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New App to Boost Access to Water Quality Information for Sugarcane Farmers

1622WQ App
Photo Credit: CSIRO

A new app by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, will help sugarcane farmers in far north Queensland to manage their fertiliser use and reduce nitrogen runoff into the Great Barrier Reef.

About the Initiative

According to a recent press release, CSIRO agricultural scientist and 1622WQ project leader Dr Peter Thorburn explained that the new app was co-designed with farmers to meet their needs.

Sugarcane growers expressed their need for quick and easy access to water quality information in order to learn what is going on with their crops so that they can make better decisions.

While the app may appear simple, the smarts behind it are anything but. The chain of information between the water quality sensors in local waterways and what is seen on the phone is complex and requires substantial innovation along the way.

The app shows data on nitrate concentrations from high-frequency automatic sensors deployed in selected coastal catchments.

It uses CSIRO’s advanced data analytics and state-of-the-art deep learning not available in other data delivery systems.

Additionally, it also shows rainfall so farmers easily see how the weather is affecting local water quality.

Benefits of 1622WQ

Currently, there is no way sugarcane growers can tell whether fertiliser has runoff from their farm.

However, the free app, called 1622WQ, shows the concentration of nitrogen in local waterways in real-time.

This will provide them with easy access to water quality information and can relate their management practices to water quality in local waterways, for example immediately after it has rained.

When rainfall washes nitrogen fertiliser into waterways, it both wastes farmers’ money and becomes a major threat to the health of Great Barrier Reef ecosystems.

CSIRO Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley shared that the app brought together decades of agricultural expertise and close industry relationships with advanced digital technologies.

Deep domain expertise in agriculture was paired with digital technology to provide a solution for farmers who want to remain efficient and competitive while also reducing their impact on the environment.

Solving complex challenges like protecting the Great Barrier Reef require deep innovation. But, it is also important that the end result is a simple and intuitive product, such as the app, which farmers can seamlessly integrate into their business.

Future Plans

New ways to predict water quality in the days or weeks ahead based on artificial intelligence (AI) are in the pipeline.

The agency is also building other aspects of importance to sugarcane growers into a suite of 1622 apps, such as fine-tuning which parts of a crop might need more or less fertiliser, and comparing different fertiliser application rates on crop performance and environmental impact before they even plant.

The name 1622 comes from the height of Queensland’s tallest mountain, which is in the area where the initial app development work took place. WQ is for water quality.

Sugarcane is the first farming system that they have looked at but it could be deployed in any area where real-time water quality data could help inform agricultural practices.

Helping Farmers through ICT

In another part of the globe, OpenGov Asia reported that the Indian government launched a multilingual mobile app to connect farmers with the custom hiring services of farm machinery banks.

Crop residue burning has become a major environmental problem causing health issues and contributing to global warming. At the event, several farmers shared experiences and advice on crop residue management.

The app, CHC Farm Machinery, will allow farmers to connect to and avail the services of the customer hiring centres (CHCs) within 50 kilometres of their area.

It will connect local farmers from states across the country to CHCs and hi-tech hubs, established under the MoA&FW, without a computer support system.

The app will help individual farmers, willing to provide their agricultural machinery and equipment on a rental-basis, increase their farm income.

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