R&D in Drought Resilience in Agriculture

drought mushrooms

Fresh water scarcity is one of the most critical issues that everyone is facing. According to nature.com, approximately 3.8ton cubic metres of water is annually consumed by humans while 70% being utilised for Agricultural activities [1]. For example, it requires over 15,000 liters of water to produce 1kg beef [1]. Mushroom-based meat has drawn greater attention due to many of its advantages, including lower water consumption needed for 1kg mushroom-based meat production, much lower cholesterol, high protein and antioxidants. Currently, most mushroom farms rely on the growers’ experiences, which would lead to 2 issues, (i) unoptimised growing conditions, hence lower yield and (ii) over consumption of natural resources, i.e. energy and water. We therefore propose to develop the second generation of Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), which is based on the current technologies developed by Clever Agriculture in the past 2 years. The system would be able to accurately capture various important parameters, namely temperature, humidity, carbon-dioxide, air quality, light levels and computer-vision-based mushroom growth rate. To measure mushroom growth, deep learning models are used to detect mushrooms and estimate their dimensions (e.g., height, width, radius). The mushroom weights are predicted based on the extracted dimensions. The growth rate is the change of mushroom weights every hour. We then apply cutting edge technologies primarily driven by cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to maximise yield and minimise natural resource consumption. Our solution could be utilised in other agricultural businesses and it would lead to much more sustainable farming.

New outputs

Digitisation of agriculture and AI would completely transform the operation of agricultural businesses, including (i) significant reduction in manual and labour works; (ii) better understanding of the quality of the crop, hence having timely solutions if there are problems;(iii) maximising yields and minimising natural resources consumption via data-driven AI models instead of heuristic approaches used in conventional farms; and (iv) near-zero greenhouse gas emission via AI-controlled renewable energy.


The benefits of our solution are two-fold: (i) improved water consumption efficiency and (ii) lower adverse environmental impact. First, we apply advanced data analytics and AI models to optimise agricultural water consumption. Here we are able to rely 100% on a stormwater for all farming activities without the need of using either town or bore water. This is applicable to the production of 3-ton of mushroom daily and with 600mm rainfall per year. Second, we tackle the climate change problem by lowering greenhouse gas emitted through agricultural productions by maximising the usage of renewable energy. Although solar energy, including battery storages, is becoming more popular, it is still not the reliable source of energy due to the surge in energy demand during different stages of a farming activity. A large and polluted diesel generator is usually used as a back-up energy source. To avoid this, we utilise advanced data analytics to calculate and spread the energy requirement over a broader period of time. This ensures the renewable energy is sufficient for our farm.


Conventional approaches that rely on growing drought-resilient crops [2] limit the farmer’s choices and might be impractical. Recent climate-smart technologies attempt to improve soil conditions for drought preparation [3] or apply drip irrigation to reduce water usage [2]. This method is ad-hoc and not scalable. In contrast, our proposed framework applies cutting-edge technologies to automatically adjust all parameters simultaneously, while minimising water usage during drought periods. Here, the water consumption of a farm for an entire year is projected via our data-driven AI models. All details, including energy and water consumption, environmental changes, inventory and yield prediction will be depicted on a dashboard for monitoring and planning.

Public benefits

The success of this project will provide 3 key benefits to the community. First, our solution is scalable and applicable to not only mushroom farms but also other agricultural businesses, e.g. tomato and strawberry greenhouses. Second, data-driven renewable energy (with battery) and water usage model means minimal impact to the environment, hence promoting highly efficient and sustainable agriculture in Australia. Third, greater yield means lower price for consumers (the current average price of exotic mushrooms is $30-80/kg), hence everyone can afford to frequently have access to this most health-promoting foods. Countless scientific studies have revealed a variety of ways mushrooms can be useful in preventing and treating serious health conditions and in improving overall health, thus lowering medical bills.


[1] https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/eyes-on-environment/water_world/
[2] https://cuesa.org/article/10-ways-farmers-are-saving-water
[3] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climate-smart-agriculture