Dr Alison McCarthy

Mechatronic Engineering
University of Southern Queensland

Global food demand is expected to double by 2050, while water availability, climate variability and access to labour are increasingly limiting agricultural production.
Automated irrigation and fertiliser application systems can increase water use efficiencies and crop productivity by automatically analysing soil and plant measurements to identify water and nutrient requirements, within the field. Existing control strategies do not consider spatial variability within the field. An adaptive control system that can update irrigation and fertiliser application from water availability, weather and spatial variability in soil and crop properties is required.

Dr McCarthy has developed an automated irrigation control system that considers in-field spatial variability of soil moisture and plant growth leading to yield improvements of 4-11%in cotton and water savings of 12-22%. A control system which automatically determines and delivers irrigation and fertiliser requirements may reduce water, nitrogen and labour costs by millions of dollars each year giving significant benefits to the industry.

Alisonā€˜s research has been published in journals, industry magazines and through rural media, reaching those who will benefit most from the outcomes of her work. She has also taken time to demonstrate her research to visitors from all sectors of the community who visit the university research centre.