Airborne and AI-driven technology grants to solve environmental and farming challenges

Airborne and AI-driven technology grants to solve environmental and farming challenges

$550,000 grants to improve farmers' sugarcane production and address environmental challenges in national park in Vietnam


Researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW), the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, and Hong Duc University have received a $300,000 grant from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Aus4Innovation program to work on a technology-led solution to improve the production and quality of sugarcane in Vietnam. 

To meet with the ever-growing demand of sugarcane in the ASEAN region, sugarcane farmers in Vietnam need cost-effective and fit-for-purpose solutions to increase the national production and improve the quality of sugarcane in the country.

Researchers from three universities proposed a drone-based technology to design, test, and deploy a system that will enable an airborne and AI-driven assessment of sugarcane to improve production and support farmers’ livelihood.

The AI-driven system will allow companies like Lasuco, a Vietnamese-based sugarcane production company, and local farmers to continuously monitor the nutrition levels and disease infestation of sugarcane fields, thus helping improve the sugarcane productivity, reduce the production costs and estimate yield.

The research team will ensure that the project delivers tangible benefits to local farmers and contributes to improving the competitiveness of sugar production in the region.

The project, named Smart-Eye, will utilise drones in auto-pilot and supervised flying modes for airborne data acquisition and surveillance. It will allow farmers to monitor crop health; estimate and map soil moisture; identify and map weed at species level for optimal herbicide spraying;           send spraying drones to automate the spraying after the weed mapping; and estimate sugarcane yield production.

Senior Professor Pascal Perez, Director of SMART Infrastructure Facility at UOW, leads the Smart-Eye project and said farmers will have direct access to the data related to their plants, which will be accessible via smart phone, tablet or computer.

“We are excited to be working on this project in collaboration with our partners in Vietnam,” Professor Perez said.

“Farmers will be able to receive real-time alerts about the health of their sugarcane fields. This information will include critical physiological factors such as water availability, nutrient levels and early signs of disease outbreak.

“The rapid and accurate detection of leaf response to various stresses will allow farmers to intervene on time and efficiently, thus optimising the production and saving critical resources such as water, fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.”

The technology will be based on four core factors, deploying the airborne system to ensure the best flying path is identified; establishing the system to collect datasets and algorithms for capturing images; testing the system to ensure its data accuracy and; training local teams to operate the technology. 



Researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology in Vietnam have received a $250,000 grant from CSIRO’s Auss4Innovation project to address the environmental management issues at the Tram Chim National Park in Vietnam.

Tram Chim National Park, located in Dong Thap province of Vietnam, is one of the last remnants of the threatened Plain of Reeds wetland ecosystem. It has significant biodiversity and tourism value, providing habitat for over 230 bird species and 130 fish species, including the iconic Sarus Crane listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

The researchers proposed an AI/ Internet of Things (IoT) based digital solution to design and deploy a hub of IoT devices that will collect data in the form of images of animals, plants and water levels, water turbidity, temperature, CO2 and other parameters in various areas of the Tram Chim National Park ecosystem.

The collected data will help identify and count animals, recognise plants and their conditions, and identify water levels and quality in different parts of the Park. It will be presented on a digital dashboard for analysis.

The proposed digital AI-powered dashboard will be readily accessible to different stakeholders of the Park such as rangers, governance officers and researchers, through PCs, mobile phones or tablets to support the decision making and adaptive management at Tram Chim National Park.

UOW Associate Professor Hoa Khanh Dam, from the School of Computing and Information Technology, leads the project and said current environmental management and research at Tram Chim are hampered by insufficient and irregular survey data, due to a lack of digital resources, extreme weather conditions and complex, large environment covered by the park.

“The lack of data presents serious challenges for making informed decisions and deploying management strategies for the Park’s ecosystem on a daily basis,” Associate Professor Dam said.

“In close collaboration with all stakeholders and our technology partner Microsoft, we will be able to provide a digital solution driven by data and machine learning to make informed decisions in managing the ecosystem health of the Park.”

Aus4Innovation is an AUD $13.5 million development assistance program that aims to strengthen Vietnam’s innovation system, prepare for and embrace opportunities associated with Industry 4.0, and help shape Vietnam’s innovation agenda in science and technology.