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Media profile. Ben Boughton. 2014 Scholarship winner

Media profile. Ben Boughton. 2014 Scholarship winner

Ben Boughton, from Moree in New South Wales, has been awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship, supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. He received the award at the organisationʼs prestigious National Conference dinner last night (Thursday) at Crown Perth. Ben will research the potential of Unmanned Aerial/Ground Vehicles (UAV/UGV) for the grains industry.

With his wife, Ben works in his familyʼs business, Gilroy Farms, which is a dryland cropping enterprise producing wheat, barley, chickpeas and sorghum. Cropping a total of 2000 hectares, Ben is involved in management decisions, including agronomy and investment, and day-to-day operations.

Ben believes while there is much value for the grains industry in accessing precise data for better paddock management, collecting this data is expensive, time consuming and often confusing. He says Unmanned Aerial and Ground Vehicles offer huge potential in all agricultural enterprises, but particularly in grains.

“These systems could allow farmers to monitor crops at a level of detail and timing that is not yet accessible through traditional satellite or piloted aerial photography. This data could be used in applications such as weed and disease monitoring, water movement and vegetation mapping, facilitating variable rate fertiliser application and yield forecasting,” Ben explains.

Ben hopes to visit the USA, Europe and Brazil to conduct his research.

“There is much that needs to be investigated including platform choice such as multi-rotor, fixed-wing or rovers. Iʼd also like to research sensors, operation requirements, data processing and management as well as legal implications,” Ben concluded.

GRDC senior Manager Operations & Farm Practice Peter Morrison said GRDC was pleased to be supporting the Nuffield Scholarship program again this year as a way of helping to build capacity in the grains industry.

“This particular study project aligns with one of GRDCʼs priority research and development areas to explore ways that unmanned aerial and ground vehicle technology can help growers monitor crops and collect vital data to inform decisions during the cropping cycle,” he said.

“This technology obviously offers the potential for real innovation but the challenge is to harness this tool in a way that offers growers cost effective and practical adoption options within current and future regulatory frameworks. We look forward to working with Ben in relation to his examination of these issues and will use his findings to inform ongoing work in this area,” said Mr Morrison.

Nuffield Australia is an organisation providing opportunities to Australian farmers to travel overseas on an agricultural research scholarship. It is a 16-week program consisting of both group and individual travel. In March 2014 we will have one group travelling through Canada, United States (California and Washington DC), Mexico, Europe, Brazil and New Zealand, while a second group will tour South Africa, Kenya, Eastern Europe, Europe and USA.

Ben is available for interviews to talk about his planned study.
bboughton@gmail.com  Mobile: 0428 548 688

A high-resolution photo of Ben is available for download online in the 2014 Nuffield Scholar gallery

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