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Online Farm Trials

Online Farm Trials (OFT), a collaborative research project with the Grains Research and Development Corporation, digitally transforms trial research information for Australia’s grains industry. OFT uniquely provides advanced spatial mapping and filtering systems to enable agronomists and growers to rapidly find published research trials most likely to be decision useful. Spatial rendering enables the integration of other relevant location-based grains, soil and climate data from complementary national, state and regional databases.
 

Online Farm Trials - Trial Explorer

Online Farm Trials - Trials Explorer

Background

Prior to the development of OFT the results of grains trial research were available via hard copy reports or basic electronic format, dispersed across different organisations. Information was difficult to access and manual searches were time consuming resulting in farm trial research being underutilised. Consequently, valuable information was available only to a limited number of industry stakeholders.

OFT enables farm trial research to be accessed online and explored spatially via sophisticated filtering mechanisms in ways that are decision useful to agronomists and growers.

Outcomes

OFT enables online access to past and current grains research information on a national and industry-wide basis to facilitate practice change and improve the international competitiveness of the grains industry. 

Obtaining decision-useful information is significantly more efficient, saving time for growers and agronomists.

Access to legacy data reduces unnecessary duplication of farm trials, improving the productivity of resources for grains research.

Impact research identified the importance of legacy data in decision-making and the benefit in OFT providing access to these legacy data in a way which overcame barriers in the past due to the volume of hard copy reports which had to be accessed manually to identify trends or examine particular trial results, the lack of a suitable cataloguing system to be able to identify which trials data were available and the inability to compare farm trials data across geographies and time.

Access to soil conditions and climate data provided by OFT in addition to the trial method and treatments, and results, was also identified by impact research as important for decision making.

Innovation

  • Spatial enablement and interoperable data exchange technologies allow integration of regional, state and national climate and soil data from complementary sources such as the Bureau of Meteorology, the Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia as well as data from GRDC final reports and Source Trial Reports;
  • Direct online access to trial research data in digital form with download capacity;
  • Online analytical tools for growers, agronomists and researchers;
  • Trial Library, an online digital library of national farm trial research reports and grains industry information;
  • Trial Browser -  enables searching of farm trials data by contributor, crop type, trial site, treatment type, soil type, year or funding source;
  • Trial Explorer - enables searching of specific farm trials data using advanced querying, filtering and spatial search tools. 

Technical features

  • A flexible import system designed to consume the unknown quantity of data from grower and research group data collections of varying format and structures;
  • The OFT administration centre that supports data custodians (or authorised delegates) to add, remove and edit trial project data at any time. Custodians can also choose to utilise an import method via a tailored Google sheet synchronisation process and other options include CSV and direct input via an administration user interface;
  • An embeddable version of the Trial Explorer is available for contributors to use on their own website and benefit from the functionality and comparable data added by the OFT system; 
  • A trial result data API which allows developers to consume data via a public restful JSON service. CSV, Excel and JSON export options are also provided for trial explorer searches
  • Use of data interoperability approaches enables trials information to be supplemented with additional data relevant to growers (soil, climate, sensor and other data).

Approach

  OFT stall at farming event in Victoria
   

OFT has been implemented using a staged co-creation approach. A pilot project in late 2013 guided the development of the OFT research tools and resources and included participants from three grower groups - Liebe Group (WA), Northern Grower Alliance (Qld) and Southern Farming Systems (Vic), as well as consultations with GRDC staff, GRDC panel chairs and other organisations e.g. Kondinin Group in Western Australia.

Pilot groups provided historical trial data in various formats to allow the development of the central trial database and the OFT research applications. The International Plant Nutrition Institute and the Birchip Cropping Group also provided sample data for testing and developing the Trial Explorer.

The focus then shifted to scaling up the participation of grower group and other trial research organisations by supporting them to make their farm trial data available for discovery and reuse. OFT currently contains data from 4,000+ trials from more than 30 project contributors over 20+ years.

Future Directions

Search, visual and spatial tools are continuing to be developed in response to grower and advisor needs. Insights to user experiences from impact research have informed the OFT development roadmap.

