CSIRO launches farm risk management platform

By: Cat Fitzpatrick

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Rural analytics platform designed to help future-roof farms by better predicting future risks


DAS screenshot
The platform allows farmers to manage risks and plan for drought


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Australia's national science agency, CSIRO and rural technology start-up Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) have launched an innovative new platform that combines artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud-based geospatial technology to deliver reliable, independent and robust farm data and analytics.

The Rural Intelligence Platform is the first ever software to comprehensively assess and monitor rural land anywhere in Australia, drawing on information from trusted data sources on productivity, water access, yield, land use, crop type, rainfall, drought impact and more.

"The platform brings together in one place and refines a range of technologies developed by CSIRO in order to provide a picture of what has happened on a property over the years as well as the current situation," CSIRO agriculture and food deputy director Michael Robertson says.

Check out another CSIRO innovation here - a "cybertongue" able to detect lactose and spoilt milk.

The platform uses satellite imagery to track paddocks and their performance over time. Information from Australia's digital soil map is incorporated and climate information interpreted to show drought, frost, heat stress for livestock and other risks.

Speaking on the launch, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud says that this platform is an exciting step forward for farming.

"This gives farmers access to cutting edge technology and the latest data so they can be more sustainable and productive," Littleproud says.

One potential application is in using satellites that analyse the colour spectrum of pastures and turn that into data about how many animals can graze that land.

"This will give farmers a better picture of what is happening on their farm to help prepare for challenges like drought and to boost productivity," says Littleproud.

"Investors will also get more accurate information about how other farmers are doing so they can compare and make better business decisions.

"This information could help achieve the National Farmers' Federation's bold vision for Australian agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030."

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

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

"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."

The Rural Intelligence Platform analyses data from a range of sources using machine learning algorithms to make sense of the data with clarity that wasn't possible before.

The platform incorporates an artificial intelligence-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.

Since it was established in partnership with CSIRO in 2017, Melbourne-based DAS has secured a total of $4.25 million in funding from founding equity and R&D partner CSIRO, Australian ASX-listed agribusiness Ruralco and private investors.

DAS is already working closely with a number of leading companies to pilot the Rural Intelligence Platform, with some of the strongest uptake coming from the property, financial services and insurance sectors.

"Digital agriculture is far more than just on-farm technology, it's also about improving off-farm decision making and this platform lays the foundation for Australia to become a leader in new generation agricultural analytics," DAS CEO Anthony Willmott says.

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

The market for digital agriculture in the Asia Pacific region is estimated to be worth $10–25 billion by 2028, fuelled by pressure to meet challenges from population growth and climate change.

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