The iFarm is a fully computerised, outdoor farm research station that features eight automated garden beds that allow students to compare the impact of different soil types, irrigation levels, fertilisers and micro-climates on crop growth.
The iFarm is a game-changer in the teaching of agricultural science and will play a significant role in Tatachilla’s expanded agricultural science pathway (year 9 to year 12), giving Tatachilla students the opportunity to pioneer solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such food security, bioweaponry, land scarcity and climate change.
What is an iFarm?
The iFarm – pioneered by inventors Steve and Kate Mansur – is a fully computerised, outdoor farm research station that features eight automated garden beds that allow students to compare the impact of different soil types, irrigation levels, fertilisers and micro-climates on crop growth.
The iFarm program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as part of the national Educating Kids About Agriculture initiative. More than 50 iFarms are currently being rolled out to high schools across the country through a competitive bid process as part of a national effort to bring agricultural innovation to secondary education.
Each iFarm package represents an investment of more than $90,000, including installation, research and development, cloud technology, maintenance and ongoing support.
What can the iFarm do?
The iFarm is a game-changer in the teaching of agricultural science and STEM subjects. It enables students to undertake simultaneous crop trials, record live data using the iFarm’s in-built computer, view root growth through the iFarm’s clear Perspex sides and upload and compare data with other schools that are also using iFarm technology.
In addition to the automated garden beds, all iFarms feature their own weather station as well as subsurface drip irrigation; overhead spray options; a 2,000L water tank; moisture and temperature sensors; an inbuilt digital touchscreen; a worm farm for composting; and summer and winter shade-cloths.
The iFarm is powered through wind and solar energy and can be operated remotely or in-person. Even the electronic componentry has a clear Perspex cover so that students can view and better understand electrical design and function.
Why is the iFarm important?
According to Tatachilla’s agricultural science expert, Isabelle Linde, there has never been a better time to study agricultural science and the iFarm will be a critical factor in elevating hands-on, interactive learning at the college and igniting careers in the STEM fields.
“We know that agricultural science is a burgeoning sector globally, and one that has seen an exponential increase in technological advancement, career diversity and international focus over the past 20 years,” says Ms Linde, who campaigned strongly for the college to be one of the few schools chosen for the national iFarm program.
Students who pursue a career in agricultural science will have the opportunity to address some of the world’s biggest challenges, such as food security, bioweaponry, extreme weather conditions, land scarcity and the decline of the international bee population.
“The iFarm represents an exciting new way for Tatachilla students to experience firsthand how climate variables impact crop propagation and to understand the skills and technology required to produce food and fibre sustainably and in the context of changing world.”
The iFarm will play a significant role in Tatachilla’s reimagined agricultural science pathway, which currently give students the option of studying agricultural science in year 9 and 10 and by 2025 will give them the option of continuing their agricultural science studies in year 11 and 12.
“Unlike other South Australian schools who offer agricultural science, Tatachilla will focus on emerging agricultural innovations and technologies, as opposed to current agricultural processes and local farming practices.”
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