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The challenge

The cost of handling grain in Australia

Grain production is closely tied to climate and is one of the most volatile industries in Australia, making planning and managing a huge challenge for grain farmers and handlers. The cost of handling grain in Australia, as well as planning for harvest, transport, storage and marketing, is in the order of a billion dollars each year. Even small improvements in efficiency could result in significant benefits for our 30,000 grain growers, grain handlers and the national economy.

For the first time, Australian farmers can forecast grain yield at the touch of a button thanks to our new smart phone app, Graincast

There is no comprehensive national system for quantifying yield and geo-locating crop areas with required accuracy at a locally relevant scale. Each operation along the grains supply chain has a unique need for customised grains information, which could be met with a comprehensive grains production and forecasting information system. It needs to provide up-to-date estimates of crop area, near real-time measures of crop yield, crop yield forecasts, and estimates of uncertainty for the entire agriculture value chain.

Our response

Making better and new decisions in Australia's grain growing sector

With CSIRO's expertise in grain forecasting, climate, remote sensing, data management, software engineering, social innovation and more, we've now built a real-time grain forecast platform for Australia: Graincast™. It will open up greater informed decision-making, such as:

  • farmers will be able to predict yield within-season to inform input management and forward-selling
  • bulk handlers will have more precise estimates of crop area and yield down to individual farm scale, allowing better planning and utilisation of transport and storage
  • grain marketers will be able to track and monitor the global grain supply better and take advantage of market fluctuations.

In the future, the Graincast™ forecast system will also open up the capability for new decisions, such as:

  • farmers (individually or aggregated) able to seek better deals on inputs from resellers
  • resellers being able to supply more product where and when it is needed
  • bankers able to make more transparent lending decisions for seasonal or capital finance
  • insurers able to objectively assess risk profiles before setting premiums for products such as multi-peril crop insurance.

[Music plays and camera pans over a crop and text appears: Farmers told us that they can’t access the data they really want about their crops]

[Shows green seedlings. Image changes to show wheat growing] 

[Image changes to show a mobile phone screen with the title Graincast on it and text appears: So we built Graincast, an app that, for the first time, let’s Australia’s grain growers forecast their grain yield from individual paddocks and across the whole farm]

[Image changes to show a mobile phone screen saying: Welcome to Graincast. Image changes to show a map of Australia with pins on it and the image zooms in on to one pin]

[Image changes to show a mobile phone with the title: Loading insights and text appears: CSIRO’s smart analytics applies satellite and sensor data]

[Image changes to show a mobile phone with the title: soil moisture and text appears: see your soil moisture and yield potential. Images changes to show a mobile phone with the heading: Yield potential]

[Image changes to show a mobile phone with the heading: Welcome to Graincast and text appears: Graincast helps growers with their crop decision-making instincts]

[Image changes to chow wheat growing in a field and text appears:]

[Music plays the CSIRO logo and text appears: CSIRO Australia’s innovation catalyst]

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The results

Grain forecasting on-farm, from a smart phone

Using simple local paddock information, national high-resolution satellite and sensor data sources and CSIRO's innovative analytics, CSIRO's free Graincast™ app helps growers with their crop decision-making instincts. It uses national weather and soils information to forecast soil moisture and yield for the grain crops planted. During times of drought, it can assist farmers to maximise the profitability of their farming operation by informing input application decisions – resulting in increased returns or minimised expenses.

Data is sourced the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Soil and Landscape Grid, the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator, APSIM®, and the Queensland Government.

Not only can the Graincast™ app help grain growers forecast their crop yield and soil moisture in individual paddocks or at whole of farm level, the smarts behind the app also enable us to forecast grain production at the regional and even national scales. Our methodology is based on peer reviewed science and was successfully tested in 2017. Like the app, Graincast's™ forecasting capability is an Australian first.

Visit the Graincast™ website.

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