and how that information was collectible. So from a technology point of view, we're looking at how we can improve efficiency and time management. How we can improve the tasks we do. And then par that will help us with the, the ever-growing buzzword, which is carbon footprint calculations. So we feel that we'll also be able to use that from a sustainability point of view. So we get a biosecurity, we get the sustainability point of view, the carbon footprint, and also we feel these days there's a certain element of detachment from the office to the people outside, because it, as farming progresses and becomes more data-driven, there's that kind of separation. So we feel that Onside this kind of facility helps improve the connection with all the two ICs, all the management team, all of that. The operators have that. The casual staff obviously sign in when they go to the sites. We have that. That creates that link and that attachment. What people are doing, how they've achieved what they've achieved. And it also allows reporting as well back. So it's a good use of technology because if somebody sees something, a fence may be broken, or irrigation, upstanding may be not working, rather than have to drive all the way back, which paradoxically could increase biosecurity issues, they can just do it on the app and just let management know, or the appropriate people know that can get repaired. And then once that's repaired, that can be actioned. So you're creating a bit paradox as well. You're creating a better link with the office by not having to go with the office as much like it. So we find that as well. So they're all things that we're looking at and we're also looking to get away from paper driven systems if we can. We're Fresh Care, Fair Farm's, audit compliant. But a lot of that is a, there's a lot of work in that. And if we can get into a more data-driven paperless system, that's what we're looking at. I'd also say Onside, like I say, we had the trial for the spinach, International Spinach Conference. We also like technology if we can be reasonably early into it, early adopters, because it allows us opportunity to maybe influence how we'd like to see that develop for our own particular circumstances. And our particular circumstances will also match up with majority of baby leaf and whole head supplies in Australia.

Yeah. Yeah. One thing I hear as I speak to growers is the number of systems that they're using. So there's always a number of different systems. What other technology are you guys using for that food quality side of things?

Food quality side. I mean me, my colleague here, Abby, really? because she does all our foods, but we tend to, it tends to be that kind of, as I say, we're Fair farms, Fresh Care, audited so it tends to be that gathering of information through there. Yep. But there is a detachment there, because some of that happens post situation almost. Whereas with the Onside thing we can find, you can take a photograph of harvest at that particular time. Keep a record of that information and quality that leaves circumstances of harvest. What was the weather like, et cetera. And all of that creates a non-paper based and live system that helps us with our food safety and technology. And then the other stuff that we are looking at, we're looking at mechanical and the laser weeding for the field, which also captures data. So that allows us to deal with predominantly weeds, but that'll log all that data about the crop and it'll also give you early insight into pest and disease problems that may be occurring. Yep, that'll all link in. So it, it is just creating a link and getting away from tick boxes and sheets and that. So that's what we're trying to do because I'll give everybody more credibility then. Yep. No, good one. Good one. Now I can see, I'll see whether in the chat, any questions have come through. But they're open.

I've got a question if I can interrupt, which just occurred to me while you about the New South Wales DPI wine industry project that you had. Yep. And one of the, I noticed a lot of the industries that have perennial crops that you know, are in the trees that are in the ground for many years, have been mapping their, where their orchards or farms are, and one of the things I've noticed with vegetables, and not, probably not so much where you are Mike, a lot of vegetable farms, vegetables obviously being an annual crop, they, some of their growers will lease land in around the place and there, so their farm isn't stuck as much as it might be in a fruit tree farm, it's an orchard or something. And so mapping where vegetable farms are can be a little bit more challenging than it might be in the orcharding fruit tree world. So I guess my question is, does that kind of traceability and having lots of people using an app like Onside where you can see the movement around the place, does that kind of almost circumvent that need to map an industry? Because for me or for, from an industry point of view, I guess for us to be able to, if there's an exotic incursion, to be able to respond quickly, it's really makes it so much easier to know where farms are and, so that way you can contact those business owners and so on and, get that, response happening more quickly. So I guess knowing where things have moved, like you showed on your map, has beneficial to that. So yeah, I guess my question's around whether that sort of that traceability you can replaces the need to map?

So from my point, if I look to that from a need to map, from a growing point of view, I think what it does, it speeds up the process. So if there is an exotic incursion, rather than having to go through long-winded paper trail, trying to find that, trying to interrogate where things have been. If it's all accessible, then I think that speeds up and that's gotta be good for the industry. Anything that can speed up and rebuild consumer confidence has to be good. Yeah. Yeah, I think that'd be my answer to that one, if that answers your question. Yeah. I guess it, if there's a number of mapping projects that different industries are doing or have done, and you can see where, I don't know, the avocado orchard are across Australia and so on, so I guess, and with vegetables, it, one, it's vegetables is massive. It's many different crops. But also, in some areas of Australia, they tend to switch between using land for vegetable to cattle or something else. So I guess this kind of traceability and knowing it, yeah, I guess my questions around that might be.. Some of that's a little bit, with Fresh Care and with the, and the audits, processor driven audits, it's, there's not a lot of jumping into land before it's prepared properly, so you have to have 12 months before you go minimum, before you go in after cattle, for obvious reasons. I don't think there's maybe the in and out approach that they used to be. It's more of a planned approach. And also a lot of these crops now are high value, high cost and require high levels of management. So the majority, a good percentage of baby leaf crops are grown with fixed irrigation. Fewer grown with linear and center pivots, but that also kinds of limits where you can go and where people want to go. But the mapping has to help, as I say, it has to help with speed of traceability. Ruling people in and ruling people out is the important bit. Yep.

Great. So we've got a couple of questions that have come through, and these ones are good sort of tech technical ones. So we've got one about how does on Onside work? So look, really it's how does a phone application work if there's no reception? Look, farming can be out, away from reception. You guys would probably be constantly pulling your hair out about certain issues with connectivity. But the way mobile apps are built is they can actually store information in the app, and then once you get into reception, it recognizes that and pings that information off, up to, the cloud. When it comes to on Onside, we've put a lot of work into storing all the key information that you need when someone's doing something when they're not connected. So timestamping incidents or timestamping movement and then that pings off to the cloud once you come back into reception. So it actually works really well. Also the app stores like map data and all that other stuff in there. So you don't actually have to have reception to use the app really well. And then the next one's to do with like data security and sharing data with other organizations. So that one comes into there's different sort of layers or tiers of data. You can have the base level of people's names, dates, numbers, all that sort of stuff that's protected by encryption. I wouldn't want to get into too much technical detail because I'm not the right person to be speaking deeply about that, but that's the storage and encryption side of things. But then when it comes to, say the movement or the check-ins at properties and then seeing if someone has checked into another property for the movement of a pest, that kind of thing, we have it anonymized when it comes to looking at the general movement of people. So we don't think of them as an individual. We think of them just as a person. They're a number. We have no idea who they are, but we know that there was movement from one spot to another. Now, legislation and the powers that be in the government actually have, laws in place around when you're able to actually find out who that person is. And they do that already with paper-based systems. So if you are recording movement within, within a log, they can actually, government has a regime where they can legally ask for that person's information so they can give 'em a call and find out and investigate that particular incursion. We just follow the preexisting legislation around when you actually share someone's information, for investigation into biosecurity issues. I hope that answers your question, Abby. It's a tough one when it comes to data security. Yeah. Okay. Now, in terms of seeing people, so Onside for recording, checking in and checking out of properties. So we don't show a farm manager where everyone on the farm is and you don't see them moving around like you're checking into Uber and you see the car driving around. It's not like that. We record that someone's come to the property, and then that individual on their phone can see where they are on the map because it's really useful to be able to see where you are, if you're heading to a certain spot on the property to do work. You need to know how far away you are so they can see that, but no one else can see their location. So it's not a tracking app in that regard. It really is the tracking of checking in to properties that, that is important for us. Yep.

Mike, you might be able to answer this as well. What kind of reports and data do you bring out of what you've collected? Is it a regular thing that you go, you are going back to look at, to help the business stay on top of things? Or is it more something that you use as a security, like as a, something that you can call upon if there is a need or does or do you use it as some kind of ongoing business, I guess reporting tool.

We're open, Andy, to use it as an ongoing business reporting tool as well. I said we're trying to link it into sustainability carbon footprint piece, we are trying to do that. And as I say that, I think that helps with the early adoption and the fact, I know on Onside guys have been going for a while in, in New Zealand and that yeah, but reasonably new over here so we can maybe help develop that, which may assist the industry because I think that kind data capture point is pretty good.

Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. Sorry, I just saw another question pop up at the same time ,which is a great one, does everyone that comes onto the farm have to download the app, which is another question I was going to ask Mike about, do you mandate that everybody needs the app who comes onto your farm? Don't mandate it? We don't mandate it, but we obviously put out a, which in itself was a cleansing process, sending, a request to everybody who we use, could use, have used, will use. Yeah, we, I know it took colleague Abby about two days to send out and you're amazed how many people you accumulate. But we suggest to them they can do it on site or we suggest 'em if they want to download the app for ease if they come in multiple times, to do that. So we do both. Yeah.

Yeah. So I guess the answer to that question is that, yeah, if you want to, you need to download the app to use it obviously, but then as a business it's a value add if you do ask people to use it, yeah, that's right. That's right. So yeah, you don't have to have the app. So you can use a web link to, to log your details that you're coming to the farm. Or you can set up like a, an iPad in the head office if you want people to move through and fill their info out there. So yeah, you don't have to mandate that's how everyone does it. But I guess, like you said, Andy, there's a lot of really useful stuff in the app. We actually find with contractors, in regions that they want to go to properties, they like to go to properties that have an app-based check-in. Because it gives them the map, it gives them all of the OH&S stuff. It gives them all of that information and they can easily get in touch with farm managers from all the contact details that are in there as well. Yeah, we hear that contractors quite enjoy coming to properties that have the app because it makes it so much easier for them to just get started on what they need to do.

Cool. So Rose, probably a, I'm not sure if this is a tricky one or not, but what kind of stuff, what kind of information from industry perspective helps the industry understand when there is a biosecurity event? What's the base level info that you like to be able to get from a grower?

Initially it's just, although the location of their properties, that's why my question about the mapping, if we know where farms are and who to contact at those farms, that's, really helpful because then, you know who to contact.

And then I guess that it's really, it's not AUSVEG that leads a response, it's the government department within the state where the incursion happens. So we would assist. We're in a, hopefully in a position to assist the government agencies to, to connect with growers and feedback information that, that they don't have. So it's really talking to the farm business owners and working out where the properties are so that any surveillance that needs to be conducted can be conducted. And, early detection means a more rapid response I guess as Mike was saying. If you can find out where a pest is more quickly, then the response is more likely to be successful I guess. One thing, one thing I'd just add to Rose's piece there as well is, the health authorities are becoming more technical in that, in how they do stuff. And they do this, they have this tracking, this data-driven system. And I think growers would be amazed at how much detail they can pull out and how far they can go and actually look into things. And I think therefore, the industry itself has to try and keep pace with that as growers. We have to be able to match information, how people draw information, how they look at it. So I think that's something that the industry really needs to be aware of. It's quite a detailed process, if you get the wrong side of it.

