The data revolution

The data revolution

How Sense-T shakes up the business of agriculture in Tasmania
©David Prince /

Communications Manager, Sense-T

The gentle heartbeat of an oyster far away in the Southern Ocean could help unlock the key to the global challenges of food safety and security.

Sense-T is a program based in Tasmania, an island of about 500,000 people just off the southeastern corner of Australia.

Here, a team of scientists, farmers and entrepreneurs based at the University of Tasmania are developing new sensing technology and business support tools that will forever change the way we grow food and derive value from nature’s resources.

Early trials demonstrate that Sense-T can help – not only oyster farmers – but all Tasmanian farmers monitor their crops, optimize productivity and efficiency, and minimize their environmental impact.

Mike Buckby is a fifth generation Tasmanian farmer. He specializes in growing pasture for the region’s beef and dairy cattle and is participating in Sense-T trials:

“It’s not enough for me to know the weather across the whole region. I want to know the microclimates in each section of my property and adjust how much water and fertilizer I use. I need precision farming.”

Sense-T is collecting vast amounts of historical and real-time data. It is integrating data from public and private sensors that are already out there, as well as developing affordable, easy-to-use sensing technology so people can invest in their own sensors.

Scientists are, in turn, analyzing these real-time, sensor data flows to come up with models and algorithms that predict things like the rate of pasture growth, disease risks and when animals are in heat. These algorithms will then be fed into smart phone apps so farmers get relevant alerts or calculations.

Ultimately, Sense-T will generate apps for farmers that help to optimize all aspects of their business, including production, animal health, environmental sustainability, freight, logistics and marketing. Current research projects are in beef, dairy, oysters and grapes, as well as projects looking at managing water resources and food supply chains.

“The difference between Sense-T and other sensor developers or research programs lies in its approach to creating a shared data resource that can benefit the whole community”, says Sense-T Director, Ros Harvey.

So how does all of this on an island near the Antarctic help farmers in developing countries? It turns out that Tasmania is the perfect sample size to test these innovative methods and approaches and scale them in other parts of the world.

Sense-T is a partnership program between the University of Tasmania, CSIRO, the Tasmanian Government and IBM. Visit for more information.

Sense-T is in dialogue with IFC and with some of the world’s leading food, beverage, and global ICT companies about ways to apply their sensor technology and data platforms to agribusiness and aqua culture projects in emerging markets.

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