Sensors that can mimic taste and smell information in produce and link it back to environmental conditions on farms is part of a suite of technologies now available to Tasmania's farmers.
The state has been selected to host one of six TestLab sites around the country, with each focusing on a different industry.
With the University of Tasmania leading Tasmania's TestLab, which runs virtually across the state, its focus on food innovation will link primary producers with technology to trial new products or improve access to knowledge and data beyond simple agronomy.
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Testlab academic lead and Sense-T director Associate Professor Stephen Cahoon said the project was underpinned by meaningful engagement with Tasmanian businesses to understand what they need to expand and prosper.
Consultation with industry had shown farmers were interested in how the TestLab could "demystify and de-risk" sensor technology.
"It will allow primary producers, and small-to-medium enterprises, to access technology and conduct trials and tests without the outlay of expense and before they decide if the tests are worth it," he said.
UTAS launched the TestLab interactive website on Monday via a Zoom conference call, which reflects how technology is the way of the future for the state's farmers, Associate Professor Cahoon said.
The $2 million program, co-funded by the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and UTAS, and is supported by official partner Siemens Australia.
Associate Professor Cahoon said the TestLab was supposed to have a bricks-and-mortar presence, but the impact of the pandemic meant they had to rethink the structure.
Farmers who want to access the technology can do so via six mobile trailers pulled together by Sense-T that include an array of 70 sensors to monitor a farm's specific growing conditions.
The on-farm data is integrated with more data collected through the supply chain, for example, when a truck leaves with produce en route to its export markets or local markets.
Tasmania's TestLab is the only one in the country to offer a virtual headquarters and mobile testing equipment.
Associate Professor Cahoon said having the flexibility to offer mobile units and digital information only enhanced the TestLab's function.
Three energy monitoring units developed by Cromarty will also help farms and cool stores to reduce energy consumption.
UTAS vice-chancellor Rufus Black said the project was poised to deliver a real impact across significant parts of the Tasmanian economy.
"Tasmania is the ideal place to launch a Testlab that focuses on the integrity of food. We have some of the richest soils on the planet supporting a huge diversity of agricultural enterprises and producing high-quality food that's celebrated here and around the world," Professor Black said.
"We are also home to some of the most successful advanced manufacturing in Australia and at the forefront of developing truly sustainable practices enabled by our access to zero-carbon energy.
"All of this is supported by outstanding researchers on an island which is at just the right scale for developing Industry 4.0 applications and demonstrating them in action."
Industry 4.0 is also known as the fourth industrial revolution and refers to the automation, digitisation and connectivity of systems, rapidly changing how businesses operate.
Associate Professor Cahoon said the Testlab would also revolutionise agricultural technology education by deploying new farm robots to schools across Tasmania.
The farm-bots are raised garden beds with a robotic arm for planting, watering and weeding.
Associate Professor Cahoon said the farm-bots would be delivered to schools across the state in the next few months, and the team was hoping to build a competition around it to engage students.
"The equipment that we have developed is cutting-edge, in some cases unique within the southern hemisphere, and it's extremely valuable to be able to showcase that to industry in a risk-free environment," he said.
In addition to the three testbeds, the Testlab website also displays case studies of the equipment in action.
The Testlab project involves researchers from across UTAS' College of Sciences and Engineering. It strongly aligns with the Tasmanian Government's Agrivision 2050 of increasing agricultural outputs at the farm gate to $10 billion by 2050.
For more information head to to the website.