Yeah. And by having that information and being able to be upfront with it, you're ring fencing the problems and minimizing impacts. So it's, starts to, yeah, really benefit everybody. And I liked what you said, Michael. Oh, sorry. Go Rose. Yep. I think what's quite interesting too is Mike also comes into this from a sustainability and also there's a lot of food safety coming up in Mike's comments as well, and I think there's quite a lot of overlap that makes it a little easier, it's not necessarily that there's biosecurity and there's food safety. Some of it, there's an overlap and it makes it a little easier to comprehend and manage as well. Some of these technologies and this kind of management of people and inputs and things through the, these kind of apps can help not just biosecurity, but other parts of the farm business as well.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I was really excited to hear about the idea, Mike was saying about carbon footprints and how that can tie into it all, and that understanding of, of the big data machine that can run and help you really analyse the business and see where efficiencies can be made is really exciting. I'm very geeky and I love it, so it's. You should have a look at, sorry, digress. You should look at Siemens SiGREEN Technology. That's, yep, that's that drawing all that's the sort of stuff that's going to draw all this together. Yeah. Fantastic. I have to take them on the shoulder in the future.

Sorry, Sam. No, I was just going to say one thing that's interesting on that is you mentioned the sort of big amount of data, and that can be a blessing and a curse. So for example, the amount of sort of compliance that's required and, speaking with farmers here in about the new compliance and so the added things that are built up, it is quite data heavy and the admin of collecting that, it can be huge in some instances. And so one of the things that technology can help with is and stuff, especially when it's on a smartphone, which sort of, becomes part of your day to day, is collecting all that information that's required just as you go about doing your business. Just as you go about doing what you need to do on the property, being able to passively collect that info to then be able to pull reports and submit for audits as you need. That's a really interesting piece within modern farming to think about because the admin that's required is huge and not every organization can, not every farm can have it's an employee dedicated purely to admin. And I think that's one thing to recognize as well, is you've got different, I guess different size organizations and where you can actually invest time into that admin part of it.

And so with the way that Onside, can Onside take the data that's not just the app data, but like over a monthly period and present that back to the grower as, in form that is easily digestible for them? So they're not yeah. That's right. That's right. So there's a number of different ways of collecting that data or that info and you can then periodically pull it out. So you can report on all kinds of things on a yearly or monthly basis. And yeah, you can do what you want with it, depending on how you need to present it, for compliance purposes. And that fits within OH&S as well. Because as not only is there the food quality, biosecurity and all that sort of stuff but then you've got OH&S, which is another admin heavy part of an operation and that can all be reported on as well. Yeah. Excellent. You don't need a, you don't need to bring a data scientist onto staff. No. Nah. If you can click a button and download stuff, you'll be all right. Yep. Yeah. And I think that has become, I think the biggest, the hardest curve of this technology adoption has been this new layer of visual presentation of the data that's being collected, because lots of these sensors are old. People have been collecting the data for a long time, but not necessarily being able to understand it. So interfaces like you were showing us earlier, and we're all getting used to checking in over the last few years and there's like lots of things that we can adopt from those principles that can be implemented in business that smooth out things. But I would've hate to have been the person that had got lumped with that big stack of paper that had to go through and traced back through something to find where the issue was at any given time. Yeah. It's, I can see all these things of benefits in that respect. But just touching on the workers side of things do, is it a tool that can be used for much of that kind of worker flow throughout like the harvest season when you've got a lot more people on farm or, yeah, yeah. Yeah. No, good question. The, I guess the way you use an app like Onside, it doesn't discern between whether it's an employee or a contractor or a seasonal worker. It's someone who's coming onto the property to do a job, and so you can, if they've got the app, they can, you can then divvy out tasks and jobs and you can organize the work that they're to do. Communicate that directly to them, and then they can go and do it, record it, and then you've got an auditable trail of what was done. So that's very useful in a lot of the communication with external workers and even for repetitive tasks where you can template out those instructions. But it fits that space between say the collection of say detailed like flow rates of spray and all that sort of stuff. That's, those systems are built beautifully for those reasons and they collect all that information wonderfully and that's good there, but there's that disconnect between getting someone to actually communicate what they've done, what needs to be done, where it is, all that sort of stuff. And I think Mike touched on it, it's that, that bringing that connection between say head office and the worker in the field, and being able to put that in their pocket on a phone and operationalize that information is, is where it comes into play.

Excellent. So you can really do that, connect out, like contact people as they are on your property and alert them to situations. Yeah, exactly right? Yeah. Yeah. That's right. That's right. Yep. Yeah. Think that's where one of the great things from the biosecurity perspective is too, if someone's coming onto a farm, firstly, you know that who's coming on, and then you could include a checklist, have you cleaned your boots? Have you, yeah. Have you done whatever? Just making sure that people have checked that they've done all that before they're almost allowed on site. So it just provides an element of reassurance that the practices that the farm has in place have been followed. Yeah. And around harvest time, lots of cars that are just off the side of, it's not like everyone's entering through a single gate. There is that kind of like mass entrance to the, to a property. So I can see how that say will works really well.

The thing I say on that as well, just in support of the guys on Onside, that is sometimes you buy these systems and they'll tell you'll do it and you got to figure out your own way of doing it, and invariably what happens then is you either can't, or you get frustrated and you just don't bother, so you don't end up using the system. But the support that we've had from the team has been phenomenal. Connor's been particularly good, because he obviously looks after ourselves, and very helpful in setting up the templates, templates that can be re repeated, which is good because that's a saving, time saving piece as well, and helping us to explore how best to use it. So rather than just a purchase and go, it's that, that follow up work, which is, will be important for the industry because farming's not a natural, not always a natural suit to be able to work through this kind of stuff. So I think that's a really worth calling out.

Yeah. Cool. That's awesome. That's great. I think that adoption curve is something that, that, that scares a lot of growers. So to know that the technology, there's someone behind them to support that, is really, yeah, key to it. All right. It's vital. I couldn't even get a microphone to work, so that's help I need, so Connor was there helping you try and get it to work before?

No, that's great to hear. Thank you for that and Connor does a good job. Does a great job. Yeah, we're getting close to time. I've put my contact details in the chat. If anyone wants to ask any questions after this session, I'm happy to talk on Farm Tech till the cows come home. Reach out and we can have a chat about all that sort of stuff. But does anyone have any final questions, before we wrap up?

Scott Botten from DEECA here as well, mate. I was at the VIC event and I was just wondering if you want to quickly chat. There was a lot of people on site there, so whether there's concerns about how large a volume of people that can handle at any one time. Yeah, no, that was a, that's a good observation. Yeah, Vic Vid look. To be honest, when we were setting up for it, we had a chat to our tech team because an, in like a single location, farms could be big places, but they don't normally have hundreds of people checking in at once. And so we did have to do some testing around the volume. But it handled it fine. It was all good. There was no technical issues for that size of operation, which was all good. That was 150-200 people at one time?

Yeah. Because if we, yeah, just thinking for some of the larger orchards during harvest, they may have a hundred, 150 people in one area at one time. There's a check-in process. Yep. Whether that will cause issues. Yeah. Nah, no, but that's a, yeah, good observation. Nah. So no technical issues on that front. And to be honest, probably the person who's operating the front office would love for everyone just to check in themselves as they arrive, as opposed to lining up and signing a form. Good question. There's probably a lot of technical questions, but, yeah. No, I'm happy to talk about all those things.

Cool. I just want to say thank you to you all for coming along and chatting today. I think it was really great conversation. We are going to continue to do these in the future, so there will be another one on the 31st of August at this point. I just stuck in the chat a link to the evaluation form, which is, would be fantastic if you guys could fill that out for me. But anyway, thank you so much for coming and it's been great insights. I really like this idea of having a chat about what goes on and how people use it. It's fantastic and thank you Mike, for being able to join. It was really good to hear from a grower, how you guys are implementing it. And I've got a hundred more questions for you as well. I really want to know more about the carbons footprint element of things. So Yeah, you won't escape that. And Rose, thank you so much from the industry perspective because yeah, it's, I think it's at that scale that we need to start, that we need to adopt these technologies. So yeah, it's fantastic. So thank you all very much.

Webinar: Remote Sensing September 2023

  • Luke Weekly from Falcon UAV - multi-spectral cameras on fixed wing and multi-rotor drones
  • Laurence Tedesco, General Manager from Elgee Park Winery - use of thermal imaging and how it highlighted the stressed areas across the crop

For more information reach out to: luke@falconuav.com.au

This webinar is brought to you by Agriculture Victoria, Horticulture Services.
Remote Sensing - Future proofing horticulture in a changing climate Sept 2023

Webinar recording, facilitated by Andy Clark, Horticulture Program Coordinator, Goulburn Murray | Agriculture Victoria.

Luke Weekley, from Falcon UAV, discusses the use of multi-spectral cameras on fixed wing and multi-rotor drones which pick up a wider visual spectrum of what we can physically see to the naked eye.

Laurence Tedesco, General Manager from Elgee Park Winery, discussed the use of thermal imaging and how it has highlighted the stressed areas across the crop.

00:00 Introduction

01:54 IAV aerial imaging

28:03 Elgee Park Vineyard

37:42 Q&A


First of all, I just wanted to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are all meeting from today. I'd also like to pay my respects to elders past and present. This webinar is part of a series of webinars called Future Proofing Horticulture in a Changing Climate. And our intention is to run a webinar on the last Thursday of every month, featuring a timely piece of technology relevant to the horticulture industry. Today we're going to be looking at crop health and with a focus on early detection of crop stresses using remote sensing. So in doing this, we have Luke Weekley from Falcon UAV, who's going to talk through their approach to the work and Luke uses the technology and then goes right through the process through to helping him to improve soils from the data from the UAVs and along with him and to speak about the experience that he's had, in using this process is Lawrence Tedesco, who's the general manager of Elgee Park Winery. And then once we've been through these presentations, we'll have an opportunity for everybody to ask questions and have a bit of a Q& A session around what's being presented. I think at that, I'll hand it over to you, Luke.

All right. Cool. Thank you everyone. And great. Thank you so much, Andy. And I really appreciate everyone's time today. Obviously with Falcon UAV we specialize in land care using aerial imaging or otherwise known as drone technology to really isolate how to maximize and encourage the crop growing cycle through early detection of stress, ensure optimal environments for soil and ensure that throughout that it throughout the growing season that we're, we're able to be testing and monitoring rows and vines or fruit orchards, pastures, in anything really in agriculture more effectively. Technology has obviously come a long way with the utilizing different types of sensors now. We utilize multi spectral cameras, which leverages near infrared and different rays, different bands, which then just picks up a wider visual spectrum of what we can physically see to the naked eye, which we'll go through in this presentation.

