'Smart farm' hopes to promote technology and farming

ONLY about 20% of Australians working the land are using any form of technology-based precision farming techniques but a new education facility at a NSW "smart farm" is hoping to break down that barrier for young people learning the ropes, and potentially for mum and dad operators, nationwide.

In what physics and precision agriculture professor David Lamb describes as the only educational farm of its kind worldwide, the project has five communications modes so it can trial which technologies will work in various areas around Australia and generates data from every aspect of its production.

Satellite technology tracks herd migration around paddocks and pasture growth, soil monitors feedback information on moisture and other nutrients while weather stations allow hydrologists can chart water flow and run-off across the land.

Mr Lamb said the data from the University of New England project, near Armidale, could be accessed from anywhere in the world and was being integrated into secondary school learning across Australia.

He said corporate farmers were quickest to integrate technology into their farming techniques but reaching the 187,000 mum and dad farmers would likely involve "hard yards" doorknocking.

Mr Lamb said the Sustainable, Manageable and Assessable Rural Technologies (SMART) farm's new education facility, through a Federal Government tertiary infrastructure grant was another way to educate future farmers about getting the best out of farms and playing a vital role supporting regional communities.

He told the Regional Universities Network conference on the Gold Coast that the new building would hopefully escalate the program as a beacon, a way to make the new technologies tangible to those who can benefit the most.
"We've been using the shearing shed, going out in the paddock, we certainly encourage visitors out there," he said.

"What we have lacked up to date is a proper educational precinct out there on the farm."

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