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New SuaniTAFE Digital Farmhand Propels Tech Agriculture

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A new Digital Farmhand called ‘Dragon’ funded by the Andrews Labor Government has been added to the SuniTAFE SMART Farm stable to help explore tech-based agriculture.

The cutting-edge Digital Farmhand is a durable, low-cost and autonomous ‘drone on wheels’ and will enhance agricultural productivity by assisting smallholder row and tree crop farmers to better manage yields and crop health, including wine and table grapes, fruit, nuts and olives.

The pilot program at SuniTAFE SMART Farm was made possible by a $300,000 grant from the Labor Government and is just one of four units in Victoria.

The Digital Farmhand was developed by The University of Sydney’s robotics development unit Agerris, which aims to make a commercially viable fleet and roll-out the technology in developing nations.

The state-of-the-art SuniTAFE SMART Farm program was made possible with assistance from the Victorian Government and has paved the way for training and research into digital farming. Students collaborate with researchers and industry and undertake practical training in areas like tech-based agriculture and experimental crops.

The SMART Farm has already been generating international interest, including for its trial of dwarf almond and olive plantings in partnership with multinational nursery Agromillora.

Since 2015, the Labor Government has invested to rebuild TAFE, refurbish campuses, launch Free TAFE for Priority Courses and support disadvantaged students into training and jobs.

In the Victorian Budget 2020/21, we invested a record $1 billion to make sure the state has the training and skills system it needs to emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic.

“This project at SuniTAFE SMART Farm is a great example of how training organisations and industry can work together on innovation – and to provide students with the skills they need before entering the workforce,” Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney said.

“SuniTAFE SMART Farm training model has set the scene for innovation and education in the agricultural industry right here in Victoria – and around the world,”Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp said.

“This pilot program will drive the future of farming not just in Victoria but around the world – and it’s exciting that SuniTAFE is at the forefront of that innovation,” SuniTAFE Chief Executive Officer Geoff Dea said.

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