I'd like to also thank Lawrence Tedesco, who's general manager of Elgee Park, that has been working with us now for some time. Lawrence joins us today. We'll have a look at his place and talk about how the improvement's been happening there. I do have some images that I was hoping to have in this presentation, but... If I can get them in whilst Lawrence is talking, we'll do that, but otherwise we'll get into it. I've just prepared this quick video, which kind of summarizes I guess, drone technology, how it works and then how you can utilize it in your business.

So those drones there, a couple of the drones we utilize obviously we're distributors here also in Australia for these fixed wings. They just facilitate much, I guess, longer flight times. And the benefit of these is you don't need to be, you don't need to have all the formal pilot licenses because they fall under that two kilo threshold.

But so in terms of regenerative methods and using drones in agriculture, it's for us, really, I'm from an agricultural background. We, we actually have stud cattle and stud sheep, and forever we had a method of just putting down inputs into our property just because we hadn't done that before and from traditional synthetic fertilizers through to now we're full regenerative now.

Obviously cost has always been one of those things you have to watch but leveraging drones you can now start to apply the product as the areas need it at the right time. Not having to have that blanket approach. So we've actually found a 30 percent decrease in our overall spend. And what it's allowed us to do is put down better quality product obviously, you know, specific custom blend prescription product, biological and nutrient wise that we're able to address the issues specifically that we're trying to address. And we're finding we're getting much more increased yields, better nutrition and ideally better growth that we're looking for.

So regenerative methods, certainly drones and agriculture allow you to make more informed decisions more effectively using precise analysis and increase ultimately your yields and reduce your cost. That's what we're all about working with our partners to, to really help them increase their overall production, reduce what their input.

So NDVI is one of the methods that we look at. So that stands for Normalized Different Vegetation Index. It's essentially, to keep it simple, a measure of where is it at vigour and growth. And obviously, healthy leaf. And that's measured through multispectral lenses that these cameras carry.

So the drones are really glorified flying devices that are carrying around really high equipment technology. They are freely available. You know, you can go and buy you know, Chinese drones quite easily, but you really want to make sure that they're able to do the job you're looking to do. There's more specialized units out there that can help you identify what you need to look for and then the software to help you do it. Otherwise as a service, it's something that you know, we take a lot of pride in. And ideally, you're looking for that, that vigour. So, at different points in the growing cycle, you're using different lenses, and the drones help you throughout each month see how you're tracking along.

In terms of explaining NDVI a little bit further as a vegetation index, this area here, where it's green, this is essentially what we call visible light. This is what we see blue, green and red. So when we see an aerial photograph or like a photograph in the background here, that's what's known as an RGB or an orthomosaic photo that we are, it looks like what we see, but the bands and the cameras start expanding outwards and you start getting into, you know, the further out you go, ultraviolet, infrared, microwave and the benefit of these additional bands allows you to detect crop stress, vine stress, leaf stress, and even now, thermal cameras is allowing you to detect surface temperature pressure as well, which we'll go through in the presentation. So, the impact on surface temperature, if you've got certain rows that is reading much higher surface temperature than other rows, that can affect how the ground there is leveraging, mutual that is leveraging mineral and nutrient because hot, hot soil will chew into your mineral nutrient four times faster than cooler soil. And we'll go through that today as well.

So really the best way to detect crop health. There's a myriad of different ways to get imaging. Satellite data is freely available in a lot of sources otherwise the benefit of drone data is that it's live. It's not it's not delayed. It’s not impacted by cloud cover. But more importantly, you get centimetre grade resolution, so you can really almost drill down to the leaf on the plant. Satellite data and we'll go through that a bit later as well, is quite difficult to sort of  see. Instead of 10 to 15 meter wide resolution, it's delayed and it's greatly impacted by cloud cover. So there is a, a strong benefit towards utilizing drone data or drones for this kind of exercise. On top of that, you can equip the drone with thermal cameras and be able to really plan out what you're trying to achieve.

Okay so the opportunity for farmers and agronomists really is estimating annual yield more accurately. It can help you make decisions. Drones can offer so many benefits to be able to help you, you know, gather more on demand insights quickly and more efficiently.

Being able to identify knowing where to treat and how much and really knowing where not to treat is, I guess, a huge opportunity. Also, you know, there are equipment that drones are now carrying, audible devices that we stock that can detect that can be used to detect and deter birds as well in certain periods. So they can be they can be deployed at intervals where birds can be then deterred from actually coming onto your, into your vines or your rows or your fruit in and that offsets netting and we have clients using those instead of netting saving a lot of money there. Most importantly, though, also is the reduction of chemicals and fertilizer and allowing you to put down what actually is going to be, give you the best return on your investment through the constant testing that the leveraging the power of the units and the cameras can allow you to do because now you know where to test, you can see where to treat, and you don't have to wait till the end of the season, just kind of find out the result.

For us you know, in our farming operations, being equipped to make precise decisions was something that we, was really motivating us to explore this more deeply and how we can better maximize our efficiencies and ultimately increase profit. So year on year, we're actually now focusing on more biology now. So helping the soil, unlocking the soils potential and then, and that's obviously allowing us now to reduce our reliance on, on nutrient every year as well, which has been really good for us. Now I'm just going to get into the next slide here. So this is what we're committed for. So, Andy just asked me to explain, you know, difference from really between satellite data versus drone data. And obviously there's a lot of you know, versions of it. But I thought we'd just go and clarify that. Here is an example of satellite imaging, and this is looking at sort of circa five to 600 acres this block here, and essentially this is a vegetation index, and you can kind of see you can get a guide on green being vigorous and red being areas of concern or orange, slight stress.

But this is otherwise what's known as Sentinel 2, V2 satellite data, and a lot of different, like, machine companies and so on, you can get this quite readily. MLA websites and other sort of things by cyber labs, but I mean, in terms of making informed decisions are to us that wasn't able to help us. So then we looked at obviously what we can do with drones and then all of a sudden the whole world changed. And as you can start to see, this is that same area now flown with our AgEagle UAV X with the multi spectral cameras, you have all the different lenses here, and this is your standard RGB lens photograph here. So you can kind of now start to see the level of detail. This flight was flown at 120 meters from the ground and you can start to immediately start to see areas of concern. Down here is the vegetation index reading and areas detecting crop stress and areas otherwise that are, that are strong in vigour and yield. This graph here to correlate is interesting because we leverage this to then go out to certain areas and test soils, do leaf tests, and then understand what's happening.

This same unit, this same flight was in flown with this thermal camera. But what's interesting, it was about a 26 or 27C degree day. And you can start to see in some areas of these fields, they were reading up to 40 degrees, and we had, we did this in conjunction with Landcare and Federation Uni, and the professors said that that's not uncommon. They likened it to a warm day on bitumen. It heats up very quickly. So if you imagine your vines, if you are in, in vineyard or fruit orchards, the impact of that can suddenly happen on your rows and what that can do. So here is an example of a vineyard. That's what's called an orthomosaic or aerial view. You can see the house and the working sheds all through here. This is the multi spectral lens across the place. You can see areas of concern. And this is the thermal view looking at surface temperatures. But when, what we addressed with this particular grower was when we started to look into some of the rows and we tested the soils, this time it wasn't a soil. The soil was actually okay, nutrient deficient a little bit. But what the big noticeable change was the heat of this particular row was significantly hotter than other rows. And so what that meant was that now due to lack of shading, they would need to apply more, a lot more organic compost and make sure these rows are really fuelled to ensure that they don't hit the end of the season and they find out later. And there's a lot of otherwise, it's very laborious exercise manually walking up and down all your rows every single day. So this client is utilizing the technology to help them maximize their impact each and every single month.

So in terms of drones and what's out there to leverage, there's fixed wings. So we use these in 95 percent of our flights just because we can scan with a multi spectral camera as you saw earlier. We can scan up to 100 acres in 18 minutes. Now, if you did that with a quadcopter, which we also leverage for smaller, tighter working kind of spaces, they're really handy. You know, that kind of distance would take over a day and you'd be regular battery changes and everything else. So, for a normal little multi rotor to do that coverage. The fixed wings are designed for bigger area, faster, variety from camera payloads, same as the multi rotors. The benefit of the multirotors, of course, is that they can carry more weight. So they can carry, you know, like things like sprays. So we use spray drones. So, so the benefit of this is that we're able to now leverage the multirotors are fantastic for carrying spray drones. So you may have seen spray drones working out there, applying chemical fertilizer or nutrient. So the spray drones are great because you avoid soil compaction you don't need. They can go where tractors can't go. The downside of course is that they, they're limited due to battery life. But we can comfortably cover around 20 hectares an hour. With our spray units, they sort of carry between 20 to 40 litres of solution at a time depending on how concentrated you need to do it. But they're also a fantastic solution. So multirotors have a purpose and do more tactical working. The fixed wings are just fantastic for fast scouting, I guess, of an analysis of crop and stress and or you know, how it's performing throughout the year to quickly identify areas throughout the thing. So here is just an example of a flight that I put together earlier. You should be able to see this. So this is the mission planning software that comes with the units. And we essentially map out, we map out the area. Don't worry about that warning, it's just because it's a simulation. So this is essentially showing how the software,

so the software maps out the area that we're going to be flying over. And then each and every month throughout that cycle, you just release the unit again. The unit flies by itself. You don't need to control it. It flies by itself in the air. It's GPS tracked and located, and it's mapping that whole area for you in the field.

Once that unit lands, you take down the images, and then essentially you run them through the software. We do that, obviously, for our clients, and they can manage it on their behalf. You can see all the different types of, depending on what you're looking to do. All different types of cameras available, depending on what you're looking for.

Are you looking for crop stress? Are you trying to identify areas of, you know, hotter areas, surface temperature? Are you trying to look for best place to plant your rows? Are you looking to do fence lines? Are you trying to count trees? There's so many different applications of how you can leverage drone technology and remote sensing in your operation. It's, it has to become commonplace into the future because it's critical to maximize your potentials. And obviously, you know, other applications of remote sensing include as you've seen. Mapping that we've obviously been through. Reconnaissance, which is more testing, monitoring and spot spraying with more of those, you know, those quadcopter drones down here. These are examples of the spray units. Be aware with these units that it's not just as simple as, you know, going and buying a unit. I think a lot of people may think, you know, yep, go and buy a unit and off you go. You do, there are things you need to then go and do. You need to do a short course if you want to get into this yourself. You need to you need to apply for chemical licensing because there are certain permits and applications and certain chemicals you can't spray from the air. Glyphosate being one of them where you need to look at special approvals because you can get drifting. So there are things to consider with these multi, multi-rotor units but otherwise there are, you know, contractors and businesses like ours everywhere that can assist you in this.

