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'Big farmer' — reaping the fruits of a big data harvest

'Old MacDonald had a farm, I/O, I/O, I/O...'

Could this really be the children's nursery rhyme of the future? If the growth of big data in Australian farming is anything to go by, it could be!

CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, is sowing the seeds of innovation by helping farmers in the country to take advantage of cutting-edge smart-farming technologies enabled by next-generation broadband networks.

In a new report, entitled 'Smart Farming: leveraging the impact of broadband and the digital economy', the agency highlights the potential of big data to help improve agricultural output. From soil fertility to animal health, and feed stocks to livestock movements... the possibilities are endless.

"We're looking at sensor-based technology... devices that can tell you what's happening to the soil, how moist it is, how the pasture's growing, where the livestock are," says Colin Griffith, director of the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation. "That information can be sent to the farmer and they can access that through mobile devices to help make daily operations to the farm more efficient."

"With food demand predicted to increase 50% in the next 20 years, the main challenge facing the agricultural sector is not so much growing 70% more food in 40 years, but making 70% more food available on the plate," explains Griffith. "To tackle this challenge and help farmers make better decisions, we're trialling new broadband-enabled technologies, such as cattle tags to track livestock, as well as a range of sensor networks, which measure water salinity, soil moisture and even the heartbeat of oysters."

Unearth more about the fascinating potential of big data to yield big changes in farming practices in the infographic below...

Infographic courtesy CSIRO. Click for larger version.

- Andrew Purcell

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