WA grower's yield app wins Grain Inventors competition

An innovative smart phone app that forecasts harvest yields has won the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Australian Year of the Farmer Grain Inventors nationwide search for the next big breakthrough in farming technology.

The app will be designed to give growers a reliable forecast of yield and will take less than an hour for each user to set up, with no need for field inspections or tests.

GRDC, in partnership with the Australian Year of the Farmer, began searching for Australia's most innovative home-grown invention for the grains sector in 2012 through the Grain Inventors competition.

The inventor of the iPaddock Yield app, Michael Fels, from Esperance, WA, will receive $15,000 worth of support from the GRDC to develop his concept. "Having a reliable forecast of yield early in the season is the Holy Grail for grain farmers. We're really excited that we will be able to take the next step to achieving this by further developing iPaddock Yield," Mr Fels said.

"So far I've built the system on a PC, but we now intend to make it into an app for iPhones and iPads to make it easily accessible for growers. "My primary motivation for developing the app is not to generate profits, but to make available to the wider industry a tool that can improve the viability of Australian farm businesses and make a profound difference to the way our major input decisions are made."

The iPaddock Yield concept has been tested on farms in low, medium and high rainfall zones, and has consistently made yield forecasts, as early as June, that have matched up with results at harvest.

Mr Fels and his wife Marnie have used their data modelling technique within their own business and have found one of the biggest advantages was the savings they could achieve by making more informed decisions about their input costs.

"We have saved literally hundreds of thousands of dollars over a number of below average seasons, purely through informed rational decisions that were made at a time when the crops were looking a million dollars," Mr Fels said.

"Conversely, in high yield seasons we have been able to maximise our profits through higher nitrogen rates and fungicides, in the knowledge that the potential return on inputs is very high."

An independent panel of experts selected iPaddock Yield from a field of high quality entries from farmers, researchers and machinists.

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Keith Perrett
Keith Perrett