Tasmanian farms dotted with thousands of sensors in Sense-T Alpha Trial

Thousands of sensors are being installed at farms across Tasmania as part of the first full-scale trial of the whole Sense-T system, including new sensing technology and smart phone apps.

Federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Jamie Briggs, visited Houston's Farm in Richmond, one of 20 trial sites, to officially launch the Sense-T Alpha Trial

Sense-T Director, Ros Harvey, said the Alpha Trial marked the next phase of Sense-T, which is based at the University of Tasmania, following a two-year foundation period.

"This will be the first large-scale trial bringing together all the elements we've been working on over the past two years. That includes brand new sensing technology and smart phone applications, as well as the big data platform that manages the flow of data from the sensors to Sense-T and back to farmers," Ms Harvey said.

"Once the trials are complete, we'll commence work to make the technology available to farmers more broadly so they can all access the benefits."

Each sensor system wirelessly connects hundreds of sensors measuring temperature, humidity, soil moisture, leaf wetness and solar radiation. The trial sites include a wide range of agricultural businesses including vineyards, broad acre pasture, dairy, annuals, biannuals, berries and floriculture

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Ms Harvey said that Sense-T had brought together four other experienced companies, all leaders in their respective industries, to manage particular aspects of the trial:

General Manager of Agriculture at Houston's Farm, Shaun Heidrich, said it was hoped the system would replace onerous manual testing and data collection, taking some of the guess work out of many daily decisions.

"We will effectively have a digital map of conditions across the whole farm, allowing us to forecast, predict and plan in a way we've never been able to before. We'll be able to make more accurate decisions around irrigation, pest control and harvesting," Mr Heidrich said.

Sense-T and its partners will work closely with farmers throughout the trial, seeking feedback on the new sensing technology, the app design and how they would like the technologies developed. Engineers will stress-test the technology to confirm its durability and telemetry capacity.

The Alpha Trial is just one part of the Sense-T program, with extensive research diving deep into specific challenges in viticulture, aquaculture, beef, dairy and water management. Around 100 scientists from UTAS and CSIRO are involved in the projects, which have also involved the installation of hundreds of sensors.

Image: Shaun Heidrich (Houston's Farm), Amanda Castray (Sense-T, UTAS), Eric Hutchinson (Federal Member for Lyons), Jamie Briggs (Federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) and Prof. Holger Meinke (Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, UTAS).

Published on: 10 Jul 2014