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Women addressing crowd outside
Dr Cheryl McCarthy and V-TOL Aerospace pulled a crowd at USQ’s Future Farm Field Day with their demonstration which showed how drones can be used to monitor crop conditions
The University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) first Future Farm Field Day gave visitors an insight into the way humans, smart phone apps, electronics and mechanical cleverness can work together to improve agricultural efficiency.

Held last Tuesday (September 22), the field day showcased USQ’s work in agricultural, climate and environmental research with more than 80 visitors from as far afield as Western Australia coming to see the future farm technologies.

Demonstrations showcased research being done by five of USQ’s agriculture-related centres: National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA), Centre for Crop Health (CCH), International Centre for Applied Climate Sciences (ICACS), Centre for Excellence in Engineered Fibre Composites (CEEFC), and Computational Engineering and Science Research Centre (CESRC).

NCEA Director Associate Professor Craig Baillie said he hoped the success of the 2015 field day would lead to it becoming an annual event.

“The way we can work together within and between centres is something we’re really proud of at USQ, and it’s helping us to come up with solutions to increase profitability and sustainability in industries including cotton, grains, sugar, horticulture, dairy and livestock,” Associate Professor Baillie said.

NCEA researcher Dr Matthew Tscharke demonstrated Augmented Reality (AR), and was also part of the inter-row spot-spraying run-through which used depth and colour sensors to identify weeds.

“The quality of questions we were getting from visitors was excellent, and you could see a few raised eyebrows when we were explaining some of the technologies we’ve developed,” Dr Tscharke said.

He said demonstrations sparked interest from graziers as well as farmers in AR particularly.

“These are people who want to get information quickly from around their property to help them make decisions, and a smart phone running an Augmented Reality app can do that simply by pointing it in the direction of farm sensors or equipment such as pumps,” Dr Tscharke said.

Toowoomba dealer Vanderfield brought a tractor to the field day to demonstrate some of the semi-autonomous functions available on John Deere machinery, and NCEA’s Dr Cheryl McCarthy and V-TOL Aerospace pulled a crowd with aerial drone flights used for cropping and pest control work.

Also on display was in-field technology being developed by NCEA to phenotype crop susceptibility, tolerance or resistance to crown rot for a project arm being led by CCH plant pathologist Dr Cassy Percy.

Real-time adaptive irrigation technology, where soil moisture, plant growth and vigour, and climate data are used to deliver varied amounts of water and fertiliser to crops, was also outlined.

Other demonstrations focused on: bioenergy; biosecurity; climate science; composite materials; crop photosynthesis and carbon dioxide; decision support from software; the Environmental and Soil Research Laboratory; foreign aid; irrigation apps, and precision agriculture.