But the benefit of these applications, you don't get compaction from tractor or tires. You can do spot spraying. So the maps that these units create for you for crop stress or what you're trying to identify can be easily uploaded into these spray units. So they then go out and only spray areas that actually need it. So you start to reduce the amount of nutrient or biology product, whether you're using more effectively. And that's how we're utilizing the two together. So other usage. Obviously, we've talked about monitoring, managing soil, water and crop resources, crop acreage, impact on where to treat over time identify identification of planting and harvesting date.

So that's really important because there are key periods, you know, in in flowering, and budding. You know, pre harvest you really, you know, a lot of our clients leverage this technology heavily on because they want to ensure that as we, and Lawrence will probably touch this, touch on this in a second from Elgee, it's really important to then maximize, okay how effectively are we going throughout that growing season and quickly and easily identify where we need to address before we get to the end. You can quickly identify pest and disease infestation. We were working with an almond grower. We identified one of their rows was showing quite a lot of stress and when we looked into it, it was actually an Ambrosia beetle that had that had Branched out and it was due to over, there was too much nutrient in the ground and that was quickly spreading through all the rows. So they can help you identify issues before they become a problem.

Soil moisture estimation, as you can see up here, this is what Federation Uni were doing. So they saw that this area was obviously quite hot and they started testing the moisture levels in here. And then we formulated a plan for them to get that moving using an organic compost. Everything as you're seeing is GPS. So, you know, every single marker is, has got a geolocation built into it. So it can be tracked exactly to the point of where you can need to address. But in terms of you know, everything else we've talked about, particularly now we're going into El Nino, I think we're officially in El Nino. It's really even more important to keep on top of your operation through this kind of technology.

This is just an example here of the moisture testing and then the level, the readings difference between the hotter areas and obviously the cooler areas, again through drone technology and then linking that up with moisture probes is a great way to keep track. And now there are tools out there that can assist you throughout the growing season in real, if you've got moisture probes, in real time how these areas are going on your property that we can assist you with otherwise.

So interpretation of data, remote sensing using UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles or drones equipped with the right sensors can be useful for enhanced decision making and really yield estimation, yield prediction. They can help you solve problems. Everyone can probably read this and identify better utilization of land.

We use this technology to improve your soil condition environment and maximize your phenological cycles throughout the crop stages for optimal yield and reduced inputs. Remote sensing or RS is excellent opportunity to provide spatial overview or pasture properties or rather than just point data only. Data, it does require interpretation. So, you know, when you go, if you do decide to purchase and do this yourself. You know, there is some mapping software and so on. But once you know what you're doing it's honestly, it's just it's really easy and it just makes so much sense. This is an example of, you know, from the mapping and what we do traditionally, we used to just go and take we had our soil reps from the companies that used to help us with the mainstream companies that would just come out to our property. Agronomists would arrive, they would take soil from random parts of our property and just give us a map to soil test and tell us what was going on with our soils. But we knew that there were certain sections of our property that had different soils. We knew that when we were running our livestock or anything was in that particular area, it wasn't growing the same as certain other areas. And so that's where now with the drones, we actually, we can soil test exactly specific areas of our property. And now we can understand what those areas need separate to other areas. So it's really allowed us to start looking at, you know, well, what this area actually needs in terms of trace elements nutrient versus what it actually has.

But more importantly, we're also now looking at biology. The deficiency, particularly in a lot of biology, in a lot of the soils we manage client's behalf is is amazing. And without biology, you're really unlocking that opportunity that you have to maximize and reduce the amount of compost fertilizer you actually having to apply because the soil starts working for you. But the benefit is you can, you can turn this all around with a program. So, maximizing the phenological stage of the crop cycle becomes important. So, here's just the typical example of the sort of spreadsheets that we manage with clients where, you know, we obviously do, we pick the type of sensor we're going to look for. Are we looking for surface temperature? Are we looking for crop stress? What are we going to do? We fly the unit, we grab the mapping data, as you can sort of see over here, this client utilised all sensors. We then had our soil consult, we grabbed soils from up in these hotter areas and down in these sort of cooler areas to just detect the difference. And then we had a consult based on all the findings. So, you know, and then our agronomy team basically will then work with you to say, okay, well, in this section of the property, and this particular client had a compost mix that they were using that was actually fair. We tested the compost fertilizer as well. We found it was really high in, uh, iron. And what was interesting in the soil reports was up here in these hotter areas, the soil was already really high in iron. So just putting more of this compost fertilizer on up here wasn't helping. So that we in here they didn't need to put it on at all because it was already really high on although down here they could leverage it so automatically you're reducing their spend because you're helping make more informed decisions using the technology and then these are biological and nutrients that style of products that we then prescribed to them. Over the growing season we run leaf tests throughout we do another flyover to test how the performance is going and then this is just a bit of a, a program for them over a 12 to 14 week cycle of what they were doing for their crops. So then just looking at, I guess, what's called the five step precision plan, which we, we kind of try to manage. So really try to align your requirements and expectations to, you know, what are you actually trying to look for? And this is something that you know, to consider if you are going to go down the path of exploring remote sensing in your operation determine the mix of aerial and survey activities required, what type of cameras, therefore, are you going to need to work out what you're looking to do. Obviously, you know, work out the areas you want to execute the flight plan and obviously, evaluate the results.

Step two for us, deploy the units. So get the units up in the air. Get the flights done as frequently as you can to be able to monitor throughout. If you are using contractors, ensure they are licensed and they have their relevant insurances and the relevant qualifications. There are a lot of people at the moment, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, they're, they just can't keep up with the amount of work they have on the go. And there are a lot of people running around that don't have the appropriate certifications and you know, flying without the proper licensing. So just check all that out if you are working with anyone in this space for your own insurance purposes.

Basically, once the drones in down the ground, all images you can process through the softwares that are available for people. And obviously then, you know, as a prescription, we treat the area based on the soil testings that we do. And obviously then it's just a matter of rinse and repeat throughout the phenological cycles of that crop. So in a nutshell I'm going to pass across to Lawrence at Elgee. He can talk a little bit about what we've been doing there together and I guess Elgee and what their focus is at the moment and how, where we're going from here.

The first thing we did really with Luke was to bring the two drones to Elgee Park and pretty much just have a play around with them. The I was really interested in, I call it the bird, what's it called? Luke, the basically, because it's a it kind of looks a little bit like a wedgie, Wedgetail Eagle and you can you can set a flight plan for it and get it to fly periodically. We haven't purchased it or we haven't looked too much into it, but I really like it and would actually like to bring it back to Elgee and play around with it more during the, you know, during the fruiting season when the nets are on, when there's birds around and just see how it goes. So I'm hoping to talk to you Luke about that, so we can learn a little bit more about that. The other thing we did is we flew the, we flew the drone over and did the imaging, the thermal imaging, or the imaging there that you can see on the right-hand side. And you can see the that's essentially the Elgee Park vineyard there. There's, there's two blocks. There's a, the block on the far right, which we call the east block, and then the long kind of narrow block, which we call the north block. Along the north block, there's a big cypress hedge that runs down one side. It's been there since 1958 or 1960. So it's a pretty big hedge and you can see along there that there's some stressed, which is the dark kind of purple areas, there's some stressed areas at the top of the vineyard on the far left hand side from the, from root stress. You can see it all, obviously, you can see that hedge in the aerial photo and the, with the aerial photo, the nets are on the vineyard. So when Luke was out with us at Elgee Park, we were just about to harvest. So it would have been, I think we started harvesting early March. So I reckon it would have probably late Feb. You can see it looks quite, the grass looks quite dry, but you can see the black nets and the green nets on the East block. So, obviously the nets didn't make any difference at all.

The soil on the north block is quite good and you can see that there's a lot more stress on the right hand side on the east block and that's because when the vineyard was put in on that section, it was very undulating and essentially back in those days in the 70s when they put this vineyard in early 80s, late 70s, they just bulldozed the soil, they just bulldozed it level, which meant they took the, there, that's where Luke's got the arrow now. They took the topsoil off the top and essentially put it in the gullies. And so we're, we've ended up with a vineyard that's, it's, if you like, it's growing on, it's kind of growing on subs, on subsoil from the way that they shaped the ground to provide a level vineyard. They've, they just bulldozed it, ripped it, and bulldozed it. So you can see those stressful, those stressed areas that run up the gullies. There's about three, three gullies on that on there. We know those areas exist because you can actually see them in the vineyard. But the image obviously highlights that, as it did with the left hand side, with the stressed area from the cypress hedge. So it really kind of, drives home the areas that are struggling in the vineyard, and it's a, it's actually a big difference between those two blocks. And there's a big difference in those blocks with cropping, with disease pressure. Obviously vines, the vines are stressed, there's more disease pressure and the soil is quite, up the top. You can see the lines of stress on the top of that east block. It's actually the bottom, if you like, yeah, through there. See those lines? That's all rock, that's all rock through there. There's a lot of rock in that section. And as a result, those vines throughout there, you know, are quite stressed compared to the block on the other side, which wasn't bulldozed because it was a more level block. So there's a lot more top soil in that block.

So we then did some soil tests and yeah, which Luke's got there and he'll probably be able to talk a little bit more about the nutrient that we put on, but we, after post harvest basically we put on two applications of nutrient and we intend to put on some more liquid feed now through the growing season through October, November and we intend to do some PDL samples to, to monitor the uptake of the nutrient and see how the vines are going. And the, I would say the soil tests are probably, you know, reasonably straightforward, like any other property where you've got excess of some elements, lacking in other elements, and you just got to go through and work out a blend that you think would work well. The other thing that we wanted to do was in create, create encourage the grass growth or the sward throughout the vineyard so we could have a nice healthy cover crop. We, we've done a lot of kind of cover cropping in the past. We didn't do it this year. We just encouraged the rye grass that was there to grow and it's growing really well at the moment and we've done a couple of cuts and we're just trying to, cut that grass and let it sit under the vines and create its own natural kind of mulch.

But obviously if that's happening, we've got to keep track of what's going on with the soil and how much nutrient that's using actually while it's breaking down through the, through this period. So we're just going to try and track that as, as well.

