Research Impact

USQ Researchers Tackle Australian Agriculture’s Weed Problem

A sprayer using dye to test the accuracy of USQ’s weed maps. (Image: Centre for Agricultural Engineering, USQ.)University of Southern Queensland researchers are using drones to map farms to help form a more targeted, lower-cost and environmentally-friendly approach to eliminating weeds. Large volumes of aerial imagery and drone data being collected by the USQ team are stored and managed on QCIF’s QRIScloud, a cloud computing service for Queensland researchers.

Weeds have a devastating economic impact on Australian agriculture. The federal Department of the Environment and Energy estimates weeds cost Australian farmers $1.5 billion a year in weed control activities and a further $2.5 billion a year in lost agricultural production.

Five researchers within USQ’s Centre for Agricultural Engineering (CAE) began working on the weed mapping project, an example of precision agriculture, in June 2017, with funding from the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The CAE team is using machine vision approaches to identify weeds in fallow fields. Their aim is to develop a commercial system to reduce the use of herbicides when using existing weed-spraying technology. This will be achieved with drone-collected data and using software they have developed to automatically create weed spray maps based on this imagery. These maps will then be uploaded to a spraying device’s digital system so farmers can just target areas infested with weeds instead of the whole field.

Drone-use has resulted in a large amount of aerial imagery being generated for selected farms. This data is processed by a CAE team member to create orthomosaics of test fields. Orthomosaics involve an automated process of creating a mosaic of a number of images into one single, rescaled and georeferenced image that can be measured as a map is, and used as a digital surface model.

The CAE team is using QRIScloud to store the data collection. They are also using Nextcloud, QRIScloud’s research data management service, which provides users with a one-stop shop to access and manipulate data, using whatever device is preferred, be it laptop or desktop computer.

“We use QRIScloud to store all of this data so that it is all in one place, and Nextcloud, so it can quickly be shared with the rest of the team,” said Bruen Smith, a mechatronic engineer working on the project.

“The benefit of using QRIScloud is that we can organise and store a lot of data in one central location and we know that this data is safe. Also, most importantly, the data can be shared amongst the whole team and we know everyone is working with the same data set.”

Read more on our QRIScloud website

This article was first published on the QRIScloud website in September 2018.