In May 2019, Louis Grey and I traveled to a cattle property outside of Gladstone, QLD to measure the biomass produced by leucaena. Typically, we would complete the activity by measuring the amount of grass within a pasture. Recently we've been engaging with some agriculture stakeholders regarding the use of leucaena to supplement cattle diet. Being a legume, leucaena assists with the average daily gain of the animal as well as nitrogen-fixation for soil. Initial findings conclude it is good for pasture health in terms of drought proofing, and offers a more diverse diet for cattle that improves overall meat production.
The benefits have some within the cattle industry keen to prove its viability for cattle grazing. Seeing an opportunity to help grazers, Hitachi Consulting as been working on a 'Digital Botanal.' The process involves selecting a portion of growth, imaging with a UAV (or drone), then cutting all growth from the trees (see video). The biomass is then weighed, dried, and weighed again. These results will train a machine learning algorithm, so the cutting and drying will be unnecessary in the future, allowing the UAV to image the biomass and produce a result when the files are input into Hitachi Process Intelligence.
These models complement Hitachi Consulting's existing capability in biomass imaging using UAVs. Existing models can pick up 14 varieties of grass species. The ultimate goal: To give property managers the means to make better decisions through the use of technology, and to improve productivity both economically and environmentally.