Tuesday, February 28, 2012

E-Learning for Remote and Rural Australia

There has been a recent initiative for more complex and interactive e-learning for primarily beef producers in rural Australia.

This program is to run in Queensland and is based around the use of the NBN which allows high speed two way communications and use of more complex media eg HD video clips. More detailed information is here -

However, while this is a focussed program specificlly for beef producers, and enterprise based, it should not be forgotten that there is a wealth of often free e-learning available right now.

Some examples include:

  • the extremely wide range of self paced learning modules available through www.hp.com on a wide variety of topics, including computer programs, business develpment and so on. These are generally excellent and well honed as they have been around for a while, although not specific to rural use

  • post graduate diploma and other higher education courses from a wide variety of providors on many aspects of rural work - although many of these are not entirely free

  • this site is a collection of about 20 of what are supposed to be some of the best e-learning sites available - and the range of stuff is quite amazing http://khatarnakchokra.tripod.com/learnfree.htm

  • the open courseware program of MIT from the USA has some tremendous stuff, but more general, although some good management materials -http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm and a wide range of environment based stuff including soils, air, water.

  • the courses by http://alison.com/ are more non rural focused although some are relevant

  • And of course, Microsoft has its own e-learning centre for their products - with some extensive courses available - http://learning.microsoft.com/Manager/Default.aspx

It is really up to you, and I am sure there are many other options, although it is true that focussed topics can be attractive, trying something more general can be a start to some positive development.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Compadre Zoysia Grows in Japan

Recently, Japan has been trying to source considerable volumes of Compadre zoysia for use this coming northern spring sowing period.

Compadre zoysia is already of reasonably widespread use in Japan for use on football playing fields, and almost all J- League soccer games are played on zoysia.

Compadre has some real attributes worth considering in cooler regions as it has an extended green period, often much better than other grass species. This means better quality both later into autumn and earlier in spring.

It will be difficult now to obtain larger volumes of seed until new season seed becomes available after the middle of 2012. We have a small amount still available.

Please e-mail or post a comment for more information. The photo is of approx 4 month old Compadre zoysia at Palmerston, near Darwin.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Abattoirs for North Australia? How Many are Viable?

The need for one or more abattoirs in the north of Australia has been an issue for many years now, following the demise of the older abattoirs that were around in the 1970s and 1980s. They were at Darwin, Katherine, Wyndham and Derby – all gone!

AAco has developed a plan for a new facility about 50kms S of Darwin, and recently there are noises about another abattoir mooted for Cloncurry. This has been developed as the preferred site by a Queensland based task force, and the issue is discussed here - http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/state/livestock/cattle/northern-abattoirs-make-their-case/2465687.aspx?storypage=0

While AAco is well advanced with the Darwin site, and has done a lot of work on the facility planning and engineering, it is not an absolute goer ......yet. A site close to Darwin has significant advantages in relation to the logistics, both for the animals coming in, staff, and the export of product, as well as a reasonably large sized local market worth developing in future years. So far it is understood all production will be exported as ground beef. At present, almost all NT beef for consumption is imported, so there is a lot of potential for that market itself, at least for prime cuts.

Last year’s debacle over the export of live cattle is a searing memory for northern producers of beef. There are already plans by many to change to a slightly different animal – one that offers possible options – live export, or domestic markets.

These animals are likely to have less % of Brahman genes, while still retaining the advantages the zebu genes confer. Not to mention a few other animal types such as Boran with superior reproduction levels and a few others in the mix.

Producers do not want to get caught again, especially as there are coming changes in the Indonesian market in relation to possible self sufficiency – although many believe this to really be quite a few years away, if at all. But, no one wants to get something sprung upon them like 2011.

Can the northern region support one or two or even three abattoirs? There is also serious talk about some sort of facility in the northwest – Broome is talked about, but so too has Derby.

I think there will be new abattoirs; the question is where and how many? And how will they operate given the still problematical conditions of access across the north for at least 3 months of the year, sometimes longer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

They Are NOW for Real - Will YOUR Farm Have a Drone or UAV?

I wrote a blog back in 2008 [http://abovecapricorn.blogspot.com.au/search/label/unmanned%20aircraft] about the serious potential for using a drone [or unmanned aerial vehicle - UAV] in the rural sector.

I see tremendous potential for both smaller and larger rural properties to be able to deploy these types of vehicles to monitor fences, animal herds, watering points, irrigation canals, monitoring of feral animals eg camels........the potential uses are really only up to the imagination.

The link to the article on the ABC web site provides some real world uses right here in Australia, right now, in 2012.

And the cost is now approaching or may have decreased already for some operators that the concept is worth testing on their own properties.

A number of Australian companies already have commercially used equipment - real estate, mining and so on. See - http://www.cybertechuav.com.au/ as an example, but there are others. Equipment costs are around the same as a small car, and up in proce for more sophisticated equipment, although these costs are falling as the technology develops.

There are even high school competitions in Australia for UAVs, and have been now for some years!!

In the UK, some commercial farms are aleady using these UAVs to assist with management of precision agriculture and aerial inspections of crop performances, developing maps of individual paddocks during the growing season and combining the data with yield monitoring [for example header yield monitoring] to assist with economic performance improvement.

What ideas and role is seen for their use in the NT pastoral and rural scene?

UPDATE - 24 February

CSIRO are using a drone to complete a project on marine rubbish on beaches around Australia. Reported in the news today.


Friday, February 03, 2012

Tropical Vegetation Soaks Up More Carbon Than Previous Estimates

The lush vegetation wrapping the center of the globe is one of the most important features for regulating a stable climate in the world.

Much excess CO2 emissions from industrialized regions find their way to the equator to be absorbed by abundant CO2-consuming plant life. However, as large tracts of tropical rainforest are cut down in the Amazon, Congo, and Southeast Asia, worries have grown that this vital region may turn from a carbon sink to a carbon source. Those worries can be put at ease somewhat thanks to a recent study from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC).

Their report suggests that carbon storage of forests, shrublands, and savannas in the tropics are 21 percent higher than previously believed.

Larger carbon storage equates to a larger capacity to absorb and retain greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. The loss of carbon storage due to deforestation is still a concern, but has been overestimated. In fact, the net flux of carbon into the atmosphere from tropical vegetation loss is overestimated by up to 12 percent.

Data used excludes any information from Australia, so estimates may be somewhat inaccurate. Even so, it does conclude that the tropical forests are a very major carbon sink.

The full published article is here

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Kenaf Fibre in Cars

While the use of kenaf as a fibre filler in manufacturing has been spoken about for some time, little action has occurred so far.

Ford has just announced that finally, kenaf fibres will be used as part of their sustainability / recycling approach with their new US produced Ford Escape.

They do not indicate if it will be locally grown or imported, however.

Kenaf has had a topsy - turvy production in Australia, with early hopes [ 1970s] failing to develop. Maybe some reasonable use in sound deadening in automotive and manufacturing might mean potential new markets in Australia. It can be grown in many areas of north Australia, with or without irrigation, so there is potential for efficient and profitable Australian production.

More about the US story on kenaf here -