Friday 26th Apr, 2019

CSIRO launches AI platform to future-proof farms

Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) CEO Anthony Willmott
Image: Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) CEO Anthony Willmott

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud-based geospatial technology is set to deliver farmers reliable data and analytics, thanks to a new platform launched by Australia’s national science agency.

CSIRO and rural technology start-up Digital Agriculture Services have launched the Rural Intelligence Platform uses satellite imagery to track paddocks and their performance over time.

Information from trusted data sources on productivity, water access, yield, land use, crop type, rainfall and drought impacts are used to assess and monitor rural land anywhere in Australia.

The platform also incorporates information from Australia’s digital soil map along with climate information to show risks of drought, frost and heat stress for livestock.

Machine learning algorithms are used to make sense of the data with a clarity that CSIRO said wasn’t previously possible.

It incorporates an AI-initiated Automated Valuation Model that is capable of valuing rural properties instantly with up to 90 per cent accuracy. Previously, this was only possible for residential properties, where there are a wide range of valuation and analytic tools for real estate.

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CSIRO Agriculture and Food Deputy Director, Michael Robertson said the platform refines a range of technologies developed by CSIRO to provide a picture of what has happened on a property over the years as well as the current situation.

“The Rural Intelligence Platform will help the agribusiness community calculate the risks associated with certain investments or management decisions,” Robertson said.

“The platform provides accurate information that can help to identify vulnerability or the most promising options for investment that will build resilience.

“This is a whole new model for rural analytics which will make it easier to quantify risk and prepare for challenges like climate volatility and change,” he said.

DAS estimates around $125 billion in agricultural economic decisions in Australia are based on unreliable or incomplete data every year.

The partnership between the two organisations began in 2017, with the Melbourne-based DAS securing a total of $4.25 million from founding equity and R&D partner CSIRO, Ruralco and other private investors. DAS is working closely with a number of companies to pilot the platform.

DAS CEO, Anthony Willmott, said the platform lays the foundation for Australia to become a leader in new generation agricultural analytics.

“This is about supporting the ecosystem that supports the farmer – ensuring that farmers, business, policy makers and anyone invested along the agricultural ecosystem has the right rural data to make more informed decisions,” Willmott said.

The market for digital agriculture in the Asia Pacific region is estimated to be worth $10-25 billion by 2028 due to pressures to meet challenges from growing populations and climate change.