A new ‘AI’ now part of farming

Zach RelphCountryman
Esperance farmer Belinda Lay at the TECHSPO event in Katanning.
Camera IconEsperance farmer Belinda Lay at the TECHSPO event in Katanning. Credit: Zach Relph

In agriculture circles, AI is often used when referring to the age-old livestock breeding process of artificial insemination.

However, another AI abbreviation is becoming increasingly prevalent among farmers’ vocabularies — artificial intelligence.

The rising on-farm use of technology and robotics across WA has caused some comical confusion between the two AIs, according to Belinda Lay.

The Esperance farmer joked while speaking at last Thursday’s TECHSPO event in Katanning that ag-tech innovators needed to be careful when using the newer AI term in conversation.

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“Artificial intelligence was created in 1940 and artificial insemination was created in 1780,” Mrs Lay said.

“When you get this glazed, puzzled look from a farmer when you mention the term AI it’s because they’re trying to work out how you extract semen from your robotic device, what you’re going to cross that with and does the progeny take over the world.”

Mrs Lay was bestowed this year’s AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award in March for her sheep-monitoring project at Coolindown Farm, about 50km east-north-east of Esperance.

As part of the project, special collars from Spain are used to monitor individual sheep’s heart-rate, temperature and location in a bid to boost flock efficiency and welfare.

When a sheep shows unusual statistics, particularly during lambing, Mrs Lay is notified via mobile phone through the Internet of Things network and can pinpoint its location to go and help.

“They pretty much have the first ever on-call midwife during lambing,” she said.

“If there is a problem and one goes down, I get an alert of inactivity — I can be there faster than the usual 24-hour check.”

Mrs Lay will travel to Canberra next month as the WA finalist for the AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award.

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