Bringing gaming to farming: augmented reality in agriculture

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In what’s believed will be a world first in agriculture, researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, will use popular gaming platforms, sensor technologies and next-generation data interaction techniques to help prawn farmers make decisions in a bid to boost productivity.

Water conditions in prawn ponds can quickly change from healthy to threatening in a matter of hours, but current methods for monitoring water quality are labour intensive and cause significant delays between the measurements and being able to see important trends in the data.

Speaking atD61+ LIVEin Sydney, Australia’s premier science, technology and innovation event, CSIRO Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Mingze Xi said they have developed technology that will give farmers near real-time understanding of key water quality parameters like dissolved oxygen and pH levels.

“This is done using state-of-the-art wearable and hands-free technologies that they use while they’re walking around and managing the ponds,” Dr Xi said.

“Prawn farmers tell us that they don’t actually farm prawns, they farm water quality.

“This could give them the information they need to better manage animal health and feed inputs, for example, and even share the visuals in real time with managers in the office or external experts for fast input.”

The technology draws on CSIRO’s domain expertise in agriculture and the capabilities of its data and digital specialist arm, Data61. It was developed by CSIRO’sDigiscapeFuture Science Platform and uses the power of Data61’s Senaps platform, which helps businesses connect data in a range of different formats, integrate complex analytics and turn it into useful intelligence that can make a difference.

Pacific Reef Fisheries Pty Ltd, a prawn farm operator in Ayr near Townsville in northern Queensland, is working with CSIRO to provide real world conditions for testing the system.

Environmental Manager Kristian Mulholland said augmented reality in the aquaculture industry had the potential to transform productivity in the industry.

“Augmented reality technology could be a huge game changer for our industry to make water quality monitoring so much quicker and easier, all in real time, and bringing a visual aspect of data display to efficiently make more accurate management decisions,” he said.

“We could gain huge productivity improvements using this technology, and we’re incredibly excited to be a part of its development.”

CSIRO has chosen prawn farming as the first agricultural industry to test this technology, with a view to expanding into other sectors shortly.

“We can see this technology becoming a normal part of farm operations no matter what you farm, as all types of farming become more reliant on gathering and understanding data from sensor technologies,” Dr Xi said.

In addition to augmented reality technology, cutting edge projects across artificial intelligence, privacy, security and blockchain, will be on show at CSIRO’sD61+ LIVEin Sydney on 2 and 3 October 2019.