Artificial intelligence could fix spray drift

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Artificial intelligence could provide a multi-million dollar solution to crop losses caused by spray drift if a research project is successful.

Researchers at Monash University have teamed up with three technology companies for the project, which has already received a grant worth nearly $100,000.

The aim is to use technology to inform farmers about the potential for spray drift – unwanted movement of pesticides towards other crops and wildlife – on any particular day, helping the farmer pick the best time to carry out spraying activity.

Australia’s cotton industry is the project’s focus as spray drift cost cotton farmers more than $18 million in 2018 alone; however the technology could apply to all farmers who spray pesticides.

A promotional video for the project says the technology has the "ability to revolutionise the farming industry".

"It allows growers and students the ability to ‘what if’ their personal spray plan to better understand the potential for spray drift," the video explains.

"Growers can see a visual representation of the possible impact of their spray decisions on their phones.

"The user can look through their phone and see the impact of neighbouring crop if spraying were to occur during poor conditions."

Farmers could look at potential impacts of spray drift through real-time images on a phone

The technology will allow farmers to perform real-time risk assessments about the potential impacts of spraying.

Monash’s Faculty of Information Technology interim dean Professor Ann Nicholson says it is important the end product is engaging enough to be widely adopted by farmers.

"Information alone does not change behaviour and the use of advanced technology doesn’t ensure the adoption of new platforms by farmers," she says.

"By incorporating game-like design applications which drive better training and engagement outcomes, together with AI-driven decision support modelling, we’re able to deliver continuous adoption and accurate decision support that informs farmers appropriately."

In addition to the $100,000 Business Research and Innovation Initiative grant already received, the project will be eligible to apply for a grant of up to $1 million to develop a prototype or proof of concept later this year.

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