An engineering researcher from The University of Western Australia has won an Australian Government science and innovation award for young people in agriculture to develop an intelligent sensor which will help detect water stress in grapevines in real time.
The revolutionary technology will have broad application across all agricultural sectors including the grain, poultry and pastoral industries.
Research Associate Professor Ramin Rafiei, of UWA's School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, was presented with the Viticulture and Oenology 2014 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture by the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, in Canberra.
The $22,000 award, sponsored by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation (GWRDC), was one of 12 awards presented at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Outlook 2014 Conference dinner.
The prize money will be used to develop PLATYPUS - the first commercial low-cost, light-weight, high-performance intelligent sensor able to detect grapevine water stress in real time. Water stress in grapevines has a dramatic effect on yield, grape quality and the resulting wine.
Associate Professor Rafiei said the work would provide grape growers with a robust, portable automated sensor and ultimately eliminate the need for manual water stress monitoring. It would also benefit other agricultural sectors, measuring water stress in foliage, moisture and protein content in grains, nutrients and trace elements in soil, and contamination in meat.
"It is an honour for me and the microelectronics research group at UWA to be recognised by the Department of Agriculture for our ground-breaking work on microspectrometers, enabling low cost precision agriculture for all farmers," Associate Professor Rafiei said.
"PLATYPUS sensors will be optimised for direct deployment on tractors, harvesters and potentially drones. They will bring higher yields, reduced waste and environmental impact and, thus, increased profits for farmers and agribusinesses. We expect widespread uptake due to its low acquisition cost, robustness, simplified operation and small footprint."
The GWRDC - which is funded by grape growers, winemakers and the Australian Government and which invests in and directs research, development and extension from ‘vine to glass' to support a competitive Australian wine sector - is the principal sponsor of the viticulture and oenology award.
GWRDC executive director Dr Stuart Thomson said the project would improve vineyard practices and help businesses be more profitable and sustainable.
Associate Professor Ramin Rafiei (School of Electrical, Electronic and Computing Engineering) (+61 8) 6488 3728
Abbey Flanagan (Communications Coordinator, GWRDC) (+61 8) 8273 0500 / (+61 4) 01 082 124
David Stacey (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716