Extending Extension: Virtual Shed Meetings in a Digital Age


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There are many important decisions that need to be made to ensure the economic and environmental viability of farming enterprises and farming communities. These include farm-level decisions about cropping patterns, investment in fertilizers and pesticides, plant population densities, irrigation regimes and the timing of planting and harvesting activities. Such decisions are predominantly aimed at optimising farm production, profitability and sustainability; however, their outcome can be influenced by seasonal conditions and weather events over the growing season. Ready access to improved regional climate information at time scales appropriate to on-farm decision making is likely to be of growing importance, particularly in regions subject to increasing climatic variability. Advances in digital technologies, their development and application in learning environments, and the steadily spreading web of the NBN across Australia suggest that web-based platforms may provide a valuable approach to the cost-effective extension of agricultural-climate information.

This paper reports on the development and deployment of a web-based ‘virtual’ discussion-support system for integrating climate information with practical farming operations. It utilises cutting-edge developments in educational web-based tools, such as video clips created in the virtual world of Second Life, to inform sugarcane farmers’ decisions around sustainable farming practices. These videos will use lifelike avatar actors and real-world, climate-based scenarios relevant to the lives and practices of sugarcane farmers to stimulate discussion amongst farmers around how to incorporate an understanding of climate risk into their decision-making. The video clips will be housed on a web portal designed around the notion of ‘discussion support’ and accessible by a range of mobile digital devices. The project will take an interactive research design-based approach to evaluating and further developing the web portal and digital tools to optimise their value to on-farm operational decision-making. It is envisaged that this web-based ‘virtual’ discussion-support system has potential to be extended to provide regionally-customised support to farmers around the world for improved decision-making and climate risk management.

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Extending Extension: Virtual Shed Meetings in a Digital Age

  1. 1. 6/09/2013 1 Helen Farley & Kate Reardon-Smith Shahbaz Mushtaq, Neil Cliffe, Janette Lindesay, Adam Loch Digital Futures-CRN University of Southern Queensland EXTENDING EXTENSION virtual shed meetings in a digital age Collaborative Research Network (CRN) - CRN partners: USQ,ANU & UniSA - Federally-funded: $5.1 M over 3 years (2012-2015) - 5 projects (post doctoral research fellows, PhD scholarships) DF-CRN sub-themes - social and policy challenges in a digital future; - participation in higher education; and - technology rich learning environments. DIGITAL FUTURES-CRN DF-CRN PROJECT 3 Investigating the impact of a web-based, ‘discussion-support’, agricultural-climate information system on Australian farmers’ operational decision making Project partners - Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments (ACSC) - Australian Digital Futures Institute (ADFI) - ANU, UniSA & CANEGROWERS Project objectives - to enhance farm management decision-making around climate risk - to support sustainable (resilient) agricultural systems and rural communities CLIMATE RISK MANAGEMENT VIRTUAL WORLDS & EDUCATION Source: SMH 2009 Source: USQ in SL (LindyMac, 2010)
  2. 2. 6/09/2013 2 • 3D immersive virtual world • Hosted on external servers • Decreased bandwidth requirements compared to other vws • Decreased learning curve JIBE CUSTOM AVATARS AND ENVIRONMENTS • Reduce cost of hosting events • Reduced cost and reduced time in attending events • Reduced transport costs • Reduced time away from the farm • Accessible to producers from geographically distant regions • Permanent record can be made of event for replay • Demonstrations can be readily repeated • Readily scalable • Enhanced communication affordances ADVANTAGES  Accessibility via mobile devices  Augmented reality  Augmented multi-user reality THE FUTURE Set: ... a typical Australian sugarcane farm ... coastal mountains, Queenslander, shed, machinery, dog SWEET SUCCESS – developing machinima for Australian sugar farmers
  3. 3. 6/09/2013 3 SWEET SUCCESS – developing machinima for Australian sugar farmers Avatars Team members: PhD candidate: Neil Cliffe (ACSC,USQ) Research Fellow: Kate Reardon-Smith (ACSC,USQ) ACSC (USQ) researchers: RogerStone,Shahbaz Mushtaq,Torben Marcussen,Tek Maraseni ADFI (USQ) researchers: Helen Farley, Joanne Doyle, Neil Martin DF-CRNcollaborators: Janette Lindesay (ANU),Adam Loch (UniSA) Industry collaborator: Matt Kealley (CANEGROWERS) Noel Jacobson & Amanda Hassett,Top Dingo ... www.topdingo.com/ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This project is funded through the Australian Government’s Collaborative Research Networks program