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Fruitful partnership leads to opportunity for greater pastures

Published:28 October 2020

Pictured L-R: CQUniversity postgraduate student Varun Chandrappa, AI-IoT expert and CQUniversity Senior Lecturer in IT Dr Biplob Ray, Environmental Scientist and CQUniversity Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath, Cairns Regional Council parks infrastructure supervisor Dan Mosbauer and CQUniversity Research Officer Dr Pramod Shrestha

A study conducted by CQUniversity researchers in partnership with the Cairns Regional Council (CRC) has been investigating smarter ways to irrigate the city’s parks and the results are promising.

Using real-time monitoring sensors, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) - data is being gathered from a number of the City’s parks to help forecast and regulate water usage.

CQUniversity researchers, Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath, Dr Biplob Ray, Dr Pramod Shrestha and Varun Chandrappa have been collecting core data which is being used to predict each of the park’s water requirements with the ultimate aim of ensuring greener parks with less water usage.

“As a result of this monitoring, we have been able to compile site-specific data for each park and using advanced technologies we’ve been able to measure changes in soil moisture content. This data was used to prepare moisture distribution maps which have helped us identify locations of interest within the parks.

“An algorithm is being written to regulate sprinkler irrigation for the specific park or location, allowing the owner to control sprinkler irrigation without having to second-guess or waste water,” Dr Ray said.

“Not only does this project ensure water-saving benefits, it will also help reduce seepage and nutrients leaching into the Great Barrier Reef, while ensuring greener parks,” Associate Professor Ashwath explained.

The ‘Smart Urban Irrigation Program’ research project has been funded by the Federal Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program (Round 2) with an aim to reduce water consumption and enhance the aesthetic of high-profile areas.

Member for Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he was pleased to see the project aims being achieved.

“This program is a great success and I am thrilled to see CQU and Cairns Regional Council coming together to be water smart”, Warren Entsch said.

“We must move into the modern era of water conservation and this is just the beginning for our region and I am proud the Federal Government is providing the opportunities.”

Cairns Regional Council Mayor, Bob Manning, said Council had recently endorsed a new, four-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CQUniversity.

“This project not only shows our ongoing close relationship with CQUniversity, but also demonstrates how Council and private enterprise can work together to achieve excellent environmental and economic outcomes,” Cr Manning said.

“We know that water is a precious commodity and Council is very supportive of water saving initiatives.

“This monitoring and the associated algorithm formulated by the researchers is still in its testing phase, but if successful there is potential for its wider application in controlling irrigation in other Council managed parks.

“It has the potential to make Cairns Regional Council a leader in irrigation management within Australia and to provide a template for other councils and organisations to follow.”

CQUniversity Associate Vice-President of the Far North Queensland region, Ms Jodie Duignan-George, said the project could be rolled out to other organisations that would benefit from irrigation research such as sporting groups that maintained large fields.

“This study can be applied to other parks/sites in Cairns and CQU is calling on interested businesses and/or organisations to get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved,” Ms Duignan-George said.

Organisations interested in participating in automated irrigation system research should contact CQUniversity’s Director of Research Ms Leslie Walker via l.walker@cqu.edu.au.