A research project dedicated to helping farmers ‘get connected’, and another that has provided valuable insights into water usage in the Warren-Donnelly catchment in south-west Western Australia gained deserved recognition as recipients of a Food Agility Excellence Award. The award ceremony was held at the Gulbali Stargrazing Gala dinner, the flagship event at the annual Digital Agrifood Summit. Award recipients are selected by a panel of judges from within Food Agility CRC and its Board of Directors. The three categories, and the respective recipients, are:
Recipient: Farm-wide WiFi
Awarded to the team behind Farm-wide WiFi, a collaborative research project between Food Agility, Zetifi, University of Technology Sydney, and Charles Sturt University. This project developed bespoke technology to transform tractors and trucks into roving WiFi devices with a range of up to five kilometres.
Dan Winson, CEO of Zetifi, spoke of the lasting impact this project will have for his business, and the lives of farmers around the world.
“Through this project we have been able to introduce innovative connectivity solutions to the market,” said Mr Winson. “Antennas have been a relatively neglected area of commercial innovation. However, in a world where our phones and devices increasingly depend on wireless connectivity, even in remote areas, it is crucial that they evolve to meet the increasing demands of our connected world.
“Our research has not only enhanced antenna performance while maintaining a convenient low-profile form factor, but it has also introduced novel optimisation capabilities that enable seamless switching between connections.”
Mr Winson paid tribute to the collaborative effort involving a mix of perspectives, expertise, and resources from UTS, Zetifi, and CSU, saying they were instrumental to the project's success. “Our approach was truly cooperative. As a startup, we approach everything with a sharp focus on the commercial potential and alignment with our target customers. By bringing this perspective to our meetings, we were able to pivot when necessary and zero in on the solutions that best suited the market, to make sure that the ideas worked not only in the lab but also on a tractor,” he added.
Food Agility’s chief scientist and deputy CEO, Professor David Lamb, said the achievements of this project could only have been realised through a live and trusted working relationship between researchers and innovators. “All parties benefit, particularly the end users- those out on our farms who struggle with reliable broadband connectivity over every inch of their landscapes,” said Prof Lamb.
Recipient: On Farm Water Demand
Awarded to the team behind On-Farm Water Demand, a collaborative research project between Food Agility, Curtin University, Southern Forests Food Council, and Swan Systems. This project provides reliable, independent data on water demand in the Warren-Donnelly catchment in south-west Western Australia.
With 30 participating farms covering the avocado, apple, wine grape, stone fruit, and truffle farm businesses, it is being delivered in three stages water flow sensors & online dashboard, scaling up, and broader benefits.
Research lead, Dr Julia Easton, said the collaboration between the project partners and the local farm businesses led to the success of this project. “We co-designed the project to deliver outcomes for the farm businesses involved the project as well as industry-wide benefits. With three years of water use data for agrifood production gathered we are poised to scale up to catchment level modelling,” said Dr Easton.
Prof Lamb added; “This project exemplifies the handshake between research, technology innovation, commercial farming and regulation. The success of this project in actively engaging so many partners could only have happened through meaningful consultation, co-design and ongoing communication,” he said.
Recipient: Dr Jing (Roy)Yang
Awarded to the Food Agility PhD student that has submitted and graduated in the last 12-months. The recipient of this award, Dr Jing (Roy) Yang, thoroughly impressed the judges with his contribution to the project Predicting Green Bean Harvest and Yield, regularly chairing the quarterly showcase, showing leadership qualities, and proving his eye for detail. Due to conflicting committments, Roy was unable to accept the award in-person at the Digital Agrifood Summit.
A student at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr Yang said the experience engaging in research with Food Agility has been fun and rewarding. “I was initially involved as a research student and contributed to developing predictive models for green bean harvest. That experience led to my current role as a postdoctoral researcher in a three-year project undertaken with nine partner organisations. In this project, we collaborate to deliver a planner system powered by accurate and reliable machine learning models, designed to support farmer in making informed decisions regarding forage, grazing livestock, and farm sustainability,” explained Dr Yang.
“These projects have provided me unique opportunities to work with individuals spanning multiple academic disciplines and industry sectors. And it is inspiring to see how my skills and knowledge can contribute to solving real-world challenges in agrifood – a domain where I know the efforts will make a meaningful difference in the world,” he added.
Prof Lamb added; "Food Agility Scholars not only strive to complete their respective post-graduate research degrees but also are encouraged to play an active, sometimes pivotal role in larger projects. In some cases, like with Roy, the student significantly influences not only the project but also industry and end-users in terms of the impact of their work. Congratulations, Roy."