There’s a lot of high-tech activity going on at the University of New England’s (UNE) Kirby SMART Farm near Armidale NSW these days but much of the action is invisible to the naked eye.
Talk to UNE Professor David Lamb and you’ll learn that Kirby is run by the University as a working property and used extensively for research and education. The 2,900-hectare farm is a test-bed for new technologies and practices, bringing together researchers across many disciplines with the aim of improving productivity, environmental sustainability and support services for farming communities.
Kirby’s hi-tech Innovation Centre, which sits right in the middle of grazing pasture, is directly connected to AARNet’s high-speed optical fibre network. AARNet connects the Centre to the UNE campus and the AARNet national backbone over multiple 10 Gigabit per second links. Elsewhere on the Farm access to the AARNet network is via telemetry sensor networks with additional access provided by wireless and satellite national broadband network links.
“Access to AARNet is a critical enabler for the increasingly data-intensive research carried out on the Farm, as well as for fostering the kinds of cross-institutional collaborations that drive innovation in agriculture,” said Prof. Lamb
Research at Kirby is focused on developing sustainable, manageable and accessible rural technologies; hence the acronym SMART is used to describe the farm. The goal, says Lamb, is to develop a world-class whole farm ‘landscape laboratory’ national research facility that will also provide a platform for commercial enterprises to test relevant innovations.
With an unprecedented level of external and internal connectivity, the farm is being used to develop new technologies as well as explore and demonstrate the impact of broadband and digital services for the rural sector.
A growing number of university, vocational and high school students studying agriculture and related subjects already use live plant, animal and machine data streams from Kirby in the classroom. Lamb hopes to inspire a new generation of students to pursue careers in precision agriculture through exposure to the cutting edge technologies demonstrated on the farm…
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