The innovations developed for OFT have the potential to be applied to other food and fibre industries (e.g. horticulture, cotton, meat, wine and dairy) to enable greater access to research information and improve Australia’s agricultural industries.
 

  • Meet our team icon

    TEAM MEMBERS

    Mr Robert Milne, Project Manager, research associate
    Associate Professor Helen Thompson, senior researcher
    Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus, principal researcher
    Mr Andrew Macleod, technical manager
    Mr Paul Feely, senior programmer and systems analyst
    Dr Angela Murphy, senior researcher
    Mr Scott Limmer, programmer, systems analyst
    Ms Jennifer Corbett, research officer
    Ms Meghan Taylor, research officer
    Dr Judith Walters, research officer
    Ms Kathy Gamble, administration

  • Research output icon

    RESEARCH OUTPUT

    Murphy, A., McKenna, K., Corbett, J. and Taylor, M. (2016). Online Farm Trials Impact Research: First Wave. CeRDI Internal Report. 106p.

    Dahlhaus, P.G. and Thompson, H. (2014). GRDC eResearch. Online knowledge base, research data and tools to enhance Australian grains research. Discussion Paper. Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation. Federation University Australia. 12p.

    Milne, R., Dahlhaus, P.G., Nicholson, C., Thompson, H., MacLeod, A., Feely, P., McCue, T., Gillett, H. and Corbett, J. (2014). Online farm trials: A research repository for Australian grain growers. Paper presented at Digital Rural Futures, Regional futures - Agricultural Futures - Digital Futures, 25-27 June 2014, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland. Conference paper.

    Dahlhaus, P.G., Thompson, H. and Macleod, A. (2013). Interoperable data - a researcher's dream? Paper presented at Digital Rural Futures conference on Smart Farms - Smart Regions, 26-28 June 2013. Armidale, New South Wales. Conference paper.

  • Our partners icon

    PARTNERS

    Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)

    GRDC has provided on-going funding and support for OFT since 2013, as part of its objective to drive the discovery, development and delivery of world-class innovation to enhance the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Australian grain growers.

    Northern Grower Alliance

    Northern Grower Alliance (NGA) with members based in Queensland and Northern NSW participated in the pilot project for OFT and the development of trial content and format. NGA has contributed 490 published trials from 421 trial sites over the years 2006-2014.

    Northern Grower Alliance
    Grower Group Alliance

    The Grower Group Alliance coordinated the trial data acquisition and support program for growers in Western Australia, including providing training and technical support to assist groups to upload their trial data.

    Grower Group Alliance
    Liebe Group

    The Liebe Group with members based in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia participated in the pilot project for OFT and the development of trial content and format. The Liebe Group has contributed 479 published trials from 133 trial sites over the years 2002-2015.

    Liebe Group
    Southern Farming Systems

    Southern Farming Systems (SFS) with members based in the higher rainfall zone of South-West Victoria participated in the pilot project for OFT and the development of trial content and format. SFS has contributed 891 published trials from 76 trial sites over the years 1996-2014.

    Southern Farming Systems
    Birchip Cropping Group

    The Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) based in the Wimmera and Mallee dryland farming regions of Victoria provided advice from the grower perspective during the early stages of OFT and has contributed sample trial data for testing and development of the Trial Explorer. BCG has contributed 1345 published trials from 119 trial sites over the years 1993-2016.

    Birchip Cropping Group
    International Plant Nutrition Institute

    The International Plant Nutrition Institute provided expert advice during the pilot project for OFT and the development of trial content and format and has contributed sample trial data from sites in Victoria for testing and development of the Trial Explorer.

    International Plant Nutrition Institute
    Victorian Grower Group Alliance

    The Victorian Grower Group Alliance (VGGA) coordinated the trial information transfer process into OFT database with Victorian research organisations.

    Nicon Rural Services

    Nicon Rural Services based in Victoria provided expert advice from the grower and agronomist perspectives throughout the OFT project.

    Ag Excellence Alliance (South Australia)

     

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