Research Program Teams
The Centre for Agricultural Engineering consists of four Research Program Teams (RPTs):
- Irrigation and Water Management
- Farming Systems Innovation
- Energy and Bioresource Recycling
- Robotics, Automation and Machine Vision
Researchers work to identify and align national and global industry needs and opportunities with the University’s considerable research capacity, targeting areas for development through co-investment and partnership, both nationally and internationally.
IRRIGATION AND WATER MANAGEMENT
For 25 years, the centre has been working with industry to develop more sustainable and efficient ways of using water to grow crops and support the environment. Irrigation research is conducted across a wide variety of agricultural industries nationally and internationally.
The centre is a national leader in precision irrigation and water management research. Modernisation and automation of both surface and pressurized irrigation systems is a key focus area, where we work closely with the cotton, sugar, dairy and other industries as well as commercial companies. Benefits achieved include reduced reliance on farm labour for irrigation management, improved crop production, improved irrigation efficiency, reduced pumping energy costs and reduced environmental impact.
Technical support and training is delivered to local industry and international organisations and a key focus is development of decision support tools and knowledge management systems to improve irrigation management.
We are also working internationally to provide small scale farmers with knowledge and skills to adopt new irrigation and water management technologies and approaches to improve their productivity and sustainability.
FARMING SYSTEMS INNOVATION
The research team delivers outcomes by combining agricultural sciences, agricultural inputs and practices, agronomic production databases and precision agriculture technologies to efficiently manage agronomic and livestock production systems. Our researchers are involved in investigating soil and crop nutrient management efficiencies and effects of fertilisers, treated water from the resource sector and controlled traffic farming on soils and catchments.
The team is able to gather on-farm information pertaining to the variation and interaction of site-specific spatial and temporal factors affecting crop and livestock production. Information is then integrated with appropriate data derived from field scouting, remote sensing and other precision agriculture technologies in order to facilitate on-farm decision making. Information is used to prescribe and deliver site and enterprise specific application of agricultural inputs and management practices in agricultural production systems.
ENERGY AND BIORESOURCE RECYCLING
Increasing energy costs are one of the major challenges facing Australian agriculture and a key driver of energy efficiency. Our team is investigating the viability of renewable energy sources and looking at ways to reduce consumption of non-renewable energy on farms and in agricultural industries. Information on optimising irrigation systems performance, energy efficiency, selecting alternative farming systems or methods, best management practices and the benefits of emerging technologies is being developed and outcomes provided to industry.
Biogas produced from organic waste is one of the key areas investigated. The research program team have been involved in a number of projects which assess methane production from a range of agro-industrial wastes. Projects have involved red meat processing, pork, feedlot and waste water utilities, giving the team a well-rounded yet high level of expertise in anaerobic digestion and a good understanding of a range of feedstocks. Current projects in the meat processing industry through industry collaborations are working on developing tools and practices to better manage waste streams and biogas process optimisation. Research is identifying new opportunities for recovery of high value-added products throughout the supply chain to translate the uptake of novel waste management practices across Australia’s red meat processing industry.
ROBOTICS, AUTOMATION AND MACHINE VISION
The team develops advanced robotic sensing technologies to enhance autonomy in crop production, biosecurity and animal welfare on-farm, with aims for on-farm adoption in the commercial farm conditions of today. The team also provides leadership on the integration of sensing systems with agricultural robotics into the future.
Primarily the advanced sensing systems involve machine vision technology, which also incorporates supporting mechanical structures for on-farm installation and deployment, electronic interfacing with controllable outputs like spray nozzles, drafting gates or remote notification in real-time and fusion of multiple digital data sources and decision support systems.