University of New England uses data science to find agrifood solutions

The University of New England's inaugural trainhack will be held aboard the XPT train between Sydney and Armidale.
The University of New England's inaugural trainhack will be held aboard the XPT train between Sydney and Armidale.

How agribusiness can adapt and remain profitable in times of drought is of pressing concern for the industry throughout Australia. Despite this, the industry has set itself the goal of doubling its turnover to $100 billion a year by 2030.

The University of New England's SMART Region Incubator and Food Agility Co-operative Research Centre are looking to meet the problem head on, holding the inaugural Agrifood Trainhack and sweetening the deal with a $20,000 prize pool.

The Trainhack event scheduled for the end of November will pull together scientists, students and entrepreneurs to interrogate data sets to identify solutions for the challenges Australian agribusinesses face.

Teams of four will travel from Sydney to Armidale on Friday, November 29 by train, when they will work on their chosen problem, hacking data and using the time to meet with mentors and industry experts. They will have the opportunity to use a broad range of agricultural data sets including weather, production, environmental and consumer information.

On the Saturday, participants will visit UNE's working SMART Farm which utilises digital technologies to enhance its production methods. The teams will then present their solutions - developed during the Trainhack - to a panel of judges who will award the best idea with the $20,000 prize money.

UNE SMART Region Incubator director Dr Lou Conway hopes the novel event will generate fresh perspectives on old challenges.

"The Agrifood Trainhack will be moving through the farming landscapes and rural communities we hope to influence by drawing out new interpretations of old data. It's the perfect place to bring together talented people seeking fresh ways of looking at our agrifood environment."

Dr Lou Conway

The challenges set include:

  • How do I minimise the use of water to maximise crop and livestock production and increase the bottom line?
  • How can I automatically predict crop yield and livestock carrying capacity on a paddock by paddock basis?
  • How can I predict crop or pasture failure so I can take pre-emptive action?

Since its launch in 2017, the UNE's SMART Region Incubator has supported more than 40 start-ups across a variety of sectors including health and agriculture through the New England region of NSW.

The Food Agility Co-operative Research Centre is a Commonwealth-funded initiative using digital technology to help Australia's agrifood industry be more competitive and sustainable.

Join the Trainhack

Jump on board for the inaugural UNE SMART Farm Agrifood Trainhack. Join as an individual or bring your own team. A commitment fee of $200 per individual registration covers your travel, accommodation and meals for two days.

To find out more about the Agrifood Trainhack: https://smartri.com.au/trainhack/

  • Australian Community Media, publisher of this website, is a media partner in the UNE Agrifood Trainhack.
This story $20,000 prize for agrifood innovators first appeared on Future Focus.