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What value can precision ag tools bring to your business?

Phil Honey, President of the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia and Luke Dawson, GRDC Grower Relations Manager- West working to connect the dots to increase grower PA tool adoption.
Photo: Dr Sue Knights

For growers to adopt precision ag tools, a clear value proposition is required and to address this, workshops are being delivered across Western Australia by the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia.

Although Australian growers have a reputation for being innovative, the adoption of precision ag technology has been perplexingly ad hoc.

President of the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA) Phil Honey says there is a need to demystify precision ag to build capacity and confidence in the use of the technologies.

“But underpinning this capacity building is the foundation of clearly articulating the value proposition of the technology,” Mr Honey says.

Some precision ag technologies provide a financial gain to the user, such as variable rate technology for fertiliser application. Others provide utility such as autosteer.

Individuals interact with technology differently and therefore any training support for technology adoption needs to address reasons for adopting the technology together with emotional and contextual concerns.

Artificial Intelligence is a cornerstone of Precision Agriculture (PA) technologies and can even be used to identify some of the broad areas in which precision agriculture provides benefit.

By way of illustration, a list of five reasons for precision agriculture tool adoption, generated by Chatbot GPT, is provided in Table 1. These cover financial benefit and increased utility, whilst sustainability benefits (when identified) would have flow on benefits for grower health and well-being.

Table 1: Five reasons to adopt Precision Agriculture (PA) Tools according to Chat GPT

Increased Efficiency

PA tools can help growers to optimise their use of resources such as water, fertilisers and pesticides reducing waste and increasing efficiency. This can lead to cost savings for growers and also help to reduce environmental impacts.

Enhanced Crop Yields

PA tools can help growers monitor their crops more closely, identifying problems early and responding quickly to optimise yield. This can result in higher crop yields and better- quality products.

Data-Driven Decision Making

PA tools generate a wealth of data that can be used to inform decision making. Growers can use this data to identify trends, track changes and make informed decisions about crop management practices

Improved Sustainability

PA tools can help growers to adopt more sustainable farming practices, reducing environmental impacts and promoting long-term sustainability. This can include things like reducing chemicals, conserving water and improving soil health

Competitive AdvantageBy adopting PA tools, growers can gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Consumers are increasingly interested in sustainability and transparency in food production and growers who demonstrate a commitment to these values may be better positioned to succeed in the market

Source: Chat GPT

Attempting to translate these generic principles into real outcomes remains the work of groups such as SPAA who has provided independent, timely and relevant information complemented with training workshops, expos and conferences to many members of Australia’s agricultural sectors since 2002.

With support from GRDC, SPAA is deploying a suite of training workshops which commenced in 2020. GRDC’s goal for this training is to assist growers in maximising on-farm productivity and environmental efficiencies and work towards building economic resilience within their farming systems.

The emphasis has been on developing a range of grower competencies and skills to underpin adoption of technologies that fit grower value propositions.

“To do this we have gone out with surveys to potential workshop participants to understand their needs, and then co-designed the workshops. Post workshop evaluation has helped us really unpick what growers are learning and putting into action. The first suite of GRDC-supported workshops has heavily influenced subsequent workshops.”

Hands-on Precision Ag Training

The Hands-on Precision Ag Training, HoPAT, supported by GRDC, commenced in 2020 with the aim to provide introductory precision agriculture training that will impart technology skills to growers in a ‘hands-on’ manner. The information provided was intended to bespecific to and driven by issues raised by growers in each region through an initial scoping phase –based on a Needs Analysis survey.

Specific to these issues, it aimed to showcase mobile device integration technologies and low cost, simple PA methods already in use by growers and advisers. The project was developed and delivered by a consortium of leading groups with significant expertise in the application of PA in an Australian. The content of the workshops was specifically designed for growers and advisors. SPAA was the lead with support from Birchip Cropping Group, PinionAdvisory, the Grower Group Alliance, FarmLink and Coutts J&R.

Through the project, 27 five-hour hands-on training sessions, nine per region, were delivered by March 2021 with follow up programs delivered by April 2022. Three participant surveys were undertaken throughout the project, collecting a total of 551 responses. The efficacy of the workshops was evaluated by Coutts J&R.

“The workshops were successful in prompting respondents to take actions relating to PA – the most common actions were to source expert help and discuss opportunities with suppliers, consultants or clients and better use data already available,” Mr Honey says.

Asked what more they would need to able to implement Precision Ag (even more) effectively on their farms, many respondents felt they still needed to improve their knowledge and skills, with the need for expert assistance and additional training often noted.

“The three most common barriers identified that are limiting respondents’ implementation of precision agriculture on their farms from the surveys were cost – 63 per cent – time and effort – 57% per cent – and knowledge – 51% per cent,” Mr Honey says.

“The workshops significantly built attendee confidence in using PA technologies and it was important to maintain this momentum.”

“To build on these workshops SPAA has identified the opportunity to provide further training to support growers’ fertiliser decision making, particularly with escalating fertiliser costs.”

Precision fertiliser decisions in a tight economic climate

Variable rate technology is a fundamental building block of many PA techniques, so starting with a good grounding in this technology can really expedite PA adoption.

This aspect of training was endorsed by HoPAT participants.

To build on training delivered through the HoPAT suite, SPAA will deliver two workshops per state on variable rate technology, also supported by GRDC.

“These workshops will assist growers to better manage input prices, maximise on-farm productivity and environmental efficiencies and build economic resilience within their farming systems in high input-cost seasons.”

The WA workshops are scheduled for June this year and will be coordinated by SPAA and delivered by local grower groups.

Take home reference materials will include an updated version of the highly successful joint GRDC/SPAA 2012 publication, PA in Practice II. Participants will also receive a complimentary three-month membership to SPAA which will include an issue of the magazine ‘Precision Ag News’.

Additional to the face-to-face workshops, a virtual national event will be scheduled later in 2023, where questions will be able to be posted in advance and the event will be recorded.

Participants will learn how to implement and optimise PA variable rate tools, their potential pitfalls, and be informed about what they should be asking suppliers, agronomists, and consultants. User case studies with tips and hints will be shared at the workshops.

Dates and locations of the WA workshops together with a call for registrations will be announced via a GRDC media release.


Various Precision Ag resources are available from the SPAA website and also the GRDC website:

More information: SPAA website,

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