Australia’s move to digital grain assessment gathers pace

Grain Central, November 20, 2023

Moves are afoot to modernise Australia’s grain-assessment processes. Photo: GrainCorp

TWO leading Australian grain bodies are taking steps towards modernising assessment of grain, with Grain Trade Australia today announcing it was looking at developing a digital standard for export and domestic markets.

In a parallel move, the Grains Research and Development Corporation on October 10 issued a request for proposal to accelerate the objective testing of wheat at receival sites.

Standards with framework required

In its statement released today, GTA said the Australian grain industry was moving ahead with a plan to capture the benefits and emerging opportunities created by digital image recognition technology.

This technology involves the use of digital images to assess grain quality attributes and defects in samples of grain.

“GTA is proposing an industry standard and supporting framework to enable the digital assessment and transformation of quality and phytosanitary components of the Australian grain testing and certification processes for domestic and export grain,” GTA CEO Pat O’Shannassy said.

“The standard will enable both government and commercial companies to adopt a uniform system for assessing, approving and maintaining emerging digital imagery grain-assessment technology.”

“Having consistency across the various grain supply chains is important for all stakeholders and the facilitation of trade.”

“Advancements in the accuracy of digital image recognition technology have enormous potential to improve the speed, accuracy and consistency of grain quality testing.”

The next steps are to draft the Standard and supporting framework and then operate a pilot program to test the process.

GTA will lead discussions with key industry specialists during drafting of the Standard and in advance of the pilot program.

GRDC looking for tech

Existing processes for some grain-quality tests relied on visual examination or other testing methods and have remained the same for many years.

GTA said the challenge for adoption of new technology lies in developing a standard and agreed process to ensure the consistency and accuracy of new equipment before it comes on the market.

In a move which has potential to bolster confidence in new systems, GRDC’s enabling technologies segment is looking for new automated testing procedures for wheat.

“Current procedures for wheat testing at receival sites are manual, slow, and largely subjective due the visual nature of testing and the variability inherent with the Falling Number test,” the GRDC post relating to the request for proposal says.

“That can, at times, lead to unnecessary downgrades for growers.”

Falling numbers test measure the degree of sprouting in wheat, and results can lead to loads of grain going over pricing cliff faces.

“New automated testing procedures could increase the objectivity, repeatability, and speed of test results,” GRDC said.

“With additional development, testing and certification, these technologies could potentially be deployed cost-effectively on-farm allowing growers to blend on-farm with the confidence that their test results will mirror that recorded at receival sites.”

GTA said researchers and technology providers were keen for the industry to adopt digital image recognition technology, but no standard and implementation framework to support its acceptance and uptake across the grain industry was currently available.

“In the absence of an agreed process across industry for deployment, we can view the new technology like the introduction of the motor car in a country where there are no road rules, no mechanics, and it can’t be driven because the roads are only suitable for horses,” Mr O’Shannassy said.

Sources: GTA, GRDC


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