Farm systems and modelling

Market need/context

  • Agriculture and dairying are entering a new phase of technological change, including developments in digital technologies and lower cost sensors, robotics and autonomous vehicles. As a result, individual dairy farm businesses will generate increasing amounts of data and information each day. This next phase of technological change poses both challenges and opportunities for dairy farmers and their advisors.
  • There is scope for DA to continue investments in advanced management technologies including partnering with other organisations and industries to leverage the substantial government and commercial funding being spent in this area. There is also scope to increase the utilisation of the tools and models available to address key industry research questions through the use of whole farm modelling. There is also a need to enhance the effectiveness with which the modelling framework operates, build capacity and future proof this capability, and expand the model user base by making models more accessible to consultants and farm advisers.
  • Whole farm systems modelling has proven a highly valuable tool to assess the efficacy of management interventions on-farm. Over a series of projects, the dairy industry has built significant systems analysis capability, capacity and a suite of tools to conduct these analyses. A suite of tools and models are available, from complex biophysical, mechanistic models (e.g. DairyMod, UDDER) to more empirical farm management models (e.g., Farmax Dairy Pro, Dairy Predict etc.), economic and risk analysis (e.g. @Risk,) and industry calculators (e.g. DairyBase, Dairy Greenhouse Gas Abatement Strategies Calculator (DGAS)).

General approach/strategy

  • There are significant external and cross-sector investments in ‘precision agriculture’ which provides an opportunity for DA to leverage off via small-scale strategic funding. Where possible, DA aims to partner with other organisations and industries to leverage the substantial government and commercial funding being spent in this area. There is strong commercial interest and activity in precision agriculture by major technology companies.
  • A Dairy Moving Forward (DMF) Community of Interest for “Precision Dairy” developed a strategy in this area (RD&E Gaps and Investment Priorities) in May 2013. Arising from this process a list was compiled and prioritised for potential gaps in either research, development or extension. This strategy has been endorsed by the DMF Community of Interest and used to guide RD&E investments in this space. DA’s approach to investment in advanced management technologies reflects the current DMF priorities.
  • The strategy is for whole farm modelling to move from DA fully funding specific dairy model (DairyMod) development and maintenance to an open source and distributed development approach, with appropriate version control and assessment of the scientific merit of model developments.  This also enables considerable effort into promotion of the model and new user training to grow the user base and consequently the development of the model.