Australia’s CSIRO unveils AI platform to improve off-farm decision making

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and rural technology start-up Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) have launched a new platform that uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud-based geospatial technology to deliver farm data and analytics to farmers.

Called the Rural Intelligence Platform, it is the first of its kind that can assess and monitor rural land anywhere in Australia, drawing on information from trusted data sources on productivity, water access, yield, land use, crop type, rainfall, drought impact and more.

The platform uses satellite imagery to track paddocks and their performance over time. Information from Australia’s digital soil map is incorporated and climate information interpreted to show drought, frost, heat stress for livestock and other risks.

Michael Robertson, CSIRO’s agriculture and food deputy director, noted that the platform will help the agribusiness community calculate the risks associated with certain investments or management decisions.

According to DAS estimates, A$125bn worth of agricultural economic decisions are made in Australia each year based on unreliable or incomplete data.

“The platform provides accurate information that can help to identify vulnerability or the most promising options for investment that will build resilience,” Robertson said. “This is a whole new model for rural analytics which will make it easier to quantify risk and prepare for challenges like climate volatility and change.”

Since it was established in partnership with CSIRO in 2017, Melbourne-based DAS has secured a total of A$4.25m in funding from founding equity and R&D partner CSIRO, Australian ASX-listed agribusiness Ruralco and private investors.

DAS is already working closely with a number of companies to pilot the Rural Intelligence Platform, with some of the strongest uptake coming from the property, financial services and insurance sectors.

“Digital agriculture is far more than just on-farm technology, it’s also about improving off-farm decision making and this platform lays the foundation for Australia to become a leader in new generation agricultural analytics,” DAS CEO Anthony Willmott said.

The market for digital agriculture in the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to be worth A$10bn to A$25bn billion by 2028, fueled by pressure to meet challenges from population growth and climate change.

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