Sunday, 09 August 2020 17:06

CSIRO maps grain paddocks from space Featured

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WA grain crops mapped by satellite from space by CSIRO WA grain crops mapped by satellite from space by CSIRO

Scientists at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, have solved a farming challenge using artificial intelligence to identify the boundary of every individual paddock in Australia's grain growing region from space – around 1.7 million of them.

The technology has been developed into a new product called ePaddocks, designed to save time for farmers and others in the agricultural sector when using digital services for farm analytics and insights.

The CSIRO says that currently, farm management software requires users to manually draw paddock boundaries for every service they use, like satellite-assisted fertiliser application or crop growth monitoring - and they may have to update this information every growing season.

“Unlike property boundaries, which are recorded in local council or title records, paddock boundaries aren't historically recorded anywhere,” the CSIRO notes.

“ePaddocks can identify paddock boundaries from season to season but doesn't identify a particular property or landowner, or what paddock belongs to whom.”

CSIRO remote sensing specialist Dr Franz Waldner said ePaddocks was highly accurate, detailed and available at the touch of a button.

"The satellite images we use, although publicly available, are cumbersome to download, store and analyse by the average person," Dr Waldner said.

"So we apply our deep neural network and algorithms to produce the paddock boundaries based on vegetation signatures and land features.

"Our method only needs one satellite image taken at any point in the growing season to distinguish the boundaries. It relies on data driven processes and decisions rather than assumptions about what’s on the ground.

"Paddock boundaries have been highly sought after in the digital agriculture world for a little while now, but we’ve tackled it over the past year or so with new technologies and solved it. Our method will set the standard for similar geo-spatial products," Dr Waldner said.

CSIRO experts in agronomy, satellite imagery, data science, software engineering and innovation announced that they joined forces and developed the product in record time - and say that the ePaddocks technology could also be used in other countries and to improve land use maps and track species richness.

CSIRO says the ePaddocks technology - available to purchase from CSIRO's Ag Climate Data Shop - could also be used in other countries and to improve land use maps and track species richness.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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