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Reading Pastures from Space Features in Fonterra Project.

Australian pastoral researchers have a mission from space using new techniques and technology for the continuous the assessment of pasture cover.

Their mission objective is: "To deliver near real-time information tools at a whole-farm and within-paddock level, that will underpin tactical and strategic decision making for Australian agricultural businesses".

The Pastures from Space program provides estimates of pasture production during the growing season by means of remote sensing. Satellite data is used to accurately and quantitatively estimate Pasture Biomass or Feed On Offer (FOO) or combined with climate and soil data is used to produce Pasture Growth Rate (PGR) estimates.

The project has a number of collaborators, funders and participators including Fonterra Dairy Coop of New Zealand

Fonterra established a project in early 2003 to determine the feasibility of using this Australian developed remote sensing technology to quantitatively measure the pasture growth rate and pasture cover in New Zealand.

This project will evaluate the accuracy and robustness of remote sensing technology in NZ dairy pastures and at its completion the parties will determine on-going activities. This study will focus on three areas of interest, the Waikato and Taranaki regions in the North Island and the Christchurch region in the South Island as a test-bed for wide spread development throughout New Zealand.

The Fonterra project proposes to test pasture and meteorological data combined with satellite imagery covering a period of 5 years. This will enable evaluation of the extent to which cloud cover may constrain image acquisition plus the feasibility of using the satellite imagery to quantitatively determine pasture growth rate and pasture cover.

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