Technology and farming come together at 2018 Bega AgTech Days

TECH TAKES FLIGHT: An attendee at the Bega AgTech days watches a drone demonstration at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre. Picture: Alana Beitz
TECH TAKES FLIGHT: An attendee at the Bega AgTech days watches a drone demonstration at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre. Picture: Alana Beitz

Over a two day event, innovators from the technology and agriculture industries came together for the inaugural Bega AgTech Days on March 28 and 29. 

From drones to sensors, robotics and blockchain, participants explored how the latest in technology could benefit local agriculture. 

The event was hosted by IntoIT Sapphire Coast founding member Liam O’Duibhir who hopes to inspire communication between farmers and tech developers and a more collaborative approach to improving the region’s farming practices. 

Karen Baldwin from the NSW Department Industry Innovation & Science shared her recent findings from a food and innovation conference held in Germany, identifying a focus on sustainability, environmental impacts, fairtrade and “conscious eating.” 

“The major change in the European Union is a new demand for transparency in food production,” she said.  

“Consumers say they feel better about their food when they know where it is from and they can see it has been ethically produced.”

Once way to achieve this is by using blockchain technology to trace a products history and ensure its provenance, explained by Taylor Tran of the Melbourne Blockchain Centre and David Elliot of Agile Digital. 

Blockchain, usually associated with digital currencies such at Bitcoin, is an online method of recording transactions by requiring both parties to create an irreversible digital footprint, essentially making it impossible for one party to forge information. 

This would give Australian farmers better protection against counterfeit products and ensure the clean and green reputation of Australia’s agricultural products by allowing customers to review the product’s history.

Marc Englaro and Andrew Snell discuss how sensors can be used to reduce labor intensity and increase knowledge on farms in the Bega Valley.

Marc Englaro and Andrew Snell discuss how sensors can be used to reduce labor intensity and increase knowledge on farms in the Bega Valley.

Another focus of the event was reducing labour intensity with robotics. Although Australian farmers have a high take up of robotics, the cost of implementation is a barrier for most.

Ms Baldwin described a Swedish dairy using a robotic milking system where cows voluntary took themselves to the milking shed, which saw production and animal wellbeing rise, and udder stress and infection fall. 

Andrew Snell of RollerCoaster Digital and Marc Englaro of Taggle introduced sensor technology to monitor cattle, soil and water.

“Measurement is key in agriculture, we can gather an unbelievable wealth of data about what happens on your farm, but you need a problem to solve to make real use of it,” Ms Englaro said.

Greendale dairy farmer Norm Pearce said this technology would help to attract new staff by reducing labour intensity, providing a possible solution to the aging farming population. 

Related Coverage: