New tech helps Australian banana farmers protect Great Barrier Reef

Farming in Australia is one of the biggest contributors to poor water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. It threatens corals and other marine life, but precision agriculture tools are helping the industry reduce its environmental footprint. Farmacist developed a prototype banana yield mapping system that collects data about banana growth rates and helps farmers identify where they need fertilizers most – and where they don’t.

This means that a new tool that helps banana farmers track the growth of their crops is reducing the need for fertilizers, preventing harmful chemicals from running off the land and out to the Reef. Farmers put bags around banana bunches when they first form on the tree to protect them from damage. A grower with the banana yield mapping system can place a tag with a unique ID number inside the bag. The system locates the tag via GPS and records the time and date.

When the banana bunches are harvested and brought to the packing shed, a tag reader generates a report for each one with the time and date the bunch was bagged and its weight when packed. This data is incredibly useful for farmers – it can be used to map their yield, manage their workforce and plan their harvesting.

Most importantly for the environment, it also allows farmers to design what’s called a nutrient management plan, so they can identify the trees with slower growth rates and only apply fertilizer to those that need it. This prevents over-application and the polluting of local waterways with an excess of nutrients and other pollutants.


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