Robots and drones: back to the future for GRDC Updates

Author: Sarah Jeffrey | Date: 15 Jul 2014

Robots in the paddock and drones in the air – a different future in grain production is just one of the fascinating topics being discussed at the upcoming Northern Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Updates.

Caption: Dr Tristan Perez, professor in robotics at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and leader of the DAFF agricultural robotics programme at QUT.

The Research Updates provide the latest research on issues critical to central west grain growers and their advisers, with topics including weeds, robotics, nematodes, grain storage and nutrition.

The series begins in Wellington at the Civic Hall on Monday 28 July followed by the Spring Ridge Country Club on Tuesday 29 July. From there the Updates move to Warialda Golf Club on Wednesday 30 July and culminate at Burren Junction on Thursday 31 July at the Junction City Hotel.

Robots in the paddock and drones in the air – a different future will be a hot topic at the Wellington and Spring Ridge Updates.

Dr Tristan Perez is a professor in robotics at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and leader of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) agricultural robotics programme at QUT and will provide growers and advisers with information on robotics in grain production, including what’s ready now and where development is heading.

“The world’s population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and Australia faces a real challenge to ensure its participation in food production is both competitive and sustainable.

 “Robotic technology is about to transform the way we produce food. Swarms of small highly autonomous robots will find application in weed and crop management, leading to improved operations, reduced soil compaction, and working more hours and shifts safely,” said Dr Perez.

Caption: Robotic technology is set to revolutionise the way we produce food.

Dr Perez will look at the key areas where research progress needs to be made for the successful uptake of this technology as well as provide an overview of work being done at QUT in these areas including that done collaboration with Swarm Farm Robotics.

“It’s an exciting field that growers and their advisers will certainly be more exposed to in the coming years,” he said.

Nutrition is a big theme throughout the Updates, particularly late season management in cereals and improving productivity through better nutritional decision making.

Richard Daniel, Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Grower Alliance will speak on profitability of the different methods, timings and formulations for applying nitrogen in wheat for yield and protein gain. He will also provide information on timing and products and tips for optimising the return on dollars spent - something of interest to every grower.

At the Spring Ridge, Warialda and Burren Junction Updates, Mr Daniel will also co-present with Kirsty Owen (DAFF) on nematodes, cereal variety and rotational crop impacts on yield and nematode numbers.

Mike Bell of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) will address the Warialda and Burren Junction Updates on the economics of deep phosphorus (P) placement over time, specifically the deep application of large amounts of P and the effects on yield over a four to five year period for wheat, chickpeas and sorghum.

Update coordinator John Cameron, ICAN Rural, said the upcoming series held something for everyone - but particularly those interested in farming into the future.

“In addition to the presentation on robots and drones, Brad Donald an agronomist with B & W Rural will speak at the Wellington and Spring Ridge Updates on drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including what's being developed, what's available now and what's possible in the future.

“Brad recently spent a fortnight with researchers at Kansas State University this year and can report both on their local experiences as well as with developments in the US, which will be fascinating to hear,” said Mr Cameron.

Other topics include grazing strategies and timing of stock removal from dual purpose cereals and oilseeds - what's the risk and reward for over / under grazing and taking stock off too early or too late?

Grain storage is also always of interest to growers and this topic will be presented by Phillip Burrill at the Warialda Update.

For more information, agendas or registration forms visit or or call John Cameron or Erica McKay on 02 9482 4930.

Contact Details 

For Interviews

John Cameron, ICAN Rural
02 9482 4930


Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0418 152 859

Region North