Nuffield Scholar says remote data for production boosts

Author: Ellen McNamara | Date: 10 May 2016

Ben Boughton used a GRDC sponsored Nuffield Scholarship to study data collection around the world.

Photo: Nuffield Australia

Grain grower and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) sponsored 2014 Nuffield scholar Ben Boughton has had a lifelong passion for technology and agriculture, so it’s unsurprising he was an early adopter of remote sensing and its resulting data on farm.

He said for growers looking for the next big leap to boost production, overcoming any misunderstanding or mistrust of the use of remote sensing on farm is the way forward.

“There is much value for the grains industry in accessing precise data for better paddock management, and I do feel remote sensing is a technology that can and inevitably will add value to our industry,” he said.

“Considering how tight margins in the grain industry can be, and the need to bump up productivity to meet global food demand these tools are invaluable, although they can sometimes be expensive, time consuming and confusing.

“There’s still some way to go, but there are some Australian companies using satellite imagery fully processed and ready to use on farm at an increasingly competitive price, helped by some US & EU government run missions making the raw satellite data.”

Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon without making physical contact with the object, as opposed to on site observations. By using satellite imagery for example, growers get a bird’s eye view of the farm which allows much greater oversight.

Mr Boughton says the capacity for remote sensing to enable growers to “see” plant attributes not discernable to the naked eye makes it technology growers need to be across.

 “It’s not going away, remote sensing innovation is almost vertical and the longer you wait to learn about, the harder it will become,” he said.

“Further research is definitely needed into what data we can collect, how we can use it, and how we can improve spatial accuracy, as well as improving the workflow between manufacturer, remote sensing specialist, agronomist and farmer.

“But what we can already do is analyse and build information, use it for things like detecting barnyard grass in fallow or generating variable rate prescription maps by layering images of one area, which is a really powerful tool in the paddock.”

Mr Boughton’s research is funded by the GRDC through one of its Nuffield Scholarships. His 2014 research program looked at the use of Unmaned Aerial Vehicles or drones for use in data capture on farm, and involved travel around the world, meeting researchers and commercial proponents of the technology.

Growers in Queensland and New South Wales can now apply for a GRDC-funded 2017 Nuffield Scholarship which provides a $30,000 bursary to successful applicants to study a topic relevant to their business and industry.

It incorporates a Contemporary Scholars Conference, Global Focus Program and individual study program encompassing 16 weeks over two years with flexibility provided.

The GRDC is sponsoring three scholarships for grain growers this year, and applications close June 30. For more information, follow this link.

Contact Details

For Interviews

Ben Boughton
0428 548 688


Ellen McNamara, Cox Inall Communications
0429 897 129

GRDC Project Code NUF00010

Region North