Sunday, 02 October 2016

Premier’s Fellow targets big data as the key to smarter farming

Written by 
Incoming Premier’s Fellow Dr Simon Cook … “I think the research capacity in WA as really being world-class” Incoming Premier’s Fellow Dr Simon Cook … “I think the research capacity in WA as really being world-class” Image credit: Dr Simon Cook

WA’S newest Premier’s Fellow is set to work with local researchers to better utilise the enormous amounts of data now available to farmers to achieve better results, not just in WA but globally.

Dr Simon Cook was recently announced as the Premier’s Fellow in Agriculture and Food.

Speaking with ScienceNetwork WA from his current base in Colombia, Dr Simon Cook said the agriculture industry has more information than ever before from sources such as satellite data, weather records, smartphone apps and the internet.

The key was to make the best use of big data to make better decisions.

“What it means is that all of a sudden we’re moving from a situation where we don’t have enough information about agriculture to a situation where we have too much,” Dr Cook said.

“What I see my role as doing is trying to forge a research plan on how to make use of that data, not just now but also for 10 years’ time.

Dr Cook said he will work with researchers at Curtin and Murdoch universities and that WA had a good record of collaboration.

“The first thing I will be doing is networking and setting up a community of scientists because there are some pretty powerful players already in WA including people at Curtin, Murdoch, the CSIRO and the Dept of Food and Agriculture, who are really world-class,” he said.

“That was actually the number one attraction for me."

“In the past, I’ve spent many years in WA working and it’s that collaboration between different types of researchers and also the openness of the industry to consider change that really makes this feasible.”

Dr Cook’s work has seen him manage very large research projects focusing on areas such as global food security, water management and environmental sustainability.

“Most of my work is in Africa, South-East Asia, China, India, Brazil and Latin America,” he said.

Dr Cook also has considerable experience working in WA, where he led the CSIRO’s precision agriculture research group.

“One of the things I see as potential for this fellowship is to explore what WA researchers can do and how they can engage more strongly globally,” Dr Cook said.

“It’s vital to start there (with farm productivity), but I think the research capacity in WA as really being world-class and has the potential to contribute to global food security as well.”

Dr Cook expects to arrive in WA in October.

Read 2974 times