SMART Farming Discussions

November 20, 2019

By Ashley Van Krieken, Director Yarra Ranges Tech School

As part of our development of programs at Yarra Ranges Tech School we work closely with organizational partners to develop the content and structure of these programs. This has particularly been the case for our Smart Farming program led by Greg and Matt from the Tech School.  This program will be the first multi-day program for YRTS and we are eager to ensure that the challenges, technologies and content reflects the real world.

It was with much excitement then that we convened the Yarra Ranges Tech School SMART Farming discussion at the Lilydale Lakeside campus of Box Hill Institute. More than 70 attendees were present including teachers, students, council staff, agriculturalists and scientists to hear a series of short concise presentations.

David Robson from GoannaAg started the session providing an informative and entertaining outline of how IOT is transforming the management of farming.  Slade Beard from EcoThought Farms took the audience through the implementation of Digital Architecture in Farming. After a short break where considerable discussion occurred in addition to consumption of wonderful savoury and sweet treats from Point of View café Lachlan Maher from Connected Community Hackerspace provided an entertaining presentation showing the power of community hackerspaces to come up with innovative ideas for problems.  Highlights included a sauce dispenser #saucebot and a hydroponic vending machine (which now resides at Yarra Ranges Tech School).

Dr Mark Tizard from CSIRO finished the formal presentations enlightening myself and the audience with the concept of Precision Agriculture.  In an entertaining and highly informative presentation Dr Tizard looked at the history selective breeding in animals before moving onto speaking about what is occurring now.  A thought provoking presentation which demystified much of the discussion around DNA manipulation it served as the perfect lead in to a group discussion on the issue of Smart Farming.

I was quite amazed at the level of detail and interest that this topic had generated with the following being key takeaways for me – The scope of Smart Farming is immense and IOT plays a key part in terms of data collection, data analysis and connecting the diverse range of technologies available now and into the future. There is a considerable amount of work and content for schools and students to undertake outside the pure STEM activities and it became apparent that several social, economic and ethical considerations would need to be included in our program.  Finally the message was clear that more discussions should occur and that Yarra Ranges Tech School was in a prime position to continue this work.