Farming in 2030: Researchers cast the net for the next generation of farmers

Dr Lee Hickey's version of 2030 features robots, drones and intelligent machines as common place on farms, helping to reduce labour costs and chemical use. 

The University of Queensland researcher has crafted a narrative based around "Farmer Tim" in 2030. 

In the story, which Dr Hickey told at an Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering conference, it's June 2030, mid-way through the winter wheat growing season and Tim gets an urgent message. 

One day Tim receives a notification on his iPhone version 26.

His crop management app is warning him of an outbreak of yellow spot, a pretty nasty disease. The monitoring drone has detected the disease in the paddock while Tim was taking a shower. Tim slides through his management options and instructs his sprayer drone to take care of the problem. The drone, like the tractor, knows every inch of the farm and flies straight to the paddock with the disease. But instead of deploying a traditional fungicide, the drone applies to the crop, RNA that is specially designed to silence the gene in the pathogen that is required for producing the spores.

So instead of spending eight hours spraying his crop, Tim goes to the footy with his mates. In his lab, Dr Hickey has developed a process called "speed breeding", in intensive 24 hour lighting and controlled temperatures - a process inspired by how NASA grows food for astronauts in long space missions. 

"A big limitation in developing new varieties can take up to 20 years," Dr Hickey said.

"But in speed breeding we can achieve up to seven generations of wheat per year under constant lighting.

"It's a fantastic tool for selecting for traits and manipulating genes in the right combinations. So we can fast track the variety developing down to five to six years."

Read more here

Dr Lee Hickey and Anika Molesworth discuss the future of farming in Australia and southeast Asia

 
 
Drones in agriculture will soon detect crop diseases, and send alerts to farmers and researchers ( photo by: ABC News-Nadia Daly)
Drones in agriculture will soon detect crop diseases, and send alerts to farmers and researchers ( photo by: ABC News-Nadia Daly)
Farming in 2030: Researchers cast the net for the next generation of farmers
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