Teching-out the Farm Industry: Tasmanian Farms Lead the Way

Animal farming and agriculture always seemed pretty straightforward to me: plant a seed, water it and watch it grow; raise a farm animal, nurture him or her and encourage mating. I’m sure there is so much more to agriculture and raising livestock than I can even begin to grasp, but farming methods and techniques have seemingly eluded the otherwise all-encompassing push towards a technological era.

In Tasmania, an Isle belonging to the commonwealth of Australia, farms are just beginning to take advantage of modern technology thanks to a collaborative initiative between the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Government, IBM, and the Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). This program uses relatively simple technology, such as bio-tags and electronic collars, to monitor organism’s heart rate and other physiological conditions. The data collected then gets crunched into data system where experts can now potentially create a “digital view” of an economy. Right now most of the work being done involves cows and mollusks. Certain cows in northern Tasmania are now fitted with electronic collars in an effort to detect when these selected animals are most ready to be milked or inseminated (when they are in “heat”). The involved mollusks of Tasmania are now being monitored by probes which measure heart rate. These probes are further complimented by nearby devices that measure certain variables of the water in relation to the mollusk’s heart rate, such as salinity, temperature and the amount of photo-plankton. The goal with this particular project is to discover how mollusks react to a variety of environmental cues.

This Tasmanian initiative is still in its early stages, but this could be the first step to completely revolutionizing the farm industry. If we get really good at monitoring and interpreting this kind of data, our farms will flourish and perhaps even our technology sector might thrive. What’s even more exciting: this might be the beginning of the “farm to front door” movement. If surveillance programs such as Tasmania’s start picking up speed, consumers might be able to see how their products were handled, how their food was produced, and what impact their food had on the environment.

I can’t get enough of this! To check out what else the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is up to, follow the link below:
http://www.utas.edu.au/tia/centres/dairy-centre/current-projects/current-projects

-Alexander Santos

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