Category Archives: Australia

A Solar Robot Farm Data Collector Out of Australia

It’s called the Lady Bird.

The Australian Centre for Field Robotics has built this intelligent robot for the vegetable industry.

In the first video, construction and testing of the vehicle is shown on a commercial vegetable farm operation near Cowra, New South Wales. The vehicle can drive autonomously up and down rows of a vegetable farm, gathering data. The Ladybird is a solar electric powered vehicle, and during a three day trip, the testers didn’t need to charge the vehicle once.

The second short video shows the types of Lady Bird data being collected.

Can’t wait until this Lady can weed the vegetables !!! Or – – – drive me down the highway.

Cape Barren Geese

This is an interesting heritage goose breed.

Photo Flickr CC by Charles Strebor. Cape Barren Geese at Churchill Island Heritage Farm in Australia.

Cape Barren goose is a greyish Australian goose, Cereopsis novaehollandiae, having a black bill with a greenish cere

[Named after Cape Barren Island in the Bass Strait]

Pie Graphs of Australia’s Groundwater Use Vs. Economic Return

A very interesting report has been released regarding the increasingly important role that groundwater is playing in Australia. The National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) of Australia commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to do the study.

Because Australia is beginning to outgrow its surface water resources, and because climate change may cause more erratic rainfall, it is expected that Australia’s groundwater will be increasingly relied upon for agriculture, mineral, and energy production in the future.

Since the competition for resources usually comes down to a combination of policy and economics, the following pie graphs help to demonstrate why agriculture will be the sector that gets squeezed out as the demand for groundwater becomes more competitive.

The first graph, below, shows that agriculture (irrigation and livestock) now uses sixty percent (or more) of Australia’s groundwater.

This second graph shows that agriculture’s use of groundwater yields only fourteen percent (4.7 billion dollars) of the revenue generated by groundwater usage in Australia, whereas mining and energy yields over seventy percent of the revenue.

Though Australia is unique in its conditions, resources, and geographic location, this example might apply to other nations, as well. As long as agricultural income provides less return per unit of groundwater as compared to competing industries and uses, it is the sector which will always lose out, unless government policies prevent that from happening.

This process is unfolding here in Northern Colorado, near where I live, as a newly created demand for water has emerged from fracking. This new industry is now using water that was previously used for agricultural purposes in an already water scarce region. At the same time, snow-melt runoff dates related to a changing climate are challenging Colorado’s agricultural producers.

Even those in the energy industry here in Northern Colorado are suggesting that agricultural water needs to be protected through policy. The groundwater itself, needs to be protected by policy, too, so it isn’t depleted for unjustifiable short term gains, as has already happened in some places.

On the other hand, as long as we have overproduction of commodity crops, in the end, water might be the deciding factor in determining what is essential production and what is not. While that is quite a few years into the future, in water scarce regions it is already playing out.


3 Picks: Production Costs, Syrian Crisis, Australian Conundrum

Sydney Fish Market. Photo by Nathan Cooprider @Flickr CC.

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Net U.S. farm income in 2013 will be $120.6 billion, up 6 percent from 2012: “Total farm production expenses will increase 0.3 percent from the USDA’s February estimate to $354.2 billion, the highest level on record, in nominal and inflation-adjusted dollars. The agency said it expects rent, labor and feed prices to increase the most among farm expenses this year. Among farmer costs, feed, the biggest spending component, is projected to increase 3.7 percent from last year to $61.3 billion. Fertilizers will cost $28.2 billion this year, down 1 percent from last year, while seeds are up 4.9 percent, to $21.3 billion. ‘It’s important to note that while income numbers are staying up at nice levels, production costs are continuing to climb and climb,’ Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, said in a phone interview.”

2) Food Sellers are unwilling to sell to Syria: “Syria’s efforts to step up food purchases are being thwarted by sellers unwilling to risk delays in payments from frozen foreign bank accounts. Civil war and a deepening humanitarian crisis have prompted the government of President Bashar Assad to issue a series of tenders for sugar, wheat, flour and rice in recent weeks. The country needs to import around 2 million tons of wheat this year as civil war has sliced its crop to a near-30 year low at 1.5 million tons, less than half the pre-conflict average. State buyers said payment for purchases via tenders would be made from the government’s frozen accounts abroad with waivers obtained from countries that have imposed financial sanctions. But international traders are showing little enthusiasm for the proposed payment system. ‘This is too much of a big risk. The process of getting funds from the frozen accounts is too slow and complex to enable a rapid offer in a grain tender,’ one European trader told Reuters.”

3) Julian Cribb Gives Australians a Verbal Lashing About their food situation: “‘When I started reporting in agricultural journalism there were 19,000 dairy farmers in Australia, today there are less than 3000 and they’re still leaving, so how many are we going to have left in 20 years time?’ He says this decline, combined with the supermarkets increasing reliance on imported foods, is making Australia’s food supply increasingly insecure. ‘Between 1/4 and a 1/3 of our fresh fruits and vegetables are coming from overseas now and a lot of them are coming from China. It’s a crazy situation, the Chinese have got a food problem of their own but they’re exporting their food to Australia.'”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Interesting Note: A very curious thing happened that I’d like to share. My Aug. 21st post, The Editors of Scientific American Take a Stance Against GMO Food Labeling, was one of the most popular ever, here on little b.p.a. Only recently have I added the social media buttons below posts, and that one quickly shot up to 257 facebooks, 13 Google 1+, 47 tweets, and 14 LinkedIns. I’m not sure when it happened, but Google News has removed it from their news index. This reduces its status and searchability, and I’d like to know why. One could speculate, but I’d rather have someone who knows way more than I do about this subject to weigh in. (Note that there is a difference between a Web search and a Google News search. The post obviously is still available by web search.)