One of the things we did also, as well as put the nutrient on we did a root barrier trench down the left hand side where the cypress hedge is. So we, we cut a trench through there to cut those roots. We went down about 1.2 metres along the side of the road. There's a road that you'll see on the photo, on the aerial photo, that, that runs down that vineyard. And so we've cut a route cause we, we could see from the, from the images, the stress that was creating from that hedge. So we cut a root barrier, which I actually did many, many years ago. And sometimes with these things, it's a lot of this stuff, we, you already know that's going on around your property. If you spend a lot of time around the farm, you see things and you think, Oh, I should do this and I should do that. But what this, does for us, it just kind of highlights the issues and you think, yeah, I really do need to address that, or I need to focus on that. And so it just sometimes these things actually just reinforce what you already know. And it's either you haven't done anything about it because you've been busy doing something else or you've looked at it a few times and considered doing something about it, but not. So, yeah, these photos here, these are recent photos taken last week. You can see the budburst is pretty healthy across the vineyard. And the, and you can see also the pretty good shot of the grass growth. So what we're hoping to do is just, yeah cut that and keep, keeps, we actually did some cutting yesterday and we're trying to slash that and throw it onto the under vine to act as a bit of a natural mulch rather than trying to bring too much product in, which we have done in the past, but it can be pretty expensive.

It's amazing, Lawrence. Thanks, mate. And you can sort of see too, really where, where you've made those, you've cut that hedge back was up through here, wasn't it? Or yes, yes, down up through there. Yeah. That was on that road. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That was clawing away obviously at the vines performance there as well. So and that's, and you can sort of see obviously the bigger improvements in some of these applications that, and more focus as well. And as I said, the Chardonnay was on fire, which is good.

Yeah, yeah, it's all, it's all looking, it's all looking really good and so we'll just keep monitoring it and following through and looking forward to doing some PDL samples and just see what, what the vines are, what the vines are taking up and then do some more imaging again, probably around the same time next year and just continue to track it. We could be in for a dry season so we, you know, it might show up areas that are water stressed this time or we're not getting enough the irrigation's not up to the speed and, you know, it might help us stay on top of that as well.

Yeah, awesome. Fantastic. All right. Thanks, Lawrence. That's awesome. So, I mean, in summary drones we're coming in anyway can be obviously your eye in the sky in terms of satellite data, I think, you know, it shows centimetre grade accuracy, survey grade accuracy, saves a huge amount of time inspecting crops. That's a big one. And it's relatively straightforward. So, yeah, that's us. Please reach out if you have any more questions about the presentation or anything you'd like to know more, I'm happy to help. And thank you, Lawrence, again Tedesco from Elgee Park, really appreciate it. General manager down there. Sensational drop too, by the way. If you're ever in the area, they're near Merricks and yeah, be sure to drop in and say hi and watch, see Lawrence's amazing operation.

Fiona put a question in regards to the potential for yield estimation. How would you calculate that from the imagery, imaging?

Well, I guess, you know, I mean, that's that could depend on a million different things and I probably really need our soil agronomy team to sort of best answer that. But I think a lot of it just comes down to if you currently have an indication of what you're able to take off every year, it's probably now about understanding without guaranteeing anything. If you could be, if you could take if you could see more of your operation at all times throughout the growing cycle, it's about reducing that current loss that you're, you're factoring into your yield predictions every year. If you have a general idea of what you can get off each year, what you can't get off and what you know, your wastage and so on. It's about where you can offset that. That's I think the big one it's that way, how you can not only reduce your current waste or loss and because you're now able to take more control and better make better decisions over what you are doing without giving you a number specifically. I can tell you that in terms of inputs you know, between, we've personally, between 20 and 30 percent have reduced our inputs and now what is going down we know it's going down for a particular reason, like we're testing, leaf testing, fertilize we're testing compost mixes, we're testing everything and to ensure that it is going to actually provide assistance to what we're trying to do. And it's become actually fascinating that what's actually capable, what you can do with soil, particularly when you explore the biological route in reducing their reliance on nutrient because it's now you've improved that relationship between the plant and the soil itself, as you can sort of see with our Elgee so far this year as well. Everything that's going in there is going in for a purpose. And you may, and it could also depend on what type of soils you have. You may have different types of soils in your property that you know, are going to be you know, if you've got like, you know, red clay versus sandy loam, you know, you've got areas that you know perpetually wet. This sort of technology has allowed some of the clients we work with, they've built certain swale drains in areas to to get rid of perpetually bogged kind of areas. But now they can kind of work out where they need to. We've actually one client recently we discovered has a perpetually bogged kind of paddock, but we isolated it to a neighbouring dam, where the water was actually coming in from two blocks away across to their paddock and down. And then through that, they can then make their decisions. So I think it's probably difficult to put a number on it, Fiona, but certainly I'm happy to help and get our team in touch with you. If you want to reach out by all means, absolutely.

And Fiona's got another question. It would be really interesting to see how this could be applied to soil plot trails. Digiestate and inorganic ferts, for example. Oh, 100%. I mean, we've got dairy clients, for example, that, just need, you know, they'll say they just need their cattle, that they need, they just need to be you know, they need to be eating, blah, blah, blah, that they have, you know, they're using synthetic fertilizers, they can't seem to find the route with regenerative because regenerative takes time. Sure, if you know, if you're forced to use sort of synthetic styles of fertilizers at least this sort of technology allows you to work out where it needs to go and most importantly, where it doesn't need to go. I think land management practices and cultivation strategies you know, really start opening up here as well.

But in terms of the you know, the biological and nutrient, nutrient path, the easiest way we've found ourselves leveraging it is we can now apply a better product because we're not having to put as much down because what's going down is going down a specific area. So we can use better quality materials specific to what the ground or pastures or vines are looking for but in the right locations and then monitor it. As you, as Lawrence explained earlier. I hope, yeah, I hope that that we haven't otherwise done, I'm sure the research will be there but yeah, I, I agree Kelly, that would be, that would be really interesting to see how it could be applied.

There's another question here from Fiona. There's infrared imaging being done at ground level in California where bunch is identified, estimate weight to get yield, any potential for that here?

Yes you know, there's things like canopy height. You can sort of track canopy heights and you can sort of measure, you know, how they're going. It looks at the surface tip, the surface distance from the ground to the tree to the ground. So you can track kind of canopy heights. In terms of drones doing that. I know there's like fruit sizing and stuff in orchards and so on that do it. They, they take the They take the fruit through a scan machine once it's all, it's all been harvested and it kind of gives them fruit sizing. I don't believe at this stage there's potential for estimating weight of the grape. But I can tell you we have a wine vineyard that is using these images. And what they're doing, and this is it's actually fascinating. So they're uploading the images that you saw into their tractors, so when they're going down the rows and they're harvesting, they're, they've, they put themselves in the map because they, you can import this stuff into your machines if you've got the right technology. Or they're just, they're in certain rows. They can count the rows on the, on the maps and they're changing the bucket where there's a bigger vigour, like higher vigour and yield, they've worked out that they're getting a bigger grape a much bigger variety. And so they've changing the physical harvesting bucket on those rows where they've got a bit more vigour. And in the rows where they've got less vigour, they're changing the bucket to a different one and the grapes are going into a different batch that are then going into, are price differently. So that's how they're using the maps. So I don't think it'll estimate weight, but it will definitely help you identify, you know, how to collect and what to collect and where, or otherwise treat.

Scott asked, Jones are using large seed crops and some small seed crops to measure germination rates and complete stand counts, which can give you an indication for yields. Yes, that's true.

So you mentioned earlier that you're able to take on the imagery and then work with others. So if someone else has their own drone and they get up to speed on all the flying and they get the permits and the licenses and everything together, you can work with them from, you can work with them from the image processing through to the agronomic support levels as well. It's not necessarily just the flying of the drones where you're, where you guys are involved?

Yeah. So, you know, I mean, we're all about land management. And Falcon actually won an award recently, an APAC insider award for land management 2023. So the drones will won't tell you what the problem is. They'll just tell you where to look at and where to treat. So yeah, we, the bit, the bigger, I guess, more informative part of our practice is really working with clients and those images to then identify what is it we're trying to treat and look and then do all the relevant testing. So we, we have soil labs and you know, we get, we make all prescription blend fertilizers biological products all locally here in Australia. And our team of soil analysts then, you know, are constantly working with the growers to, to get what they need. So if people do have their units and they're flying their own drones and they need, they, they want to get some assistance on, on any of that, yeah, absolutely. We can certainly help, help you with that and, you know, know where to treat leaf test, all different types. It's just all about testing. Soil testing, test, test, test. You can never not test enough. I'm sure everyone on this call is testing all the time, but Yeah, at least now you know where to test and where to treat and what to do.

And, and the drone's become another tool in that kind of arsenal of things that you can use to test. So there's a, yeah, you can keep them, keep them going.

Oh, Scott's got one for Lawrence. So Lawrence, how has using the drones changed your decision making process within the vineyard?

I think it's more, as I was saying before, it's probably just Highlighting some of the things that we, we know, or we think we already know and just focusing our attention on them and just making it more of a reality. It's, it's kind of early days now, but and I think it's like anything, it's an integrated approach.

It won't be it won't be just, everything won't just be based on what the drones or what the infrared images show us, etc. But yeah, there's a few, few different areas there. It'll be good to, obviously, you know, once the, we've taken the image and we've got it on file, each season we'll be able to compare that image and see if there's any improvements in the stretched area. So that'll be really interesting. And then, of course, on top of that, as I was saying being able to potentially, you know, use it as a bird scaring device, probably in our, initially, anyway, in conjunction with the bird nets, it'd be nice if we didn't have to put nets on but at least initially, it'd be, it's going to be exciting just to play around with with that side of things as well. And potentially we'll use the drones in other areas of the property as well. We might look at a particular paddock that we want to do some work on or we might be able to compare paddocks and again we know which paddocks are probably doing poorly around the property. But it might just help us focus a bit more attention on the ones that need to be addressed.

Yeah, cool. So it's really going to fit in as part of the, part of the your working tools for managing the vineyard? Yeah, I think that's what we'll, I think that's what we'll do. We'll just, we'll, we'll just continue to use it and assess it, and like all these things, you don't there's no quick solution to anything. You've got to do it over a period of time and a number of seasons. Yeah. And, and do that in conjunction with obviously, you know, the targeted organic fertilizer, and we also want to, you know, try and get the, improve the biology of the soil in general as well.

Yeah. Yeah, that's cool. And was it, when you first got the first lot of images back, was it really interesting being able to see the property from that perspective and being able to get that overview of?

Yeah, it was and it was really, you know, interesting to be able to see those, as I say, those gullies like I was around when I was, I was a kid when that vineyard was put in and I kind of remember and know, you know, what that area was like, and it just really highlights those areas which particularly last season would've been really, really wet because the water the water was sitting in those gullies and, and potentially kind of sitting under the soil level too in the subsoil. And it really highlights those, the vines that we're struggling more because, because their roots are in that particular, particular zone. So it may mean that we've started doing some drainage work too, but it may mean in the future, depending on what happens, is that we, they would be the areas that we would focus on for drainage. There is drainage in that vineyard, but that vineyard's getting quite old now. So if we were looking at improving or redoing some drainage, you would be certainly using those images to help us pinpoint where we want to put those drains in.

