Expanding capability in UNE’s remote sensing team

A year after it was established, UNE’s Agricultural Remote Sensing Team (ARST) has taken on its fourth member, consolidating ARST as a national force in its field.

Dr Luz Angelica Suarez, who has just joined ARST leading scientist Andrew Robson and specialists Moshiur Rahman and Jasmine Muir on the ARST team, has extensive remote sensing and GIS expertise developed while working across agricultural industries including coffee, cotton and grains.

ARST was created by Associate Professor Robson, one of the nation’s most experienced scientists in the area of applied remote sensing for agriculture, as a theme within UNE’s Precision Agriculture Research Group (PARG). He has since signed up the three experienced post-doctorate data analysts to ensure ARST’s capability stretches across the remote sensing field.

Angelica started her career working on coffee at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (Cali, Colombia). She did her Masters at the Jaen University (Spain), focusing on developing methodologies to update traditional cartography maps into high quality GIS datasets. She moved to Australia in 2012 to take up a position with PrecisionAgriculture.com.au, and did her PhD in Agriculture Remote Sensing with the University of Southern Queensland. Her thesis, funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), assessed proximal and remote sensing technologies for predicting yield loss as a result of herbicide drift.

In the ARST, Angelica will lead the remote sensing component of a national precision agriculture project in vegetables funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd, and led by Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF). The 3 year, $4.7 million dollar project aims to assist vegetable growers in evaluating and then adopting useful precision agricultural technologies including proximal and remote sensing, EM38 soil surveying and yield monitoring.

With the first round of high resolution satellite imagery ordered over Western Australian vegetable farms, Angelica will soon be on the ground acquiring field spectroscopy measurements and associated yield and quality samples. Results of this research will be presented in relevant publications and industry forums.

ARST’s capability was also boosted in late 2016 with the recruitment of Jasmine Muir. Jasmine is one of Australia’s most skilled remote sensing specialists in LiDAR and radar analysis. She has worked in the discipline since 2000, and before joining ARST was a Remote Sensing Scientist for the Queensland Government for 11 years.

Her work focuses on the mapping and monitoring of agricultural crops and native vegetation, using active sensors and multi-temporal analysis of medium and high resolution satellite imagery. Jasmine received an Australian Endeavour Scholarship in 2014, and spent six months working with world experts at Boston University and University of Massachusetts on terrestrial LiDAR for forest ecosystems.

The third member of the team, Dr Moshiur Rahman, researches the monitoring, analysis and forecast of land surface environmental variables and processes using remote sensing techniques, coupled with physical modelling.

Moshiur has undertaken research in a number of fields including the development of a model using proximal and optical remote sensors to estimate pasture growth rate (PGR) as a grazing support tool. He also developed a sugarcane yield prediction model using a time series satellite  approach.

ARST’s leading scientist, Andrew Robson, has a long career developing remote sensing applications for numerous agricultural industries – expertise that recently won him the Poggendorff Award.

The ARST  currently leads or collaborates in industry-funded research projects, worth $14 million, that span nine industries.

The projects, which encompass avocadoes, mangoes, macadamias, bananas, sugar, rice, pineapple and vegetable crops, are significantly improving the profile and adoption of remote sensing technologies, with the aim of assisting on-farm management and yield forecasting.

Andrew’s focus is on significantly improving the uptake of remote sensing technologies as a tool for on-farm management and yield forecasting.

Members of ARST will be presenting results of their work at a number of upcoming events including an Austrade mission in Brazil (May); the European Conference on Precision Agriculture (ECPA2017) in Edinburgh (July); 7th Asian-Australasian Conference on Precision Agriculture, New Zealand (Sept.); Potato Extension Project Forum, Adelaide (May); Hort. Connections 2017 convention, Adelaide (May).

IMAGE: UNE’s highly capable Agricultural Remote Sensing Team (ARST) team, from left: Dr Moshiur Rahman, Dr Luz Angelica Suarez, Associate Professor Andrew Robson, and Jasmine Muir.