Growing up on a farm in Kojonup and experiencing the agriculture industry first-hand gave The University of Western Australia postgraduate student Michael Young a unique insight into rural and farming life.
Understanding the complexities of farming, Mr Young channelled his passion into using computer modelling to help improve farm management.
“Farm modelling is not a new concept,” he said.
“Model of an Integrated Dryland Agricultural System (MIDAS) is a whole farm optimisation model that has been used extensively throughout Australia.
“I used MIDAS in depth throughout my honours research project and experienced both its power and limitations. The main two limitations being that it is an excel based program and that it does not explicitly represent seasonal variation.”
These limitations inspired Mr Young to team up with MIDAS expert John Young for his PhD thesis to build a “new and improved” whole farm optimisation model called Australian Farm Optimisation (AFO).
Image: UWA PhD candidate Michael Young in the field at Kojonup.
Now in the second year of his PhD, Mr Young is in the final stage of the model building process.
Once complete, he will use AFO to examine optimal stocking rate. Mr Young said the analysis would yield important information on sheep management in response to seasonal variation that will be directly applicable to farmers.
“Research into seasonal management is becoming more and more important to farmers as they are continuing to experience massive variation in climate from one year to the next,” he said.
The development of AFO would have a much greater impacts beyond Mr Young’s current project.
“It will provide the agricultural industry with access to an improved whole farm optimisation model that can be used to complete detailed economic analysis of many aspect of the farm system, helping to progress the industry into the future," he said.
“Already, there is a lot of interest from fellow researches to get access to AFO.”
Mr Young is the recipient of the Sheep Industry Business Innovation (SIBI) scholarship from DPIRD, Calenup Research Scholarship established by Dr Irwin Barrett-Lennard, and the 2020 Mike Carroll Travelling Fellowship.
“Without the support of these scholarships, it simply wouldn’t have been possible to commit the required amount of time that the project requires,” he said.
“The SIBI scholarship puts a roof over my head, and the Calenup scholarship provides funds additional research activities, such as paying farmers for their time to participate in focus groups design to determine which aspects of the season have the biggest impact on farm management.”