Courses upskilling growers and revealing roadblocks
Well attended training courses are helping growers to understand the potential gains they can make by adopting precision agriculture (PA) technology, and are also highlighting barriers to its adoption.
PA is the precise application of practices to improve farm productivity and profitability, and typically uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to define parts of a paddock for different treatments.
For two years, the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) has run PA training courses as part of a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) project that aims to impart industry people with basic technology skills that will foster ongoing adoption of PA.
SEPWA project officer Alice Butler said more than 400 growers, consultants and researchers had taken part in the ‘Do it Yourself PA’ training courses, held throughout the grainbelt.
“The one-day courses provide people with basic mapping skills and knowledge of PA data types,” she said.
“Participants generally leave the day with a more positive view of PA and awareness of simple steps they can take in their road to PA adoption.”
Surveys conducted during the training sessions revealed that participants’ existing use of PA technology was quite low.
“Of those surveyed in 2014-15, 62 per cent said they had not started implementing PA technologies and 19 per cent had implemented some technologies but were unsure of the next steps,” Ms Butler said.
“More than 80 per cent were not actively using PA technologies in their businesses.”
Ms Butler said computer literacy was often a key factor in participants’ learning rates.
“In addition to this, we see a number of barriers to adoption that are acting as a bottleneck to further PA technology adoption, including a lack of PA support, internet connection issues, and a shortage of free time,” she said.
“PA technology is highly reliant on internet connection, so overall industry adoption is being held back by data connection speeds and volumes.”
GRDC western regional grower services manager Roger States said the PA training courses had proved very valuable to growers and other representatives from the WA grains industry, and had been extremely well received.
“The GRDC looks forward to working with SEPWA to continue and develop these courses into the future,” he said.
Those who would like to have a Do it Yourself PA workshop in their area, and who have a group of 10-15 interested people, are invited to contact SEPWA project officer Nigel Metz.
Information about PA is also available in the GRDC reference guide: Applying PA – A reference guide for the modern practitioner.
Alice Butler, SEPWA
08 9083 1165, 0404 277 337
0447 631 115
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code SEP00012