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Boosting the future of farming through robotics and analytics

Credit: University of Sydney]

An investment worth A$ 6.5 million was given to a field robotics start-up based on technology created by the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics.

As reported, Australia’s longest running research commercialisation fund granted the funding to an intelligent robotics company that has commercialised two robotics platforms designed to improve the productivity of livestock and horticultural farmers.

The investment is one of the largest seed investment rounds raised for agricultural technology in Australia.

The funding will be used to formally launch the start-up and roll out its platforms and data analytics tools, both in Australia and internationally.

Future of Farming

Founded by the University’s Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems and 2019 NSW Australian of the Year nominee, Salah Sukkarieh, the start-up aims to improve farm productivity and support animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

They will achieve this by equipping the farmers and growers with cutting-edge air and ground field robotic systems, intelligent tools and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.

The Professor believes that agriculture and farming are experiencing demand for greater productivity due to a global population surge and rising incomes in developing countries.

Experts have estimated that by 2050, global food demand will increase between 59% and 98%.

Farmers worldwide will need to increase production through enhancing agricultural productivity.

However, many often struggle to afford the best customised advice for their farm, leading to sub-optimal yields and efficiencies from their crops.

Meanwhile, livestock farmers face a number of competing and complex issues such as high labour and fuel costs. They also experience animal welfare and mismanagement concerns.

The platforms will address these challenges and help increase productivity by giving farmers smart precision farming approaches, made possible through advances in sensor technology and farming automation.

In addition, the technology also enhances animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

Autonomous vehicles set to transform agriculture and farming

Swagbot will be one of the two technologies underpinning the project’s commercialisation. It is an electric ground vehicle that can be used for a broad range of agricultural activities.

Operating autonomously, it can identify and manage weed levels, monitor pasture quality and herd livestock.

The platform will soon be able to monitor the welfare of grazing animals, and can be purpose-fit to deal with large scale row and tree cropping applications.

Digital Farmhand, the second technology, will be developed by the start-up. It is a durable, low-cost autonomous robotics platform that automates on-farm tasks.

The platform has been designed to assist smallholder row and tree crop farmers to better manage yields and crop health, including farmers in developing nations.

Plans for roll-out

The two systems will be initially trialled and developed in Australia before pursuing global market opportunities, such as Southeast Asia and South Pacific nations.

It will be working towards developing a commercial offering for the Australian market within the next year.

The ground-breaking technology developed by the start-up will address the growing need for increased agricultural productivity.

Not only that, but it also promises to radically transform the farming process and make Australia a world-leader in intelligent farm systems.

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