The University of New England’s (UNE) Farm of the Future pavilion was back at the 2019 Royal Easter show, bigger and better than before. The exhibition showcased the integration of systems and ideas designed to enhance farming landscapes, the resilience of rural communities, and ecological and agricultural systems.
Visitors were very interested in all aspects of agriculture and were fascinated by the drones, remote sensing, on-ground precision farming technologies and farm connectivity solutions on show throughout the exhibition. Food Agility CRC also had a stand demonstrating the AgTech Finder- an independent online marketplace connecting Australian producers with the right AgTech solutions.
UNE staff and researchers were quizzed in depth on how these technologies were changing the lives of farmers and producers across Australia and leading innovation globally. UNE research demonstrating the precision and accuracy of data collection in order to understand complex systems better, and productivity management tools like ASKBILL – which provides a platform for farmers to adapt to rapid changes by crunching terabytes of weather data, also attracted plenty of attention.
The UNE Discovery team was again part of the exhibition and a huge hit with show-goers. Their activities, embedded throughout the Farm of the Future pavilion, was all about touching and interacting – offering visitors (many of them, excited school students) the opportunity to learn about:
• Soil study pit: where children and adults tested pH and physical attributes of two types of soil;
• Greenseeker grass: where visitors could use technology on a handheld scale that researchers and farmers use from satellites to understand pasture growth rates;
• Water play: a 300L tub with a moveable feast of PVC pipes and funnels which kept thousands of children entertained every day and sparked conversations about water in the environment;
• Birds Bats & Beneficials tables: with microscopes, bee models, lots of beneficial insects, including live dung beetles and bee and bat homes;
• The Dung Beetle Hotel: which featured a display of live dung beetles doing their thing rolling cow dung around a clear perspex box filled with sand. This one was truly transformational in terms of how visitors thought about beneficial insects across our country, both city and rural areas; and
• Puzzle sheep: a unique life size sheep puzzle. Children and families wrestled with the large pieces to discover the different parts of a sheep.
In addition to the many hands-on activities the UNE Discovery team ran, they also provided professional development for teachers from around NSW.
Putting the production together was a massive logistical effort with over 60 UNE academics, industry partners and students participating in the event. Transport, accommodation and meals had to be arranged and staff rostered on at various times for the duration of the 13 days. Exhibitions and layouts were planned, built and transported to Sydney where it all came together in a mind-blowing exhibition that attracted over 300,000 visitors.