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Soils and Weeds Solutions Field Day

Around 30 graziers and producers from the Cooktown area attended attend the Soils and Weed Solutions Field Day which took place at Rivernook Farm on February 29.

The day featured presentations from weed management innovator and design engineer Alex Olson, and soil health expert David Hall.

The event was an initiative of the Endeavour River Productivity Network, a peer to peer producer group formed as part of Cape York NRM's Enhanced Extension in Reef Catchments project.

Enhanced Extension Coordinator Oliver McConnachie said the Field Day was developed in response to farmers’ needs.

‘Bringing producers and graziers together provides a great opportunity for them to hear about new or improved practices from each other, and from specialists. People learn best from each other, so this project is all about making that happen and bringing in experts to share their knowledge with the group, to spark learning, discussion and ultimately, practice change,' he said.

‘The Field Day was a great opportunity for producers to get together, socialise and hear from some of the best in the business including soil health expert David Hall and AutoWeed engineer Alex Olsen who has developed an innovative, cost effective, automated solution to problem weeds on farms.’

David, an agronomist and soil health expert who has worked in agriculture for 30 years said his work was all about working closely with farmers to develop localised solutions.’

‘I work closely with farmers and growers to develop Soil and Nutrient Management Plans to help them achieve better results, and am working on practical and meaningful soil health tests so they have a clear source of information about the state of their soils,’ he explained.

David discussed soil and plant nutrition, deficiencies, how to improve soil health, soil biology and plant disease tolerances during his presentation. He also conducted a soil test demonstration, and made plans to visit local properties to discuss their soil health needs.

Alex Olsen holds a doctorate in Engineering from JCU where he developed deep learning algorithms to detect weeds using image shape, colour and texture. In 2019, at the completion of the PhD, he had developed a prototype robotic spot-sprayer that was demonstrated to achieve a significant reduction in herbicide usage on Queensland cattle stations.

This research led to the start-up agricultural technology company AutoWeed which is now developing this technology to be robust, user friendly and retro-fitted onto existing spray booms for application in both crop and pasture.

Alex and the AutoWeed team recently demonstrated their prototype ATV spot-spraying system on Sowthistle in Wheat at WeedSmart Week in Emerald in 2019. They are also working with the Malanda Beef Group aiming their new technology at Navua Sedge in pasture paddocks on the Tablelands.

‘AutoWeed's deep learning technology detects individual weeds within crop or pasture and allows precise per plant control of weeds,’ Alex explained.

‘It was great to attend the Field Day and have the opportunity to discuss how this technology can save farmers money and time by putting herbicide only where it’s needed.

This initiative is funded by the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries with partner organisations Cape York NRM ,Terrain NRM, and Cape York Weeds and Ferals Inc.