From an early love of technology and a lifetime of farming experience, Pacific Seeds Territory Manager Stephen Lamb has been an unsung hero of technological innovation in Australia’s agriculture sector.
His view that precision imaging technology was the next step in farming has inspired digital innovation out in the field and has paved the way for more tech savvy farmers since the early 2000’s.
Overseeing Western Australia’s central and northern agricultural regions as part of agricultural seed market leader Pacific Seeds, Mr Lamb has continued to lead by example by using drones and satellite-based guidance systems to enhance the assessment of seed trial sites, drastically improving overall variety performance.
The overhead images produced by drones and satellites give Mr Lamb a high resolution view of seed germination success rates, significantly enhancing Pacific Seeds’ insight into the effect that seasonal planting cycles and varying field conditions have on a range of seed products’ ability to thrive.
“It has been great at taking bird’s-eye pictures of trial sites; we’ve got numerous seed lines being trialed next to each other and flying cameras give us a verification on the quality of the sites,” he said.
“We can obtain a visual insight into the various circumstances on the ground that may prevent seeds from germinating properly, which ultimately help us to refine our trial sites and improve the accuracy of our data.
“We can also compare several seed types simultaneously and track which seeds flower at what times and how much more successfully than others.
“It gives you that higher level of information compared to on-the-ground seed scoring. The top- down images give a very good overview of what’s going on,” he said.
“More farmers are using drones now; those with drone cameras are helping other farmers, resulting in more industrial relations.”
Born into a farming family in Lincolnshire UK, Mr Lamb said he has been “a farm boy right from the start”. He attended the Berkshire College of Agriculture before moving to Australia at 24 and, before eventually finding his home with Pacific Seeds, worked within several agriculture partnerships across the country and also with multinational cropping chemical companies.
As an active participant in the agriculture sector’s digital evolution, Mr Lamb has kept one eye on the sky and believes the best is yet to come.
His more recent endeavors include working with high tech satellite guided cameras.
“Data, satellite positioning and drones have certainly pulled us into a new age of farming and seed production but we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible,” he said.
He said the next natural step is increased automation.
“It’s pretty easy to fly a drone, so the next challenge is to perfect digital treatment maps and camera detection and combine it with automated flight, allowing drones to potentially treat crops and spray weeds on their own.
“Much like with other industries and professions, I think technology has the potential to dramatically improve the way we do things as long as we are prepared to embrace the change.”
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