AusFarm is a highly generic software tool that allows problems to be analysed with simulation models of physical and biological systems. This tool has been built primarily to assist decision-making in agricultural enterprises at scales ranging from paddocks to whole landscapes.
The AusFarm software contains powerful facilities for analysing risk over both the short- and long-term.
Simulations in AusFarm have the following features:
Modularity: Instead of a single program that contains the entire "AusFarm model", simulations in AusFarm are built up from smaller elements known as components that describe parts of a biophysical system.
For example, the standard AusFarm distribution includes one component that handles weather data, and another that describes the dynamics of grazing ruminants.
Separating the parts of a model that are closely related into sub-models has advantages During model development, for software maintenance, and in the deployment of current versions of models. It also means that models from groups other than CSIRO Agriculture and Food can be used within AusFarm.
Configurability: Once a simulation model is decomposed into components, the sub models can be arranged in configurations that reflect a range of different real-world situations.
The practical advantages are that an AusFarm user can put together the simplest model required to analyse a given problem, and can use multiple copies of a model component within a simulation (for example to represent the flows of soil water in each of several paddocks).
Interchangeability: Modular construction also permits substitution of one representation of a process by another, depending on the needs of the user. This can be useful in comparing different representations of a process, or in configuring a simulation for efficient execution.
Representation of both continuous and discrete processes: Many processes in agricultural systems are fundamentally continuous in nature. Others, particularly management interventions, involve sharp changes in the state of the system, which may be thought of as instantaneous events. AusFarm can accommodate both continuous and discontinuous processes.
Hierarchical structure: Ecological and hence agronomic systems contain too many entities to be solved analytically by differential-equation techniques, and they have too few entities to be treated as statistical assemblages. Current ecological theory suggests that the best way to analyse this kind of complexity is to take advantage of the hierarchical organization in these systems that arises from differences in the rates of different processes. Simulations in AusFarm can be configured to capture such hierarchical structure.
AusFarm has been developed by CSIRO Agriculture and Food. The standard distribution includes a set of models, also developed by CSIRO Agriculture and Food, that enable simulations of grazing enterprises located in temperate southern Australia.