A glimpse into farms of the future

A first-of-its-kind ag-tech facility will be established in Melbourne’s’ southeast with the vision to innovate new smart farming techniques including automated harvesting and driverless vehicles in response to the growing challenges faced by the agriculture sector.

A partnership between Monash University and Bosch Australia to collaborate on future-oriented smart agriculture will enable the establishment of the ag-tech launch pad facility and accompanying development centre that will occupy one hectare at Bosch’s headquarters in Clayton.  

The facility will house a prototypical ‘smart farm’ and will enable collaborative industry partnerships and research. The space will include cropping trials and early-stage prototype development, enabling the use of artificial intelligence, automation, robotics and advanced sensor technology.

The development comes at a crucial time for Australia with efforts to boost agricultural and food productivity in what is to become the biggest industrial sector by 2050, overtaking minerals and mining. It will add to the thriving billion dollar investment hub known as the Clayton Innovation Precinct.

Monash Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Enterprise), Ken Sloan said the facility would leverage the University’s close connections to industry and multidisciplinary capabilities across Engineering, IT and Science, to drive technological advances in agriculture.

“This Monash-Bosch collaboration represents our shared capabilities in agriculture technology and creates the opportunity to lead future advancement of the ag-tech sector - the next big growth industry for Australia,” Mr. Sloan said.

“With rising temperatures and rapid population growth requiring food production to double by mid-century - it’s clear we need major innovations in how we eat and farm. We need inventions to increase yields, nutrient quality and sustainability of our food production to cope with the world demand and climate.

“This ag-tech launch-pad could prove instrumental in driving long-term collaborative efforts to address global food security and significantly advance farming practices to safeguard against rising demands.”

The facility will become a key component of food and agricultural innovation at Monash which already includes the Food Innovation Centre, the Food Incubator, and the Australia-China Dairy Manufacturing Centre.

Bosch, a leading global supplier of technology and services, has increasingly focused on agricultural solutions. Most recently, Bosch has engaged in a research collaboration with global enterprise, Bayer, to safeguard yields by sustainably clearing weeds using “smart spraying” technology.  

In Australia, Bosch is a lead investor and technology partner of The Yield, an Australian ag-tech company with a vision to use real-time microclimate data to transform agriculture and food production practices.  

Bosch Australia has also partnered with SwarmFarm, another Australian ag-tech start-up, to provide engineering and manufacturing services for its autonomous agricultural robotic platform.

President of Bosch Australia, Gavin Smith, said of the collaboration, “Increasingly we see that there is no better place than Australia for ag-tech innovation. The establishment of the launch pad by Monash at our facility in Clayton will present a myriad of opportunities for collaboration.”

Bosch and Monash have had a presence in Clayton since the 1950s, both being founded to support the emerging manufacturing industry of the time.