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Landcare Australia
by Published on April 11, 2019

The partnership between USQ and John Deere is enabling research to help lift farm productivity and develop the next generation of agricultural technologies. Photo: USQ Photography.

Spray weed technology developed by University of Southern Queensland (USQ) researchers will soon be in use on John Deere machinery. The technology, which is able to distinguish between weeds and crops in sugarcane, horticulture and cotton crops, will be installed on high clearance sprayer booms after USQ successfully negotiated a licensing and development agreement with Deere & Company.

This global partnership is enabling USQ research to help lift farm productivity and develop the next generation of agricultural technologies including machine automation and control such as automated weed management systems and driverless tractors.

Weeds are one of the most significant environmental threats to Australia, costing up to $4 billion each year and apart from savings associated with reducing the volume of herbicide applied, selective spraying systems will reduce the risk of herbicide resistance.

Research out of USQ’S Centre for Agricultural Engineering has culminated in an agtech solution that can distinguish between the composition characteristics of crops and weeds at speeds of up to 20 kilometres per hour in different lighting conditions.

USQ deputy vice-chancellor research and innovation Professor Mark Harvey said the research partnership was not only benefitting Australian communities but also international industries, illustrating the global reach and relevance of USQ’s research efforts in agricultural engineering.

“Our researchers are continually looking to improve the profitability, environmental sustainability and socio-economic wellbeing of our rural industries as high tech farming becomes an everyday tool for primary producers. This partnership also highlights the importance that international organisations are giving to the development of future technologies that will transform agricultural industries over the years to come.”

The technology, originally funded through a combination of industry research projects between Sugar Research Australia, Cotton Research Development Corporation, Horticulture Innovation Australia and USQ, has been included as part of a global commercialisation strategy by John Deere.

John Deere Australia managing director Peter Wanckel said the research partnership between USQ and John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Advanced Engineering Group will benefit growers by reducing agricultural production costs.

“We are delighted to work alongside USQ’s researchers,” he said. “Together we can provide additional tools for agriculture to feed, fuel and clothe the increasing global population.”

The technology demonstrates that discrimination of weed species in real-world on-farm conditions is achievable using combined colour and depth image analysis. It will save growers costs on herbicides while minimising run off of chemicals and also give them the potential to recover weed-infested crops that would have previously been ploughed out. It will be used on high clearance sprayer booms in the United States, with retro fit options for Australian growers to use on smaller machines.

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