Advances in Digital Agriculture

September 25th, 2020

Floreat, WA – 8 August 2019

The WA Chapter of CSIRO Alumni convened their annual mid-year meeting at the Floreat Park site auditorium on 8 August 2019. Four invited speakers presented to an audience of around 80 including present and past staff of CSIRO together with staff of various universities, government agencies and the agriculture industry.

Advances in satellite observations and monitoring for agriculture – Peter Caccetta, CSIRO Data61, Perth. Email:  

Peter discussed the use of the latest advances in remote sensing for broad acre mapping in order to assess and monitor crop types, distributions and yields. The large number of satellites, the increased frequency of overpasses and the use of radar to penetrate cloud cover has resulted in clearer, more-localised images and the opportunity for real-time analysis of changes in vegetation and land use. These data are used in logistic planning, forecasting, and public communication.

New advances in crop modelling – information delivery and modelling vast landscapes – Roger Lawes, CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Perth

Roger addressed the challenges involved in converting research outcomes into practical tools for the wider agricultural community. Crop models such as those based on the Australian Production SIMulator (APSIM) have been adapted with computer learning to enable near real-time monitoring of potential yields based farm-specific data and delivered through mobile phones and similar readily available and robust technology.

Translating weather and climate data into actionable insights for agriculture – Patrick Mitchell, CSIRO Climate Smart Agriculture, Hobart. Email:

Patrick noted the need to provide timely and useful climate information and forecasts to the agricultural industry. This requires providing localized weather and climate forecasts appropriate to farm-system models in different sectors, to assist in management, both for growers and agribusiness in general.

Paying for technology that delivers value – why end users in Agriculture are a tough audience! – Simon Foley, Agworld, Perth. Email:

Simon brought an industry perspective to the meeting, emphasizing the pitfalls associated with the introduction of new technology, e.g., precision agriculture. Over-enthusiastic promotion of new ideas can lead to disillusionment and business failure. Two of the speakers spoke of the hype that accompanied the initial introduction of digital agriculture, the disillusion that followed the initial hype, but agreed that realism was now entering the market and that steady progress was now the likely future scenario.

Simon chaired a short Q&A session and emphasised the need for care in “selling” digital agriculture. Some discussion centred around the point that it was necessary to engage end-users in defining problems and providing outputs that satisfied their requirements in order to achieve practical implementation of research findings. Lively discussions continued over refreshment following the meeting.

The seminar was convened and Chaired by Neil Turner CSIRO alumnus and Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Agriculture, University of Western Australia. The theme of the meeting received the enthusiastic support of Michael Robertson, Deputy Director, CSIRO Agriculture and Food. The speakers all were appreciative of the opportunity to share their research with colleagues and industry and the audience was very positive about the level at which the speakers reported their research and the combination of subjects discussed. CSIRO Alumni are thanked for supporting travel to Perth for Patrick Mitchell, and for the post meeting refreshments.