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Duncan Macdonald

Nuffield Australia 2017 Scholarship winner

Duncan Macdonald, from Yolla (near Burnie) in Tasmania, received a 2017 Nuffield Scholarship supported by Bonlac Supply Company and the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Foundation. He investigated new collection and processing options for dairy data – how autonomous farm monitoring and decision making through low cost sensors and smart processing can improve farm efficiency and profitability.

In partnership with his wife and father, Duncan runs two 200-hectare milking properties and a young stock block in the northwest Tasmania.

“I am interested in all forms of technology and their practical application to dairy farming.  I am especially interested in how we integrate all of the information/data we can collect to make practical and timely on farm decisions,” he said.

“I wanted to study the potential for new, low cost sensors such as small unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), smartphones deployed in the paddock, cow collars/sensors, soil moisture, and any others that I come across for collecting valuable data for farmers.

“I also wanted to study and think about how we can better incorporate these data streams and learn from them to develop semi-autonomous data entry and ultimately guided decision making.  A complete farm monitoring system also has positive implications for food security and helping farmers and milk companies document food safety programs.” This strong interest in technology and its potential to improve profitability on farms is evidenced by some examples of work Duncan has undertaken, including:

  • Installation of Wi-Fi network that permits Wi-Fi connectivity to most of the farm area.
  • Development of own record keeping application for smartphones, used in the field.
  • Purchased of a small drone equipped with a NIR camera capable of measuring plant Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI).

Duncan travelled to Africa, New Zealand, Ireland and the USA.

Location: Yolla, Tasmania
Scholarship report: click to view
Returning Scholar presentation: Watch video
Duncan Macdonald was supported by:

Viertel Charitable Foundation logo

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