Artificial selection

Harnessing data and artificial intelligence to benefit the rice industry

Allister Clarke.

Rice harvesting is underway and groundbreaking research from Charles Sturt University is being put to the test to predict grain quality and provide timely information for processing.

Charles Sturt, PhD student Allister Clarke – from the Gulbali Institute of Agriculture, Water and Environment – works with Australia’s leading food company SunRice and the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre.

He said the research focuses on one of the key measures of rice quality, whole grain yield (WGY), which represents the percentage of grains that remain intact during the milling process.

“The rice must be stored, dried and ground before the WGY can be assessed,” Clarke said.

“This means that producers only know the level of compensation for their harvest months after harvest and the rice cannot be separated for quality as it is delivered.

“Our model can change that by giving processors and producers information on quality as the rice is delivered from the farm.”

Dr. Clarke’s research uses satellite and climate data, historical rice production, harvest and milling information, and machine learning algorithms to develop models to predict whole grain yield.

“This is the second year the model has been tested during the rice harvest,” Clarke said.

“The goal is to be able to provide information to SunRice to be able to predict harvest quality in order to manage storage and processing to maximize yields.

“But we also want to be able to provide information to growers on how their management and harvesting decisions impact the WGY.”

Mr Clarke said the research also demonstrates the benefits that can be achieved by leveraging data across the value chain.

“This research would not have been possible without the decades of information that was captured from the paddock throughout the milling process,” Clarke said.

“I am excited about the potential of this area of ​​research for other crops and industries using the wealth of data across value chains to improve agricultural and food production.

CEO of SunRice’s Global Rice business unit, Belinda Tumbers, said the research project will benefit growers and SunRice, and is part of broader industry research, development and outreach efforts. .

“The Australian rice industry is world class.

“We grow some of the highest quality Japonica-style varieties anywhere in the world while already using 50% less water than the global average.

“SunRice takes this rice and processes it into value-added branded products at our Riverina facilities, which are then marketed and sold in approximately 50 global markets.

“This position is underpinned by our research, development and extension in projects such as this, which are focused on improving the productivity of our producers on the farm and throughout the supply chain.

“The Australian rice industry has just released a new five-year roadmap to guide the next phase of our research, development and extension efforts – focused on achieving an ambitious water productivity target of 1 .5 tonnes of rice per megalitre by 2026.

“This new plan will help us maintain the high quality of our rice varieties, while putting more emphasis on water use efficiency.

“We are investing in four important areas of research, including optimizing the genetic improvement of our rice varieties, targeted agronomy and farming systems and capacity improvement investments, and the coordinated expansion of the industry.

The Gulbali Institute is a strategic investment by Charles Sturt to stimulate integrated research to optimize agricultural systems, improve freshwater ecosystems and improve environmental management, in order to deliver benefits in Australia and around the world.

The research comes as Charles Sturt University has been shortlisted for a share of $242.7 million in federal government funding under the Australian government’s Trailblazer Universities program.

The University’s project ‘Reshaping Australian Manufacturing: Food and Beverage Commercialization Hub’ would contribute to the national interest of supporting Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results of the program selection process will be announced at the end of March.