How WA State Government support helped with SWAN Systems’ development.
In 2017, SWAN Systems was fortunate to be awarded a grant under the Premier’s Agriculture and Aquaculture Entrepreneurship Program . This program, funded by Royalties for Regions and administered by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, aims to support WA farmers and innovators in agriculture and aquaculture to travel locally and overseas to expand their knowledge, and to further develop their innovation. Funding from this program enabled our founders to travel to the east coast of Australia, and to the USA, to explore options to commercialise SWAN Systems. In addition, funds were also available to run a trial of SWAN Systems on a newly established table grape vineyard in Hamel, south of Perth.
To see what our founders had to say about their experience with the Premier’s Agriculture and Aquaculture Entrepreneurship Program, you can watch the summary video below.
Exploring commercialisation options: Sugarcane and cotton
The sugar and cotton industries make extensive use of irrigation to grow their crops. Both traditionally use flood irrigation, which provides some challenges to the SWAN development team for quantifying water application. There is currently no sugarcane being grown in Western Australia. Cotton has been re-introduced to the Kimberley region in the north of WA, however the industry in WA is still young. In order to learn more about how SWAN Systems could be used by growers in these industries, Ivor and Rod travelled to the east coast of Australia, where the majority of Australia’s cotton and sugarcane crops are grown, to talk to growers and industry representatives.
Using SWAN Systems to manage water and nutrient use in Sugarcane and Cotton
There are around 4,000 sugarcane farms in Australia, covering approximately 380,000 hectares. After seeing a SWAN Systems demonstration, there was interest from the sugar industry in using SWAN, especially from a corporate governance perspective. The ability of SWAN to manage and report on both water and nutrient use was of particular interest to them. Another outcome from talking with growers and industry representatives in Bundaberg (a key growing region on the QLD coast), is that SWAN Systems is now in discussions (with Jamie Zapp from Netafim) to run a trial on a demonstration site there.
The cotton industry in Australia is spread over four states – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and, recently, Western Australia. There are over 1,200 farms in operation, with nearly 600,000 hectares of cotton planted.
When in NSW, Ivor and Rod spoke with cotton irrigation specialists to gain a better understanding of how the crop is managed and the challenges that they may face in getting SWAN optimised for use by the cotton industry. Water use is metered at the farm level, and for SWAN to be of use to the cotton industry, it will be necessary to develop methodology to allow subdivision of whole farm flow volume data to each cotton field within the farm. The SWAN Systems development team are currently investigating ways that this can be achieved, such as looking at valve/gate open times and flow rates.
World Agritech Summit, San Francisco
Tim visited the USA in March this year to attend the World Agritech summit in San Francisco. This event, held every year in San Francisco (and also in London) aims to connect innovators, investors and businesses in food and farming systems. The summit brings together over 500 international agribusiness leaders. For SWAN Systems, this was a valuable opportunity to develop connections that would help accelerate and promote our technology. SWAN’s unique ability to collect and process data across many agricultural hardware and environmental sensing systems and types was of particular interest to attendees of the summit, including major hardware suppliers and potential users.
Austrade Trade and Investment Delegation
Following the Summit, SWAN Systems was chosen to travel in a delegation with Austrade to Chicago to meet venture capital firms and major agricultural operations. As a member of the Austrade delegation, Tim attended a number of events including an information session focused on doing business in the US, and site visits to large US agribusinesses in both San Francisco and Chicago. Since returning to Australia, Tim has remained in touch with many of the contacts he made in the USA.
Fruitico Innovation Trial
We were also able to tap into the Premier’s Agriculture and Aquaculture Entrepreneurship Program to trial SWAN Systems on a newly established table grape vineyard at Hamel, south of Perth, Western Australia. SWAN Systems was used to ensure optimal water application to the vines, preventing them from becoming stressed, either by the soil drying out or from being waterlogged. Management was not always able to be on site but was able to monitor soil moisture status and, importantly, access predictions for future soil moisture status provided by SWAN’s modelling.
Using SWAN Systems to increase yield, quality and profit margins
At the end of the trial, the vines were less than two years old. For vines of this age, the first harvest is not expected to yield more than 5 kg/vine. Actual yields vastly exceeded these expectations, with vines producing an average of 18 kg each of high quality fruit, more than 95% of which was graded as first class. Based on the success of this trial, the management team at Fruitico are now preparing to roll out SWAN Systems to all their vineyards, here in WA, and also in Mildura, Victoria.
Showing that use of SWAN Systems helped to optimise water use over the vineyard was a key result. However, also as a direct result of this trial, SWAN Systems will be modifying the reporting features of SWAN Systems to include the extent of drainage over the whole block.
More detail about this project will be presented in our case study “Fruitico Grapes – Using SWAN Systems to Optimise Yield”, available soon for download from the SWAN Systems website.
Are you ready to start making data-backed decisions around water and nutrient allocation? Discover how the SWAN difference can help your business meet your growth and efficiency goals – contact us or book a free demo today.