IN AN effort to improve public health and food safety, Tasmania's $24million oyster industry has joined a burgeoning assortment of electronic sensor networks spanning Australia's environment.
As part of the five-year $42 million Sense-T project, which aims to create Australia's first economy- wide sensor network across the island state, oyster farmers now have access to a software dashboard to help with harvesting decisions.
The web-based tool consolidates weather and river water-quality data drawn from existing sensors from the Bureau of Meteorology and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.
The Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program, which provides guidance to oyster farmers on when it is safe to harvest, has also deployed 10 salinity logging devices giving visibility over the state's 30 shellfish- producing areas.
Previously farmers had to collate data from individual sources to gauge whether their chosen harvest time was safe from microbial contamination.
The Sense-T project also incorporates technologies that aim to improve industry best practice. The second part of this will also be a section where we look at shellfish from the growers' perspective, said Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program manager, Alison Turnbull.
Over the next five years the project is expected to bring together Tasmanian sensor data on energy, carbon, water, population and transport into a single system being developed at the University of Tasmania in partnership with CSIRO and IBM.
Other partners in the project include NICTA, Aurora Energy and the Tasmanian and federal governments.
The project also draws on other sensor networks deployed in Australia and around the world from high-precision devices to simple data loggers deployed by the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).
IMOS projects include the largest coral reef sensor network spanning seven reefs along the Great Barrier Reef and a network at Raine Island looking at providing information about the decline in turtle breeding success over recent years.
"The point is that the ability to deploy, retrieve and use sensors in the ocean is still pretty new," said IMOS director Tim Moltmann.
"We are only just beginning to learn just how much we can extract from it. But understanding the ocean is incredibly important."
The economic benefit of industries operating in Australia's 10 million square kilometres of marine territory is estimated to be more than $69 billion a year, according to the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
One of the key challenges for researchers using sensor data is collating and analysing the masses of information.
A report by GE found the industrial internet could globally add between $US10 to $US15trillion to gross domestic product over the next 20 years.