Australia: Agtech, Robots, Cotton, and Good People

Australia: Agtech, Robots, Cotton, and Good People

Mauricio Nicocelli Netto and his colleagues from IMAmt got a first-hand look at the Swarmbot 5, which started tests this week all over Australia.

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In the last week of February, me and two colleagues from Brazil’s Instituto Matogrossense do Algodão (IMAmt), a crop research and diffusion company owned by the Mato Grosso Cotton Growers Association, travelled to Australia to meet local companies and seek partnerships in development.

We started in the city of Sydney, where we met with FluroSat, a crop health startup that uses agricultural science, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence to provide information on crop needs. With the use of combined aerial and satellite imagery, the goal of the technology is to provide management zones, disease detection, water stress, nitrogen deficiency, and other information. The company’s agricultural management platform helps Australian producers to better manage their properties.

We met FluroSat founder Anastasia Volkova and her team who explained the work done in different cultures in Australia and the synergy that the company has with the TerrAvion platform. The company has already received investor support and has been growing in recent months.

While in Sydney, we also visited the University of New South Wales where we met with researcher Jay Katupitiya, who has been working on autonomous vehicles since 2013. He showed us several projects including the automation of agricultural machines with different models.

Our final stop in Sydney was the University of Sydney, where we visited the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. The University of Sydney is one of the pioneers in the development of agricultural robots, such as RIPPA and Ladybird for horticulture, SwagBot for livestock, and Digital Farmhand, which is now in its second generation and can be used on small farms. We were greeted by researcher and developer Muhammad Esa Attia, who discussed his latest robotics projects.

Australian robotics pioneer Andrew Bate (left) of SwarmFarm with IMAmt and the Swarmbot 5.

From Sydney we traveled north to the state of Queensland, where we visited the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). There we learned about robotics projects like Agbot II, as well as the university’s work with drones, with professors Clevo Wilson and Luis Mejias Alvarez.

We ended our journey further north in the city of Emerald, which is still in the state of Queensland. We met farmer and entrepreneur Andrew Bate of SwarmFarm. Andrew gave us a hands-on demonstration of the robotics technology that is already being marketed in Australia. We were able to meet his engineering team and we talked about the challenges of Brazilian and Australian agriculture. We also got a first-hand look at Swarmbot 5, which started tests this week all over Australia.

Susan Maas (left) and her team from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation visit with members of its Brazilian counterpart IMAmt.

In the same region we also met local farmers on irrigated cotton farms, as well as Susan Maas and her team from Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC). We learned about all of the great work in research development and extension that the CRDC does locally, which is very similar to the work done by IMAmt in Brazil.

I am a big enthusiast in the area of ag technology. But it truly is great people that are responsible for the success of these companies. I was very impressed by the technological innovation that I saw in Australia, but I was even more impressed and grateful for the hospitality, education, and patience of the Australian agricultural professionals who made our trip very rich in exchange for knowledge.

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