CSIRO and Goanna Ag combine to maximise irrigation water use

Dr Rose Brodrick, CSIRO
CSIRO’s Dr Rose Brodrick with a prototype WaterWise sensor in tomatoes

Irrigation water is a precious resource and ensuring the efficiency of its use is crucial to successful crop production.

A partnership between Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and local agricultural technology company Goanna Ag will see sensors and analytics combined to guide the best use of irrigation water.

An Australian first, ‘WaterWise’ is a water-use efficiency product for irrigated crops that measures crop water stress and predicts future water needs in real time.

The technology is designed to help growers save water or produce more crop per drop.

Goanna Ag will be delivering WaterWise’s smart analytics as a data stream to on-farm customers.

CEO Alicia Garden said that Goanna Ag customers would be able to incorporate the new technology into their existing Goanna Ag GoField system.

“Being able to predict when to irrigate will allow our clients to plan based on what the plant needs,” Ms Garden said.

Goanna Ag canopy sensor is part of the CSIRO tomato trials near Swan Hill Vic

The WaterWise system uses in-field sensors that measure the canopy temperature of crops every 15 minutes.

It then sends the data to CSIRO’s sensor data infrastructure, adds in the weather forecast and uses machine learning to apply CSIRO’s algorithm to predict the crop’s water requirements for the next seven days.

WaterWise team leader Dr Rose Brodrick explains that predicting the future is the real breakthrough science. It means growers can see the water stress of their crops at any point and predict their future water needs.

“Just like humans, plants have an optimum temperature. When things are normal it’s easier to predict when a plant will need water.

But when conditions change – like with a new crop, a new field, or unusually hot or cold weather forecasted – farmers want backup with their decision making.”

“The usual strategy is, ‘if you’re unsure, just add water’. This is where using technology can help give them data and more confidence in their decision making, because every drop counts,” she said.

CSIRO’s development and commercialisation of WaterWise has involved a range of skill sets from agronomists to plant physiologists, data and machine learning experts, software engineers, social scientists and innovation specialists.

The next steps for WaterWise are to take it from in-field-based canopy sensors to drones or satellites.

Goanna Ag expects its system incorporating WaterWise will be commercially available in time for the 2020 summer cropping season.

 

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