Predicting crop yields from space funded under a joint Queensland-China scheme

18 October 2017

University of Queensland research projects to develop better batteries for renewable energy and a way of predicting crop yields from space have been funded under a joint Queensland-China scheme.

The projects have received Queensland-Chinese Academy of Sciences (Q-CAS) Collaborative Science Fund grants, announced this week.   

The Queensland Government and the Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly fund the Q-CAS scheme, which provides individual grants up to $250,000 over two years for Queensland and Chinese researchers to undertake innovative research and development projects.

Professor Debra Bernhardt from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and Professor Dan Wang from the Institute of Process Engineering in Beijing will lead the energy storage research to develop a new generation of lithium ion batteries.

Professor Bernhardt said current home energy storage battery systems were plagued by inefficiency and cost drawbacks,.

“Our research is looking to lithium-rich cathode materials,” she said.

“These offer greater energy density than traditional cathode materials, however they need further improvement to become commercially viable. That’s where our research comes in.”

Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Ms Leeanne Enoch said the battery research aimed for a cost-effective solar battery with improved off-grid electricity storage capability and a longer lifespan.

“This is the holy grail of current energy storage research – coming up with a high-performance, cost-effective battery that could be used to store solar electricity,” she said.

“This could have huge implications for driving down household energy bills, providing people with greater energy self-sufficiency as well as its potential to revolutionise the car industry by making electric vehicles more affordable.”

QAAFI’s Dr Andries Potgieter said the project aimed to help producers and industry cope with weather extremes and climate change.
QAAFI’s Dr Andries Potgieter

The UQ-based Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation will work with the Beijing-based Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI) to develop crop yield prediction systems using satellite data and biophysical crop modelling systems.

QAAFI’s Dr Andries Potgieter and RADI’s Dr Miao Zhang will lead the project, which Dr Potgieter said aimed to help producers and industry cope with weather extremes and climate change.

“Queensland is more exposed to climate variability and extremes than any other state in Australia,” Dr Potgieter said.

“Farmers in both Queensland and China are facing the increased risk of volatile seasonal weather hanging over their heads.”

“We will use earth observation data to predict crop yield at field scale. This will hopefully lead to improved prediction of farmer yields.

“We hope in this way to mitigate the impacts of climate risks and extreme weather events within a cropping season.”

The Q-CAS Fund 2017-2018 round is now open for applications. More information is here.