New Precision Agriculture course to meet a growing need

Published 19 July 2011

biomassAustralia’s first Graduate Certificate in Precision Agriculture  program will be offered by the University of New England, commencing in January 2012.

“This study program is the fruit of more than 20 years’ experience within the University’s Precision Agriculture Research Group, which has worked in the development and application of precision agriculture technologies in a variety of industries – including broadacre cropping, horticulture, viticulture, and livestock systems,” said UNE’s Dr Mark Trotter, the coordinator of the new Graduate Certificate (Grad Cert Precision Ag) program.

The industry-informed course involves the completion of four semester-long units. The two core units, “Precision Agriculture” and “Introduction to Geographical Information Systems”, cover  global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and their application; handling spatial data and the practical use of geographic information systems (GIS); the application of remote sensing to agricultural landscapes; soil, vegetation and yield variability and the sensors used to measure it; livestock tracking and pasture management systems; the economics of precision agriculture; issues associated with the adoption of new technologies.

“Students will get the opportunity to apply their skills through hands-on experience with current and emerging precision agriculture technologies such as EM38 soil sensors, GNSS survey equipment, ground-based active optical sensors, airborne optical sensors, livestock tracking technologies, the ‘Pastures from Space’ program, and both farm-specific and generic geographical information systems,” Dr Trotter said.

A pool of elective units (from which students will select and complete two) includes: “Business Skills for the Agricultural Consultant”, “Remote Sensing and Image Analysis”, “Spatial Analysis and Modelling”, “Remote Sensing and Surveying”, and a research project unit with a precision agriculture focus.

“Precision agriculture is a rapidly developing field of research and commercial activity both in the more traditional plant industries and also increasingly in the livestock sector,” Dr Trotter said. “Producers are seeking to increase their production efficiency, and new technologies offer the potential to take advantage of the spatial and temporal variability that occurs across their landscapes and amongst their livestock. This Graduate Certificate program meets a significant need to develop experts in this field; the industry is crying out for people who can assist in the implementation of precision agriculture technologies.”

The Grad Cert Precision Ag course is available for study both on and off campus, and can be completed part-time over one or two years.

For inquiries about the new course phone 1800 818 865 or go to http://www.une.edu.au/future

THE IMAGE displayed here is a biomass map produced by the recently-developed “Raptor” airborne crop sensor during trials of the sensor by UNE’s Precision Agriculture Research Group.