Fantastic. It is and I think there has been lots of talk and what I really was intrigued about with Luke with how you were working and how you were taking the imagery was that, that full kind of approach to looking at the drones are one thing, there are, they're a tool, but this is what you can do once you've got the information and the data out of them, and there's tons of different ag tech solutions out there that will give you data, but it's understanding the data, which is sometimes becomes quite the hurdle in the process. So this is fascinating to hear, hear your ways of working through this process. Thank you very much.

I think it may not be an issue with drainage coming up, it might be an issue with which areas are more water stressed. And again, where we need to improve the irrigation. I think I've mentioned that before, but that's kind of in the forefront of my mind now. We've replanted some sections where we've pulled out old vines and replanted young vines. And you know, monitoring all those stressed areas or dry sections. Again, we probably just know from experience where those areas are, but I think it will be highlighting it and making us focus our attention on the things that we need to do and otherwise you tend to get sidetracked and do other things. And it's good to, it's good to stay focused on this stuff.

Thanks everyone for coming along. So there will be another webinar next month. Thank you again, Luke. Thanks again, Lawrence. Thanks, Andy. Thanks, Scott. Thank you very much to Lawrence. Appreciate it.

Webinar: Weeder Technologies June 2024

Finger Weeder

  • Matthew Stewart - Industry Development Manager, Australian Processing Tomato Research Council
  • Nick Raleigh - General Manager, Field Tomato Production, GoFarm
  • Justin Colby - Vin Rowe Farm Machinery

Laser Weeder

  • Danielle Park - Regional Development Officer, AUSVEG-VIC
  • Frankie Ruffo - Tripod Farmers
This webinar is brought to you by Agriculture Victoria, Horticulture Services.
Weeder Technologies - Future proofing horticulture in a changing climate June 2024

Webinar recording, facilitated by Andy Clark, Horticulture Program Coordinator, Goulburn Murray | Agriculture Victoria.

Industry representatives and producers from processing tomato production and salad leaf production provided perspectives on how modern weeder technologies utilising lasers, cameras and AI have been implemented on their farms to improve efficiencies.

00:00 Introduction - Matthew Stewart APTRC

01:44 Nick Raleigh, GoFarms - Einbock Chopstar Finger Weeder

19:42 Justin Colby, Vin Rowe Machinery

27:39 Danielle Park, AUVEG-Vic - laser weeder

32:04 Frankie Ruffo, Tripod Farmers - laser weeder


Thanks everyone who's online today to listen to what people have come to say about weeding technologies. I was invited to introduce the section about the finger weeder from Einboeck because earlier this year we had one of our annual ‘in field’ field days where we're visiting growers and one of those properties that we visited was the large aggregation managed by Nick Raleigh of GoFarm. And at this field day, Nick outlined to our growers and agronomists the technology which they'd implemented on their farm, which you'll discuss today, and that was really valuable to our members to see and hear about this technology, which they'd imported and started using. And so, hopefully, yeah, you'll get a similar value today out of hearing about this from Nick. Yeah, I suppose, before wrapping up Andy mentioned that I'm representing the APTRC, which is the Australian Processing Tomato Research Council, and our purview is to deliver innovation and research to the processing tomato industry within Australia, and yeah, this extension side of it, hearing from Nick, 'infield' was part of that. And yeah, so thank you very much Andy and the others. Nick, I'll hand it over to you to take it away.

I represent GoFarm Australia a specific investment mandate of ours called Sandmount Farms. It's in The region of Katunga, northern Victoria, so approximately 35- 40 minutes drive directly north of Shepparton in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District. We have Shepparton to our south, Cobram just to our north east, Echuca to our direct west to give everybody an idea of where we are. GoFarm is an investment based business in Melbourne. The project we have here for context is a land bank of approximately 6, 300 hectares. Our remit presently is land use change. We're growing dry-land winter grains, almonds, mandarins as well as processing tomatoes and that's the relevance of today. Our tomato enterprise is a 320 hectare multi year supply agreement that we hold with Kagome Australia in, who are based in Echuca as a major industrial scale processor of tomatoes. Our environment for producing the crop is open field grown. We're using seedlings to, to establish our crop. We're on a raised 1.52 metres, which is a, an old Imperial 60 inch bed and we're using subsurface drip irrigation specked at around about 12 millimetres per hectare per day of irrigation supply at peak demand. We're planting our crop in October and November at around about 18, 000 seedlings per hectare with a target yield of 120 tonnes.

So it's a, you know, it's a short season crop relatively sort of 130 to 40 day growing window. You know, very intensive open field grown, fairly high value. So it's an interesting space.

Zooming in, I guess, on the topic of today, weeds. The processing tomato industry, tackles lots of risks, but weeds are a really big one. It is There are very, very few effective chemical weed control options in the industry and that's all around the world. It's not just something that we have here. So we're, you know, it's a really common problem. Generally, cultivation plays a really big part of what we do, but traditionally it's really low tech. And by that I mean, toolbars that are, that, that are, clamp and wedge style equipment. You know, lots of brawn, lots of steel, but not a lot of not a lot of finesse typically. And then chipping has traditionally formed a big part of the industry and weed control, but clearly that's really, really high cost and highly variable results. So, yes, we will do it but it's something we, desperately want to get away from and not be not be subject to. Our weed pressure. Pretty much every summer broadleaf weed you can think of. Grass weeds don't present as much of a challenge, but the weeds, for reference, common heliotrope, blackberry nightshade fat hen, portulaca, pigweed depending on the field, maybe some wireweed, you know, probably some Bathurst burrs they're You know, they love warmth, they love water and they love fertiliser and we're really good at providing all of that. It's just really hard to get on top of them and once they get away, of course, they're very invasive. As I said, very, very few effective post emergent control options coming from herbicides. So a really typical weed control plant in the industry would look something like the following. In our pre planting period, we would be using Methamsodium. It would be applied in a band. of approximately 20 to 25 centimetres that's directly over the plant line. I'm not sure, who in the audience has used it. It's an old chemistry. There are really substantial WHS implications. It's expensive. When I say expensive, even in a band. It's around about 330 bucks a hectare that we're dealing with. And, anybody who's ever had anything to do it will know that it's most unpleasant and it presents a really material risk to our staff, which, which none of us like. That's about it. There might be a little bit of use of some trifluralin in a band, there might be a little bit of knockdown work prior to the planting of the seedling. But it's a pretty light touch given the magnitude of the risk. Early post emergent, we're really, this is our really narrow window of control and it's driven largely by metribuzin, so mentor or sencor, in combination with rimsulfuron, which is brand name Titus. We can only target really small weeds. And when I say really small, in the example of Blackberry Nightshade, Cotyledon, so the very, very narrow application window, and we can't apply these products, particularly the Metribuzin, directly over the growing tip of the plant. So we're, we're working on off centering nozzles and trying to get them in underneath the plant in a really narrow window. So it's, it's a reasonably specialised bit of work. And then post emergent we've got some cultivation, which has traditionally been rudimentary and chipping, and that's the human factor, which I've touched on.

What are our goals in all of this, weed control? Clearly, first thing, we, and particularly in, in a we're a corporate business, we want to reduce or ultimately remove the use and the reliance on methamsodium. It's an unpleasant product. We want to reduce the reliance on human accuracy and attention to detail. You know, total numbers of people in the field, the very high cost of having them there and the care factor, you know, diligence and supervision and management and, and the I don't care component is really material and that leads to problems. We've got a goal of starting towards starting down the track of an autonomous future. We, you know, we're excited by this. We think it's real. But we, we don't think we're there yet, but we want to get there. So we're heading down that path. We want less reliance on the very few chemical options that we do have and certainly less reliance on chemical overall. Our alternative options is plastic mulch an option for us? No, it isn't, because the crop is machine harvested. There has been some work done on some, biodegradable spray on plastic polymer type of things. We've had a little look at them a few years ago, but it's not anything material yet. Herbicides, we don't think they're a good option because there's just nothing new coming at us that we're aware of not in the industry globally. That's a pretty slow burn and so ultimately it's, back to tillage and, and I guess, I think Andy, you said at the outset about developments and advancements of the old technology, and obviously that's ground engaging tools. There's various companies providing new and different options There is a lot of non chemical option being driven out of, particularly out of the EU which we think is really quite interesting, and elsewhere, but certainly the EU is very strong on this and steps toward autonomy, as I say, are making some progress.

We've arrived at a product that we've chosen and we've invested in. It's manufactured by Einbock out of Austria. It is the Chopstar model or version, and we've equipped ours with what's called Row Guard, which I'll talk about in a moment. We've chosen this for some, I guess, just some really key reasons. First and foremost, we've got dealer support and Justin's going to talk to us from Vin Rowe Machinery in a moment, but that's critical. We have a saying in our business, pioneers get the arrows and settlers get the gold. We want technology, but we don't want to be too pioneering. We want to just Make sure when we choose something, yes, it's advanced and yes, it's going to take us into the future, but it's got the fundamentals of, it's proven and it's got support and it's, it's just not too left of centre.

We're running a four row machine, 6 metre width. We're using eight parallelogram row units so they're sort of either side of the plant row. The Row Guard system is equipped, which is basically cameras controlling a hydraulic headstock to steer the machine. We do, we did buy a machine with the manual seated position for a backup in case it was a failure. So if the camera's failed, we can actually position someone on the machine and they can control the machine by steering it. It folds up for transport. That was important for us because we're in an area with lots of narrow bridges and tight roads. There's a huge range of tooling available with this equipment. There's a whole range of other things that Einbock do and so we're quite impressed, I suppose, with all the tooling options we could have chosen from. And it runs the plastic finger weeders which you'll see here in a moment. And in my view, these are the really essential option. At the end of the day, this thing is a cultivator. That component of it's not new, I guess it's just, it's how well refined it is how sharp and fine the blades are, but then it's the Row Guard that allows us to get really close to the plants and then the finger weeders to, to clean up weeds very, very close to the plant line. The Row Guard is critical for the function of this machine. It's, as I say, camera controlled, hydraulically steered headstock. Our experience was very simple to set up. We only used it in pretty basic settings. We were learning but certainly lots of refinement possible that we're yet to really, I guess, interrogate.

There should be a picture coming up in front of you, which I've just lifted out of the Einbock materials that I had. Just to give you a bit of an idea of what the machine looks like, this is not exactly the same as ours, but it's very, very similar. So you can see there, there's guide wheels and depth wheels and there's yeah, little concave cutting discs to allow us to get really close to plant lines. And then every row unit is It is on a parallelogram which allows us to follow the contour of the soil really closely. I have another photo here. This is actually our machine on the day it was delivered and when I was invited to make this presentation I realised I must have spent too much time looking at the machine and operating it and not taking photos of it. So my apologies that the photos are a little bit a little bit substandard. But you get the idea. Yeah. Like a lot of machinery out of Europe, it is not massively robust. You know, that, that's not uncommon. But at the end of the day, it's a fairly refined and delicate piece of kit. So it needs to have lots of moving parts.

