Students from Glasshouse Christian College, based at Beerwah, are using the very latest in agricultural technologies to give local farmers a taste of the future of Queensland farming.
The school’s Head of Agriculture Jade King explains how the AgriTech project, using state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies and drones, is a win:win situation for both the students and local fruit and vegetable growers.
The project involved years 10 and 11 agricultural science students working with local farmers, using very advanced imaging technologies via drones, satellites and land-based instruments, to give detailed assessment of farming lands, including soil condition, water management issues and crop health.
The aim of the project was to prepare students for a future where technology and science, including robotics, advanced computing and unmanned aerial vehicles, would become common place in modern agriculture.
Ms King said we want to encourage their curiosity so they can see the place technology can play in modern agriculture and in that way entice them to look to science, technology, engineering and maths as a future career path.
“Many of our kids are from farming backgrounds, so the skills and ideas they gain from this project we hope feeds an appetite for the way in which science and technology can improve our lives.
“We’ve been out to five local farms, working with macadamia, custard apple, pineapple, strawberry and ginger producers. Out on the farms, the students get the chance to work with drone operators and remote-sensing experts, see the technologies in operation, how they work and why they are so important,” Ms King said.
The students use three different remote-sensing technologies, giving them really detailed profiles of the properties. With the data that is collected, the students then have to analyse that information back in the classroom.
The children have to identify where crops might be under stress, try and find out why, and then come up with management options that farmers could consider as possible solutions with the assistance of an agronomist and research scientists.
As part of the project, they present their findings to the farmers and farming industry bodies, like Growcom and the Australian Macadamia Society.
“Ultimately the aim of the project is to establish a credible reputation to operate as consultants within the Sunshine Coast region to provide quality technologically advanced agricultural mapping and agronomic services. We hope to make this a perpetual plan, whereby each year, Year 10 and 11 agricultural science students will learn the imaging processes with drones and then work in the community as school-based consultants for local agricultural industry,” Ms King said.
It was a collaborative exercise so both the students and the growers could benefit.
Tony Gilbert from Queensland Drones worked with students to undertake the drone work for Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) surveys with a Phantom 3 Drone and specialised NDVI camera.
Joseph O’Connor from Precision Agriculture assisted with the Electromagnetic Surveying.
The Sunshine Coast Council and Bob Howard from Geological Exploration Services helped students undertake Light Detection and Radar (LiDAR) surveys.
Local Beerwah strawberry and ginger grower John Allen said he found the project a huge learning experience.
“It has given me a lot to think about. It’s certainly an excellent management tool, which I’d like to do more with. I’ll definitely continue to work with the school, because I can see the benefits of this technology,” Mr Allen said.