Changing the global landscape of sustainable agriculture with Siemens technology

Siemens Ltd
Monday, 20 June, 2022


Agricultural industries around the world are facing the challenge of sustainably increasing productivity to meet the demands of a growing population. As consumer focus leans towards organic, ethically grown produce, land stewardship and environmentally responsible farming practices prove central to economic growth and export potential.

In 2022, Siemens is celebrating 150 years of transforming the everyday in Australia, powering critical research and the development of safer, smarter industrial solutions. One key region Siemens technology has had significant impact in has been North Queensland, where organisations such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and companies such as Agripower are using technology to create a sustainable impact on local and global economies.

Siemens’ Beyond 150 Competition highlights the work of such organisations and offers a series of exclusive travel experiences, including a visit to AIMS’ advanced simulation facility at the Great Barrier Reef. The June prize will showcase Siemens’ involvement in sustainability projects across Queensland, where local innovation is making a considerable impact on the international market. By harnessing Australia’s abundant natural materials with state-of-the-art digital infrastructure, businesses such as Agripower in Charters Towers are introducing global economies to new product innovations.

In many countries, a major contributor to environmental damage from farming is the fertilisation of food crops. Traditional nitrogen and phosphorus products are highly soluble, often leaking into waterways and forming algal blooms. This can have a negative flow-on effect for marine ecosystems, fisheries, community health and tourism economy in surrounding areas.

In answer to these concerns, the Agripower plant is harnessing the world’s largest deposit of amorphous silica to develop a one-of-a-kind certified organic fertiliser. In its naturally occurring state, amorphous silica is a fine pozzolanic material (SiO2) that does not have a crystalline structure. This environmentally and economically viable intensification to crop production is already being employed in regions such as the United States, India, Spain, China, Russia and Brazil.

The Agrisilica® fertiliser is completely safe for land, water and air ecosystems, and is proven to support up to 120% increase on yield due to high retention rates. Most notably, it emits no carbon emissions when applied to farming soil, and even helps to sequester carbon in the atmosphere due to its high plant available silicone (PAS) content.

Agripower’s manufacturing facility is equipped with cutting-edge technology from Siemens, helping to produce 240,000 tonnes of product each year. Implemented in conjunction with AP Automation, this scalable, digital portfolio allows seamless connection between devices and high diagnostic coverage around the site.

According to Peter Prentice, Managing Director at Agripower, the primary challenge in the development of Agrisilica® has been to replicate the size, shape and weight of traditional fertiliser granules. After trialling various milling techniques for two years, they were able to select the optimum equipment, utilising Siemens’ simulation tools to narrow down key variables like mixing and drying times.

The on-site technology — including Siemens’ programmable logic controllers, SIMATIC and SCADA systems, variable speed drives, motor control, sensing and measurement devices — has enabled Agripower to scale up from a pilot plant to high production capacity. This Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) solution allows them to equip the full potential of generated data to produce and export their fertiliser at a global scale, with potential to expand their footprint in coming years.

Winners of this month’s Beyond 150 prize will be taken on an all-inclusive trip to the iconic Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland. The package will feature a visit to the SeaSim facility and accommodation on Magnetic Island, complete with a scenic flight over the reef and a lunchtime sail tour. To enter, visit the registration page before 30 June 2022.

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