Is it possible to revolutionise agricultural spray application?

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Published: 
August 10, 2020

The Australian Government’s Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) is providing $12 million funding for small and medium sized enterprises to solve five important environmental challenges.

One of these challenges, submitted and now managed by CRDC is ‘Is it possible to revolutionise agricultural spray application?’

BRII aims to find effective ways of dealing with challenges that affect the environment, while providing opportunities for start-ups and businesses to develop new products and technologies for the global market by offering competitive grants to encourage the development of innovative solutions to public policy and service delivery challenges as nominated by government. The challenge submitted by CRDC – to revolutionise agricultural spray application to reduce spray drift – was one of five chosen by the government to support, and challenges applicants to find new approaches with innovative technology solutions to improve applicator capacity and reduce spray drift.

CRDC R&D Manager Susan Maas developed the successful application to BRII.

“Pesticides help ensure Australian farming remains productive and maintains its reputation for high quality, but spray drift, or movement beyond the original target, is an ongoing, global issue,” she said.

“Spray drift onto sensitive crops results in environmental contamination and significant financial loss.

“Spray application is complex, with many factors needing to be considered including chemical composition, application equipment, training and legal requirements.

“The solution could address one or many of these factors, reduce complexity or could involve the use of a lateralthinking technological solution that brings increased automation and insight to the process.

“The successful grant applicant will have the chance to work closely with government to create a product that could be commercialised locally and even globally.”

The challenges are examples of how RDCs are trying new approaches to address the big issues facing agriculture.

CRDC’s successful project has benefits beyond the cotton industry. Spray drift is a concern for all agriculture and in particular, the grains industry is also looking on with interest as it seeks improved targeting of spray droplets, thereby increasing spray efficiency and more economical use of chemical inputs. The BRII challenge will build on existing cross-industry collaboration addressing the issue of spray drift.

Conversely, CRDC is looking forward to seeing responses to the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) challenge, ‘Turning farm crops into a renewable hydrogen source’.

GRDC Head of Industry and Government Relations, Justin Crosby, says the GRDC’s challenge through BRII has the potential to generate significant advantages for the nation’s grains industry.

“We are seeking innovations that will complement an existing GRDC investment that is looking to develop new processes for fertiliser production that are more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable,” Justin says.

“If this BRII challenge can produce an innovative means of generating hydrogen for renewable fertiliser production through recycling farm biomass, then it’s a win-win for grain growers and the broader industry.

“And the benefits will flow to the general public, the environment and the economy.”

Australian startups and small and medium businesses can submit proposals for ideas that address the challenges. Successful applicants will receive grants of up to $100,000 to further develop ideas and test feasibility over three months. The most successful of these ideas may then be eligible for a grant of up to $1 million to develop a prototype or proof of concept over a maximum of 18 months. Relevant government agencies will have the option to purchase these solutions at the end of the proof of concept stage.

Applications close on September 10, 2020. To find out more, including how to apply for a grant, visit www.business.gov.au/BRII.