HAND-HELD optical sensors and sensor-equipped drones able to measure crop health and biomass will be studied by Western Australia Sheep Industry Scholarship winner Ren Bootha.
The Curtin University agribusiness student is taking part in research to help boost the productivity of the WA sheep industry, aided by the scholarship from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
Mr Bootha was awarded the WA Sheep Industry scholarship for an honours project looking at how sensor technologies could be used to estimate the biomass of a crop, prior to, and during grazing. This information will allow a producer to accurately feed budget to maintain or increase their overall productivity.
Part of the research will include the evaluation of innovative technologies including handheld active optical sensors and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UVA) equipped with sensors to measure crop health and estimate biomass. The results of the trial will be available in May 2018.
Department sheep industry development director Bruce Mullan said the scholarship program aimed to build industry capacity and capitalise on growth opportunities was part of the department’s Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) project.
“The scholarships have been designed to support and encourage individuals to pursue further study by addressing key issues for the sheep industry supply chain in WA.
“These include improving reproduction, lamb survival, growth and performance, using technology to monitor sheep health, grazing options and modelling of economic development and market opportunities,” He said.
Mr Bootha said the scholarship provided a fantastic opportunity to gain additional support for his research as well as connecting to those working in the sheep industry.
“I am passionate about productivity, not only for the business but also for people,” he said.
“With my interests in technology and how it can be used to improve on-farm performance, this project with the Facey Group was ideal for me to research options to improve the productivity for sheep producers in WA.”
Mr Bootha’s research is being carried out with Alan Manton and Kelly Pearce from Yealering, in partnership with the Facey Group as part of a larger project funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and the CRC for Spatial Innovation through the Australian Livestock Spatial Innovation project. Other collaborators on the overall project are Precision Agronomics, Agvivo, University of New England and Landgate.
WA sheep industry scholarships are still available to researchers and supervisors from WA universities. More information on how to apply is available on the department’s website agric.wa.gov.au searching for ‘WA sheep industry scholarships’.