High-tech solution for some woolly farming issues

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A proposal for low-cost wireless systems that will help farmers to keep track of sheep has won a major prize at the University of Adelaide's Tech eChallenge for 2017.

The winning team, called Wireless Farm, has earned $20,000 in the Tech eChallenge Wool Innovation stream, sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation Limited (AWI).

Wireless Farm was one of three major winners from the event, with SHOUTback! and Scaleseeker both sharing in the other main Tech eChallenge prize, sponsored by Microsoft – a trip to Microsoft headquarters in Seattle valued at $20,000. SHOUTback! proposes a digital voucher system that can be used by the hospitality industry, while Scaleseeker's proposal is based around a mobile role-playing game set in a fantasy world.

The Wool Innovation stream exists as part of the wider Tech eChallenge, which itself is part of the nation's premier entrepreneurial competition, the University of Adelaide-based Australian eChallenge.

The Wool Innovation stream challenged participants to use technology to create new solutions for the wool industry, such as automating routine operations to improve productivity and profitability for Australian woolgrowers.

Twelve teams took up this task, with the winning team, Wireless Farm, comprised of students and staff from Charles Sturt University (CSU) and TAFE NSW.

"On most farms there are lots of things that need checking on a regular basis: where are the sheep, are the sheep okay, do they have water, food? Most farmers complete these tasks by spending huge amounts of time driving around and manually confirming everything is as it should be. This wastes significant time and energy," says Wireless Farm team leader Dan Winson.

"The root cause of this problem is that information is currently locked to physical locations. The result is substantial negative impacts on operational efficiency, with flow on effects on quality, the environment, job satisfaction, fatigue, quality of life and mental health.

"Our solution: a farmer enters sensor locations and other details into our app, then we ship custom-designed wireless sensors and preconfigured commercial off-the-shelf wireless infrastructure to them, which they can install."

He says a custom-built wireless sensor for water level sensing has already been developed and is presently undergoing early field trials.

A video demonstrating a wireless camera in operation on a property can be found here: https://vimeo.com/222138445

"Australian Wool Innovation is delighted to have been part of this innovative approach to attracting the best young minds in the 'Tech World' towards thinking about wool," says Stuart McCullough, CEO of AWI.

Professor Noel Lindsay, Pro Vice-Chancellor Entrepreneurship at the University of Adelaide, and Director of the University's highly successful Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC), says both the Wool Innovation stream and the main Tech eChallenge were highly competitive.

"The quality of entries this year has been outstanding," Professor Lindsay says.

"We've been excited to see participants from all over Australia compete to find innovative solutions to a range of business problems, including those for our primary producers, whose work is so critical to the Australian economy.

"The continual growth of the University of Adelaide’s Australian eChallenge, and its expansion into new streams and industries, solidifies it as the premier innovation challenge in Australia," Professor Lindsay says.

Wool Innovation stream runners-up each received prizes of $10,000. These were:

Woven Optics from University of Adelaide, who presented a 3D printed phone clip-on device concept that will enable woolgrowers to measure wool quality characteristics in the paddock in real time

BreedElite from University of Adelaide, who presented a software/hardware drafting prototype that adds data functionality and analysis to inform real-time decision making

Team Agraph, representing CSU, who presented an intelligent data analysis system that will give farmers easy access to real-time customised information on demand via their smart phone or tablet to help decision making; and

Farwatch, representing University of Adelaide, who presented a remote-controlled camera sensor device incorporating infrared photo capability to monitor water sources.

More information about Tech eChallenge can be found at: www.adelaide.edu.au/echallenge


Contact Details

Professor Noel Lindsay
Email: noel.lindsay@adelaide.edu.au
Website: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/noel.lindsay
Pro Vice-Chancellor Entrepreneurship;
Dean of Business - Adelaide Business School
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 7422
Mobile: +61 (0)428 842 024

Ms Zrinka Tokic
Email: zrinka.tokic@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.ecic.adelaide.edu.au
eChallenge Program Manager
Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC)
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 7422
Mobile: +61 (0)401 976 207

Mr David Ellis
Email: david.ellis@adelaide.edu.au
Website: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/newsroom/
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762