A comprehensive guide to smart farming and using sensors on farm has been developed by Applied Horticultural Research as part of an ongoing project to increase the uptake of Smart Farming technologies. It is now available free online.


There are many reasons why a vegetable grower might want to integrate smart farming technology onto their farm. Improving nutrient use efficiency can reduce leaching and lower the cost of fertiliser inputs. Monitoring soil moisture can improve water use efficiency. Labour costs can be reduced by automating data collection and using cameras to monitor for crop growth and disease.


However, integrating this sort of technology with existing farm management practices can seem like an insurmountable task. Applied Horticultural Research (AHR), as part of the project Digital remote monitoring to improve horticultures environmental performance, are hoping to make the task more manageable with their new Smart Farming How To Guide.


The guide is available now on AHR’s website and covers everything a vegetable grower needs to know to get started installing and using soil moisture sensors, growth models, remote field cameras, and many more types of smart farming equipment.


“The purpose of the guide is to provide growers with an overview of the smart farming technologies that are commercially available now” said AHR’s Liam Southam-Rogers, who led the team that developed it. “We wanted to provide basic guidance on what each sensor does, how to use the data, and how much effort is required to install and maintain each of them.”


For many of Australia’s vegetable growing regions environmental monitoring requirements and recording keeping are becoming a normal part of daily life. However, these requirements can add a significant record keeping and labour requirement. The introduction of smart farming technology onto a vegetable farm, can help automate the collection of these records and help growers meet BMP or certification requirements.


Is smart farming right for your property?

The term “Smart Farming” covers an extraordinarily large set of tools and practices. This can add to the daunting nature of figuring out where to begin. The How To Guide makes figuring this out a more manageable task with its Key Considerations chapter. This section contains a list of easy to work through questions designed to help growers determine what smart farming practices and what kinds of sensors will provide their business the most benefit. The guide also points to external references for those looking to dig deeper into any of the topics covered.


Shorter How To Guides will soon be available in print versions, with each focusing on a different aspect of smart farming. An updated version of the document will be developed in 2023 with an additional section discussing new methods for digital reporting for environmental management programs.


Those wishing to learn more about the project, or smart farming in general, can do so by visiting the project website (ahr.com.au/smart-farming) or by contact Liam Southam-Rogers at liam@ahr.com.au.


The Smart Farming How To guide has been developed as part of the project Digital remote monitoring to improve horticulture’s environmental performance (ST19024) funded through the Australian Government’s Landcare Smart Farming Partnerships program with contributions from the Vegetable, Nursery and Banana levies and being delivered through Hort Innovation.