You can see I trust you can see perhaps my cursor moving, but here is the individual row parallelograms. These are really accurate. They're really well balanced and allowed us to get really close to the plant and follow the contours. And you can see the also the I hope you can see my cursor moving, but this long chrome bar here, there's actually two of those on the machine, but this is the slide, I guess you would call it, on where the headstock actually moves and allows the machine to be steered. And there's just another side view of some of the tooling that we had fitted to it. Not the best photo, I'm sorry, but you get the idea. There's lots of yeah, there's just endless adjustments and different tooling options that can be fitted. And then probably the most important part, it's these plastic finger weeders at the back. So that's at the rear of the machine looking forwards. You can see in there, and this machine is not adjusted into operating position, but the gap between these disks, we can get really, really tight. So the plant rope passes between those disks. We have them running at around about 150 mil wide, that gap. So, yeah, it gives you an idea. And of course, that's dictated by plant size as well, but it's fully adjustable, but really, really tight. And then in doing so, we can then run the finger weeders very tight as well. And the finger weeders are just ground driven. So they're actually, they're engaging with the soil and they're just driven at the same speed that the machine is traveling. So, and they just create. A really effective disturbance of the soil and and they're pretty amazing at actually ripping out small weeds. I mean, all of this is targeted on small weeds. This is not, none of this equipment is for tackling big weeds.

I have a video here and I'm just going to let it play through and then I might just rerun it and point out a couple of things. I'll just let it play through for everybody first. And then I'll rerun it and just point out a couple of key things.

The key thing I'll point out is the finger weeders here. You can see the yellow finger weeders at the rear. Now I've got them running pretty close. It's hard to see in the video. They are running, almost over centering in the plant line. They don't need to be crossing over. They will rip out tomatoes or any other vegetable seedling for that matter. It's just the level of disturbance that they create is, really effective. And when we had them set appropriately, it was amazing how gentle they were on the tomatoes. The tomato seedlings really hardly moved. So it was, you know, really, really effective. And then I will just try and play it again.

I'll just point out the movement of the machine on the sliding headstock. This is, this has been driven by the camera. The camera's on the right hand side of the machine or the right hand side of the screen, the left hand side of the machine. And that's controlling the steering mechanism here. So I'll just run that through and you'll see that quite easily, how it's moving and steering itself along the plant line.

So the key points for us is how we got the machine to work its best. It was running at around about 5km per hour was probably the best for us. The finer the tilth of the soil, the better. When there's clods present, there's a fair bit happening down there on the ground level. There's, the clods do get thrown around and it was actually clods that were hitting the plants in rougher conditions that was doing the most damage. The finger weeders, I can't speak highly enough of them. They get really close to the seedlings. As I say, they're almost crossing over in the plant line. They are really effective at ripping out seedlings if you get too close. So, you know, there's still a fair degree of setting up and keeping an eye on it. But they're really critical inclusion. Our experience was when used in conjunction with the Mentor and the Titus the Metribuzin and the Rimsulfuron. It was a really effective combination. It allowed, it took a bit of the pressure off getting the, because we did two applications of those server sides, it took a little bit of pressure off the follow up application. So in conjunction it was a really great, great tool. We did have a few issues with shading with the cameras at various times of the day, so casting a shadow, for example, from the tractor if the sun was on the opposite side of the camera. So that, that did create a little bit of challenge for us at times. We resolved that by, changing the fields and getting a different road direction. I think we can do some more work on that this year with settings in the camera. I just didn't do it in the first year. The machine itself is really easy to set up. There's lots of bolts and there's lots of things to undo and tighten up, but it provides massive amounts of adjustment.

I was really pleased and surprised with how hard wearing the ground engaging tools were. I wasn't sure. I was furious and a bit concerned about that coming out of European conditions but I was delighted with how, how effective they were, they just haven't, they just haven't worn and we're in quite sandy soil, which is very abrasive and I guess we were really pleased and how accurate and responsive, I guess, the hydraulic head stock, the camera, the system was right from the get go.

But that's our experience. It's been a really great tool. It doesn't solve every problem. It's a tool, as part of a, as part of a whole program. But yeah, I hope that's been informative and certainly available for any questions.

Yeah, I've got a just a couple of slides which I've taken from Einbock which I guess just we'll talk about the technology a little bit just behind what Nick was saying.

Yeah, so I work for Vin Rowe Farm Machinery .We're the importer for the Einbock product out of Austria. I'll just go through a little bit of the technology that's involved with the Row Guard system and the and the finger weeders. So the Row Guard unit is a linear shifting hydraulic driven side shifting frame. We like to fit the Chop Star, the Einbock Chop Star machine onto the Einbock Row Guard, but it actually can have any cultivator fitted to it. Comes with uses a camera system, which uses two high definition lenses. We have the ability to select colours, so we can differentiate between, blue greens, green yellows and reds. We have a 3D mode, which helps insert conditions with row heights.

And we'll just go through a little bit. As Nick was saying on this steel well, this chrome rod, we have a total offset of about 500 millimetres. So, as the camera follows the line, regardless of where the tractor is steering, it picks up on the plant row or the multiple plant rows and can adjust themselves up to 500mm left to right. It's a proportional valve, so it's very, very smooth, very, very accurate, and depending on speed, we have the ability to increase or decrease the sensitivity, so it follows the row really nicely. When we talk about I guess standard, standard weeding or standard cultivating on a, with an example of a 50 centimetre row Einbock are sort of saying without any assistance we work on about an area in between your plants, there's about 74, 75 percent of the area is hoed because we have to allow ourselves to have a little bit of movement for human error, for GPS, depending on how the rows are planted, et cetera. Once we bring Row Guard into it, we have the ability to close the tooling up a lot closer to the plant and gets us nice and close to the plant. Still doesn't get us in row, but gets us right nice and close to the plant. And then if we add the finger weeders on the back, we have the ability to actually, if we want, to actually cross into the row. Like Nick said, depending on the plants tomatoes being a little bit sensitive, we keep them a bit wider. With some plants, and I'll show a picture later which are a little bit more hardy, i. e. corn, we could actually get those fingers in between the plants and disturb the complete row.

When I was talking about colours this is a bit of a representation, and we use we have the ability to set in a 2D mode we can look for more, what they call green blue. So you're looking for your darker greens against your weeds. We can change up to green yellow to look against your lighter greens by acorns and sorghums. And if we're using in things like cabbages, red cabbages, we have the ability to go to a red mode. So the camera will try to identify those colours predominantly. Well it will identify those colours predominantly and and assist itself to to follow the row. In the 3D mode we tell the unit the width of the plant, the row that we're following and the height, and it identifies that against its surroundings, can be used sometimes if there's heavy weed cover and the colours of the weeds versus the plants that we want to weed around is very similar. This sort of shows us just our screen and our setup. And what we'd expect to see when we're hoeing.

We have a signal bar to tell us how good a signal we're getting from the camera. We have the ability to adjust the sensor, adjust its working range. Ultimately, we're, yeah, plants have to have a little bit of, we do have some limitations. We've got a plant size of one centimetre and a minimum row spacing of 12.5 centimetres. It needs to be able to, relying on the camera to identify where the weeds are. Sorry, to identify where the row is and it still has some limitations.

In other circumstances, you can actually fit a secondary camera. And that will allow the system, it will pick what, what it's picking up as the best row. Secondary cameras, whereas it probably won't be so popular in Australia because we use headlands, in certain parts of Europe where they want to use the entire field, they will still plant around the outside and then they will plant the rows up and down the field. And if you're using something like a section control as you come to the end of a row, one camera will suddenly lose the row where the other camera can keep following it.

And we move on to the finger weeders. So we have the finger weeders as is on GoFarm's machine. And that's predominantly what we have used in Australia. We've got several units out there using this system. We do have a demonstration unit which is fitted with a rotation weeding element which we haven't really played with. Particularly, it's a little bit more aggressive and we've just been a little bit hesitant to put it into practice just because we don't want to damage any crops.

As Nick was saying, they have their weeders, their finger weeders spaced depending on the plant size. This is what you'd say would be a base setting to start with. You would adjust them in, put a finger between them and try and get them nice and close to the plants. The closer they are to the plants, the better option you have of breaking up that material in the row. But as Nick said, if you go too close, you'll start to do damage to plants. You can see here, we're talking in this top right picture here, you can see where it's just gone through with the straight cultivator and we still have that little bit in the row that hasn't been broken up, and then if we look at the lower picture, you can see where the finger weeders have gone through and just disturbed that ground, knocked the weeds out. You can see here, on that lower right picture, which is what we want to see. We want to see those small weeds knocked out, roots sticking up, so the sun hits them, kills them off quite efficiently. And that's just a nice picture that shows this is a very, very similar set up as in a Verso machine to what GoFarmer are using. Up the top, we have the discs to open up. And they move a little bit of soil away from the row and cut this nice clean edge, which allows the angle knives to then work in these knives, stick into the ground and then pull back away from the row just to make sure it disturbs all that ground, and then the finger weeders come through after. So you can see in front of the finger weeders we've still got a crust and we've still got a bit of solid ground and yet after it we've knocked it all about. Yeah, so quickly I guess it's just a little bit of the technological stuff. That's pretty much where we're at.

I guess yeah, same thing, we have the ability to tomatoes, this is the first machine that we've done with tomatoes. We've got several machines in things with corn and cabbages currently doing some trials in some broccoli. Yeah, we're just really trying to, I said, try and find there's so many different combinations trying to find the best machines to work in the best conditions.

Good afternoon, I should say it's Danielle Park here at Tripod Farmers with Frankie Ruffo, and we've just got a short presentation around the carbon robotics laser weeder. I will get my presentation up. I also have a short video, which I'm hoping will be visible and viewable and we'll see how we go from there.

So as I mentioned, my name is Danielle Park. I'm the Regional Development Officer for three of the key vegetable growing regions in Victoria, which we call the West, the South East and the North, and today we're having a bit of a discussion around weeder technology used in vegetable production with a particular focus of the laser weeder that's produced by Carbon Robotics, here in Bacchus Marsh in Victoria. One thing before I get on is just to give a bit of an overview. The VegNet program is focused on supporting vegetable growers to improve profitability, productivity, preparedness and competitiveness. So this definitely falls within that sort of space. And unfortunately Carbon Robotics has been unavailable to join us today to focus a lot more on the technology.

I'll provide, I'll point out a few sort of key features and point you towards some backup resources if this is something that might be of interest to you. And the other thing I will just mention, and I think one of the coordinators will put it in the chat box, is that there has been a recently announced project Funded by Hort Innovation called Advanced Vegetable Mechanization Program.

