January 28, 2021

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South Australia fights agricultural pests with cutting edge technology

South Australian researchers have developed a new state-of-the-art weapon in the fight against agricultural pests, according to a recent press release.

Launched recently, the AU$ 21 million iMapPESTS utilised South Australian research, engineering and software expertise.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone shared that South Australia continues to look to technology to address challenges in agriculture.

About the technology

The iMapPESTS Sentinel is ground breaking technology developed and led by researchers from the South Australian Research and Development Institute in conjunction with local businesses: an automation company and a data management company.

The project is part of AU$ 21 million Commonwealth Government initiative led by Horticulture Innovation with support from 17 partner organisations across a broad range of industries from grains to viticulture, and horticulture to forestry.

The iMapPESTS Sentinel is a key element in a national project to provide greater data to producers in order to combat pests and diseases.

It combines specialised air sampling equipment and automation technology in a single high-tech mobile surveillance unit.

It features smart automation applied to trapping equipment, sourced from project partners in the United Kingdom, purpose-built to capture airborne spores and insects.

The Sentinel is an outstanding example of AgTech created by South Australian researchers and tech businesses designed to strengthen farmers’ ability to better manage pests, with the goal of improving productivity to meet growth targets.

The automation company’s CEO shared that their control system automates and controls the Sentinel itself. Their best engineering automation expertise was brought to the project.

How does it work?

The Sentinel is self-contained, and while carrying highly sensitive instrumentation and technology, has to be robust to endure the elements out on site for weeks at a time.

Sensors were built to automatically retract a six-metre insect trap and safely pack away the device when severe weather is detected.

After which, the system extends the trap to resume operation when high winds have calmed.

Robotic systems were developed on each device in the Sentinel. They are controlled by an on-board computer that enables intelligent sampling according to pre-set parameters.

These parameters are:

  1. Time
  2. Temperature
  3. Humidity
  4. Wind speed
  5. Direction

Significance of data management

The data management company’s Research Director explained that the management of the samples and data, after collection, was critical.

The Sentinel’s data needs to be identifiable, trackable, and then accessible for useful analyses.

Digital transformation is the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems such as Hybrid Cloud for Digital Transformation.

The cloud-based platform that Data Effects has developed for the Sentinel iMapPESTS project has benefits.

It allows for data about physical samples, and virtual samples of on-farm conditions, including spores to climatic environmental data, to be barcoded and traceable through every step.

Data can then be securely transferred from the field to the laboratory and on to farmers and land managers.

The field data of Sentinel can be combined with lab data as well as data from third parties such as other project partners or the Bureau of Meteorology.

Doing so will allow them to pull together a rich data resource from which they can produce accessible outputs such as graphs and dashboards.

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