Set over 1,800ha at Charles Sturt University's campus in Wagga Wagga, NSW, the Global Digital Farm (GDF) is Australia’s first fully automated commercial farm. With six major research projects and over $9m in committed investment, the GDF is well on its way to demonstrating the future of farming.
Food Agility’s Chief Scientist, Prof. David Lamb, said the GDF has become a ‘landcape laboratory’ in its first year of existence. “We are only at the beginning of realising what the GDF can achieve,” said Prof Lamb. “It is being built to become a national asset; a place of ideation, validation, and inspiration for the next generation of agrifood innovation. A place that is accessible to all Australian farmers and a place where important national and international partnerships are formed.”
Such partnerships include leading Australian telco, Telstra, which is using the GDF to road test its new integrated agtech data platform that aims to securely manage and integrate data from multiple technologies across any given farm. Meanwhile established agtech start-ups like Zetifi and Farmbot have, through Food Agility supported projects, put their research through its paces in a real-world setting.
It is this coupling of commercial knowledge with the world-leading research capabilities of Charles Sturt that allows the industry to have greater confidence in research outcomes, according to Food Agility CEO, Richard Norton.
“The fact that our researchers can take their work from the lab and trial it on a real-life, commercial farm is ground-breaking,” said Mr Norton. “The Global Digital Farm allows us to demonstrate the credibility, scalability, sustainability, and profitability of our next generation of agricultural technology. It proves to Australian farmers that these solutions are designed to suit our unique geographical context.”
Looking ahead, Mr Norton said the GDF will become the industry benchmark for gathering, managing, and utilising farm data. “The data requirements for exporting to our most lucrative international markets, and the need to report our sustainability achievements are constantly growing. Australian farmers need real-world trial sites like the GDF to stress-test the utility and security of new data systems.”
Attracting the Next Generation
The latest Delivering Ag2030 report, produced by the federal government, estimates that fully implementing digital agriculture could boost production value by A$20.3bn per year. It identifies five key areas of focus where collective action is needed: leadership, skills, data and governance, opportunities and value proposition, and connectivity and infrastructure. The Global Digital Farm aims to deliver on all of them.
“The Global Digital Farm will be an exemplar of how technology and digitalisation can guide data driven decision making and add value right across the supply chain,” said GDF Director, Jonathon Medway. “Our portfolio of projects tackles many of the major challenges facing the industry in relation to data, connectivity, productivity and sustainability.
“In addition to this, we are becoming an education destination for the next generation of agrifood industry leaders. When high school students see that there are careers in tech, data, science, business, engineering, sustainability, creative industries and more on smart farms the excitement is palpable. The brightest minds in the nation are knocking on our farm gate.”
Get Your Boots Dirty
Early bird tickets to the Digital Agrifood Summit officially go on sale on 30 May 2023. Purchasing a ticket provides you with the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Global Digital Farm.
Mr Medway said he is looking forward to welcoming delegates to Wagga Wagga in October, to highlight the progress made on the farm over the last 12-months.
“Last year visitors were exposed to an emerging digital farm concept. This year, we have established crop, livestock and sustainability agtech systems across the property, plus development of new facilities including autonomous irrigation and lamb feedlot units under way. The rate of change is astronomical. I encourage you to see it for yourselves.”
Find out more about the projects transforming the Global Digital Farm: