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Collaboration between CRCs leads to mobile software development for forestry sector


The development of mobile device software by the CRC for National Plant Biosecurity (CRC for National Plant Biosecurity - CRCNPB) inspired researchers at the CRC for Forestry and has led to a great example of collaboration across different fields and organisations.


Front page of mobile software.

“Over a year ago, a demonstration of the Urban Surveillance Database (USDB) software developed by Rob Emery and Nicolas Garel (CRCNPB/Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia - DAFWA), really caught my imagination,” commented Francisco Tovar (CRC Forestry/ Murdoch University). “In the Western Australian bluegum plantation industry we really suffer from a lack of records regarding the spatial extent and timing of damage caused by pests and diseases. We could see that mobile device software similar to USDB could be used by foresters to collect such data in the field.”

Since that time, software developer Nicolas and forest health researcher Francisco have been collaborating in the development of the mobile software solution, called IPMG Plantation Health (IPH). This software allows foresters to quickly and accurately record pest and disease outbreaks in the field, including: the date of the observation, the extent and severity of any damage caused, GPS co-ordinates and photos. The software also includes brief weed and pest field guides to aid foresters with correct identification in the field. All the information collected is synchronised to a central database, where it’s available for further analyses.


The IPH software was launched recently at a workshop attended by all the Western Australian bluegum industry companies. Approximately 70% of field foresters were in attendance and the overwhelming response was positive. Following the demonstration a number of companies indicated they would start integrating the use of mobile devices and the IPH software into their everyday field operations. Furthermore, all Western Australian companies have agreed to further test the software during December 2011.  Companies will collaborate by collectively conducting surveys across the southwest WA plantation estate. This will involve surveying approximately 270 ­plantations, covering an area of 20 - 30 000 Ha and recording approximately 54 000 individual pieces of data!


Menu from mobile software.

Work is now progressing to ensure the widest possible upt­ake of the software by industry. The developers hope that the use of the IPH software and yearly systematic surveys of plantations will become an industry standard. This would allow both the industry and researchers to access accurate, auditable and geo-referenced data that could serve to address any number of biosecurity and plantation health issues.

Projects such as the development of the IPH software, wherein researchers with different skill sets are brought together to aid industry, highlight the value of the cooperation fostered through the funding and support of Collaborative Research Centres.

Biobuzz issue fifteen, December 2011