Farmers across Western Australia will have the opportunity to harness their natural curiosity and lead their own on-farm experiments as part of a new big data approach to agriculture research by Curtin University and Murdoch University.

Premier’s Fellow in Agriculture and Food, Professor Simon Cook, from Curtin and Murdoch Universities, said growers were being recruited to take part in the On-Farm Experimentation (OFE) project, which enables them to carry out and analyse their own farm-scale experiments using yield data collected annually by their harvesters.

“In a digital world, we need to find a different approach to agriculture research, as the current scientist-dependent approach has limitations as well as benefits,” Professor Cook said.

“We want growers to take part in our OFE project and alter a single aspect of their farming system – such as their fertiliser, chemical, crop variety or cultivation practice – and measure the yield response.”

Professor Cook said the OFE project, now in its second year, recently finalised results from its first trial in 2018, which altered the rate of fertiliser application at farms.

“The trial results showed great variation in soil nutrition in the paddock and allowed farmers to better understand their land and how treatment can improve their soils,” Professor Cook said.

“The project will form networks for on-farm experimenters to share results with fellow farmers, thereby building bigger data sets for use in tackling problems faced by growers.”

The OFE project is part of an international effort to change the way agriculture research is done, with partners in 11 countries already taking part.

There are 14 trials planned in WA this year so far and farmers interested in being involved in their own trial can contact Professor Cook via [email protected].