And there is actually currently an expression of interest process open for any vegetable producers around Australia who'd like to go to the upcoming Ag Tech event in California in late October this year. It's got a fairly short timeline so I'd encourage you, if either you or anybody you know is interested in going and having a look at the range of technologies available. Carbon Robotics is US based and there's a lot of interesting work coming out of that sort of country that might be relevant for your particular setting.

Just to give you a bit of an overview of the weeder technology itself, as you can see, it's tractor drawn and goes along day and night. Not that fast for anybody who's in covering bigger territory, but in certain bed settings it's very useful. So AI, it's an AI guided laser weeder with high resolution cameras to identify and target weeds. So green on green. So taking a picture of every plant that it goes across and identifying friend or foe. Is it something we want to keep? Is it something we want to kill? And more recently I've noticed a there's been some discussion when there's volunteer volunteers coming through with the in the crop rotation, identifying, do we want to keep it this time or we want to kill it this time? So that sort of just learning that process, especially with the more specialized leafy veg crops, which can have quite an interesting sort of pattern and then, and need to be sort of calibrated and re reset for this setting.

So this is just to give a bit of a visual, like I said, in the absence of the carbon robotics technical experts having just been to Hort Connections and headed home for their summer holidays, what you can see here is that the laser weeder itself is tractor driven. It's going along and it's very hard to capture these, but you can see that it's identifying a plant and then it is striking that little laser at anything that it doesn't want to be there. So it is looking to get, yeah, that's that sub millimetre accuracy of striking and killing the weed as it goes along. So this is, as I said, it can operate in the day and the night. You can see there's a little tablet. So there are two settings to my knowledge, to the best of my knowledge, that you can set what you want to be achieved within that block from the home base, and there's also some calibration that's needed by the operator.

So there is a level of skill involved with operating this particular system, and there's also, you have to determine the kill rate, or what I call the kill rate, so that depending on the crop and the objectives you're trying to achieve that can change in terms of what you're trying to, yeah, what outcome you're looking for and and how you go forward.

Frankie Ruffo from Tripod Farmers, just to give a bit of an overview of the production system and the weed challenges as they stand. We're currently on the Bacchus Marsh property in Victoria, you have other properties, but we'll focus just on the Bacchus Marsh property today just to sort of give an outline of what you grow, how it operates, and some of the specifics for why, yeah, why you're looking at laser weeding.

Yep. Hi everyone. Yeah, so Frankie Ruffo, Farm Production Manager here at Tripod Farmers. We grow leafy veg mostly mixed lettuces, so different colored lettuces wild rocket, spinach also grow some head lettuce too, like, cos and baby cos’s. Yeah, we produce 12 months of the year, so we're very intensive farming, so minimal rest time between crops, which creates high pressure for a bit of disease and weed pressure also. Use overhead irrigation, so plenty of water through the warmer months. Yeah, so there's plenty, plenty of challenges. We've had this laser weeder now for the last 4 months and that's definitely helping us with some of those challenges. So, so far we've seen a reduction in weeds in our crops. Yeah, which is in the, in return is giving us better crops too. So, less competition for the crop and more nutrients available for the crop as well. Is there any other reason why management of weeds in a baby leaf, in a salad setting is particularly important? Yes, super important. So, the consumers do not want any weeds at all in their salads. So for us, that's a big reason why we've also invested in, in one of these weeders just to, to reduce the total number of weeds which is challenging in our high density crops, which most of our leafy crops are very high density. So in a range of a hundred plants to about 1,500 plants per meter of bed. So yeah, we, and the tolerance is zero for weeds in our product. So, that's a really good tool an extra tool rather than just the historic weed management tools like hand weeding and herbicide use. So this is, it's great to have that other, other option to throw out the weeds.

One of the things I highlighted was the speed of the unit. Yes. That's sort of something that I like, think a few people find a little surprising. It's, yeah, it's, yeah, depending on the weed pressure that really varies quite dramatically. Sometimes we've had the machine going at about a kilometre, maybe a kilometre and a half, and other times it's down to like a hundred meters or 200 meters per hour, depending on the weed pressure and depending on the weed size. So, over the last four months, we've sort of learned a lot about the machine as well. It's been quite user friendly, so we set it up and it was quite easy to get going and we're out using it straight away. But we've sort of discovered that the timing is the main factor when we're using this machine, so getting the weeds, at a smaller size increases our speed. So the smaller the weed, the less energy the machine has to put into killing that weed, which means an increase in speed. So yeah, now we're actually shooting weeds, like way smaller than our little fingernail. Pretty much the smaller, the better.

Excellent. So in terms of actually going down the path, to, to bring a laser weeder onto farm. Yep. What was the, how did you actually go about that process? How did you identify?

Yep. Yep. Good question. We my mum about 12 months ago, exactly now was looking for options to help us with our weed issue and she came across Carbon Robotics and a number of a few other websites that she came across and sent out some emails to sort of see what our options were. And within a few weeks Carbon Robotics actually came out and visited us on our farm discussed what they had planned. I think by then they had machines in operation commercially maybe for about a year, so quite new technology. So we liked what they said, then we decided to go over to the U. S. last September and we got to see a few machines in operation and that there really sort of, you know, gave us our answer, we, as soon as we saw it in operation, we knew that it was something that, definitely helped us on our farm. I think we probably already answered this, but that what's been involved with getting it set up? Has there been any issues with sizes or infrastructure or just calibrating it and getting it going? Or has it been reasonably? It's been reasonably smooth going, so quite easy to get going. The hardest part was actually just moving the wheels on the machine to match our tractor wheels. And yeah, we only had to move them about 4 inches and that was probably the hardest part about setting up the whole machine. Everything else was pretty much plug and play. There was models there available for our crops from other people in other countries. So, we started using them straight away. Carbon Robotics came out on site for quite a few weeks, helped us set up and also build our own models or adjust the existing models to capture a few different weed types that we've got here that other people don't have. So yeah, it's really, really basic set up and the only limitations on the machine in using it is about 4.5 ton plus the tract is about 8 tons. So, yeah, with our leafy crops, we sort of have to irrigate a lot. So the challenge is trying to get back in with the machine at times. It's sort of a bit easier through the cool months, but definitely through the hotter months when we're irrigating more, it's a little bit challenging to get in with such a heavy machine.

And the skill required to drive and operate, is there like, what have you found in terms of, is it something that can be handled with the workforce you have or? Yes. Yeah. Yep. So you just need a really high skilled tractor driver. Tractor operator. Someone that's a little bit into tech as well comes in handy. But saying that the operator app that we use in the tractor is actually quite easy to use. So you just go through, select your crop, and then that sort of directs the operator to travel at a certain speed depending on the size of the crop, the size of the weeds, the amount of weeds. So there's only a few small settings there that, that need to be set to get going. Every morning we have to calibrate the lasers to make sure they remain within that millimetre accuracy. So we've just got to manually calibrate them. It only takes about 10 minutes and then we're off and weeding. Yeah.

I think I saw a question before then about whether there's regrowth or how does it actually kill the weed?

Yes, yep. So it just burns with a laser right in the centre of the weed. And we find that when we hit the weeds really small, it just like annihilates and you can't even see that weed anymore. When you let the weeds get a little bit more mature, a lot harder to kill them it still does a really good job, you know, maybe killing 90 percent of the weeds, but some of those ones may grow back because yeah, just due to their size, and that, it will probably slow them down, but some, some will continue to grow. And any sort of key learning, I know it's only been four months, so, and you've had a lot of visitors come through from all sorts of different places to come to have a look. Yep. Are there any sort of learnings you've had from the first, are you seeing any differences in terms of weed pressure or product quality or like where have you started to notice any differences? Are you dropping your herbicide levels back? Yes. And for pre? Yep, yeah, we have dropped our herbicide levels back a little bit, which is great for our crop health. We get a, you know, a bit of an increase in, um, in yield and crop performance just there, um. We've managed to reduce, well, we've actually stopped using methamsodium . We used to fumigate our beds sometimes prior to sowing or transplanting just to, to control weeds. So we've, we've been able to completely stop that, which is great for the environment, the operator. And also it's a pretty big cost saving with methamsodium getting more expensive the last few years, especially. And then, yeah, crop performance, we've got less competition with weeds out there. So we actually do believe there's been quite a significant yield increase with that.

And, and so, yes, some of the focus, I suppose, has been very much on the weed performance. There's an awful lot of data being captured as as the laser weeder is going across and taking a snapshot of every single plant, both those that you kill and those that you keep. Yep. What's, I know it's very early, like the focus has been on the weed management component, but where do you see some of that, those pieces going in the future?

Absolutely. I think that's yeah, that's going to be, you know, some of the changes and probably pretty quick, quickly, and easily adapted to by Carbon Robotics possibly. You know, it's scanning our crops completely, so it's counting how many crops we actually have. So whether that's 100 plants per metre or, a thousand or two thousand plants per metre, depending on the crops. So it's actually counting how much crop we have per hectare and also the weed population and the types of weeds too, whether they're broadleaf or grasses, etc. So it's really given us some really good You know, numbers and really accurate numbers.

One of the, yeah, one of the things when you first see it is that it's quite it's quite, it is quite an interesting process because, because the weeds are being burnt, you do get quite a distinctive smell of weeds burning. Yeah. And it is, yeah and it's very satisfying to see that, yes, it's just a little ash. little ash spot where the weed used to be once the laser weeder has gone over. Unless there's anything so like I said, the weed management part is the piece that we're focusing on today, but I can foresee that there's some really, there could be some really interesting benefits beyond just weed management. Yes. Yeah, that environmental benefit of not disturbing the soil, that reduction in potentially of herbicides. We don't know how low that might go. And just also the sort of work health and safety benefits of having a single operator in a block as opposed to having lots of people having done that work in the past so that those people can now be used elsewhere, potentially in a more skilled role in the business. So that opportunity to yeah, increase the, yeah, the skill level within the property and within the business and get technology doing it much more efficiently. Absolutely, yeah.

So, is there any, are there any questions? Yeah, with your tractor fuel use? Yes yeah. So, the tractor isn't working hard at all out there. All that's required though that's, that is revving, the engine's revving quite high. I think the diesel uses about 30 litres per hour, so it's a significant amount of diesel. And that's to be able to run the generator to get enough power going back to run the laser weeder.

Thank you very much, Frankie, for providing a bit of a snapshot of the first four months. We look forward to hearing how it goes over the next sort of, yeah. The remainder of the season to get a full summer under your belt and then we'll see where we, what we've come up with. So, thank you very much for your time. Much appreciated. Thanks guys.

Yeah. Thank you both very much. Thank you to the other guys as well.

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