A Queensland agtech startup has earned a $100,000 grant to speed up the process of getting its ‘drone-to-tractor’ precision weed targeting system to market.
Goondiwindi-based startup InFarm has received Ignite Ideas funding under the Queensland government’s $420 million Advance Queensland initiative, which is designed to develop new products and create jobs.
Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch announced the grant today, saying the weed targeting system was good for farming and the environment, and required little outlay from farmers because it uses existing spraying machinery.
“InFarm’s drone-to-tractor weeding system significantly reduces the use of herbicides on fallow paddocks, which is good for the land and for human health, and saves money. It will be the first of its kind once commercialised,” Ms Enoch said.
“This is another great example of a regional Queensland business leading the way in agricultural technology and a business model that will contribute to the growth of existing rural businesses, open the door to new jobs, and retain agricultural jobs in local towns.”
InFarm sends drones to collect images from fallow paddocks, applies a unique weed identifying algorithm to the data, and generates a file pinpointing the exact location of the weeds.
Using a USB, the farmer uploads the file into their tractor, essentially turning their standard variable rate sprayer into a spot sprayer.
Ms Enoch said the startup will use the $100,000 grant to increase the drones’ capabilities.
“InFarm can currently fly and process 60 hectares of fallow land a day, but they need to increase this to 500 hectares a day to go commercial and meet farmers’ weed spraying requirements,” she said.
InFarm Director Jerome Leray said the startup has been developing and testing the prototype mainly around Goondiwindi in south-west Queensland, but wheat farmers in Western Australia were also lining up.
He said they currently had interest to fly over and process data for more than 100,000 hectares of fallow land.
“Our aim is to develop partnerships with agronomists, local machinery dealers and established agricultural service businesses. They will fly our drones and obtain the data, thereby increasing the services they offer clients, then bring the drone data back to town for processing, which eliminates any on-farm internet connectivity issues,” Mr Leray said.
“Fallow weeds are a problem for farmers globally, so our software-based solution, which has been proven on big, rugged farms in south-west Queensland, has export potential.
“This Ignite Ideas Fund grant will help our business to commercialise our product and get it out there to everyone.”
He said fallow weeds were one of the biggest and most costly problems in broadacre farming.
“When a paddock is left fallow weeds emerge, absorbing soil moisture and nutrients needed for next season’s crop – and this can have an adverse effect on yields.”
Mr Leray said InFarm’s software defines the zones containing weeds and eliminates the current practice of spraying the entire paddock.
“By targeting spraying zones, InFarm can save wheat, cotton and other broadacre crop farmers up to 80 per cent on herbicide bills,” he said.
The government has so far supported more than 200 Queensland businesses through $26.5 million of Ignite Ideas funding over three rounds of the program’s merit-based assessment process – driving more than 1000 new jobs.
Source: Qld Government. For more information about the program and its recipients, visit the Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund webpage.