The University of New England owns and operates eight properties, together known as the UNE SMART Farms. The properties, of varying size and function, enable UNE, students, researchers and their industry and community partners to conduct activities across research, education and engagement that encompass Sustainable, Manageable, Accessible, Rural Technologies (SMART). Click HERE to learn more about the Farms.

Kirby and Newholme are two of these properties, located just 6kms from the Armidale campus of UNE. These two adjoining properties make a combined total of 2,900 hectares. The Kirby property, originally called ‘Craig-dhu’, was purchased in 1967 with a bequest from the late G.H. Kirby and renamed in his honour while Newholme was purchased by UNE 1973. In recent years, it has been home to the SMART Farms Innovation Centre, a national demonstration site showcasing the latest technologies for improving productivity, environmental sustainability and safety on Australian farms. The Centre and operations of these farms is also the centrepiece for the Royal Easter Show Pavilion – Farm of the Future, where our Discovery crew have engaged hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Show in activities that aid in understanding sustainable agricultural practices.

On Kirby, real time data collection of environmental and stock data inform management practices. Sensors in situ monitor soil moisture, soil temperature, air temperature and weather data. Livestock are tracked through tags, whilst pasture growth rates are captured by satellite. The SMART Farms Telemetry Hub captures and publishes this data online for researchers and students to access and utilise in their work.

At this time of year the UNE SMART Farms Education team are usually busy welcoming school groups onto site for hands on SMART Farm experiences and activities.  Designed for secondary students interested in precision agriculture and agtech applications in farming systems, the SMART Farms provide a great starting point for agricultural education.

Although things have been quiet on the visitor front, the SMART Farms team haven’t been!  They’ve been busy developing new online programs that will take the UNE SMART Farms into the classroom.  With a number of resources available to showcase the farms and technologies, they can now host virtual visits with schools.

Learn more about how to measure environmental variables with sensors, virtual stock management, GPS applications and much more. Curious? Contact SMART Farms Education Officer, Alison Stewart, by email: astewa56@une.edu.au now to book an online or SMART Farms visit.