Optimising management strategies for livestock, grassland and cropping operations on a mixed farm or across a variable landscape.
AusFarm's structure allows models of farm components to be configured and co-ordinated with an infinitely flexible set of management rules. The modular design of the software means it can include models from other scientific groups. This greatly expands the number of crop, livestock and management systems that can be represented and analysed compared to GrassGro for example. AusFarm is primarily intended for research into and analysis of agro-ecosystems.
CSIRO Agriculture and Food has used the Common Modelling Protocol to develop AusFarm, a generic simulation tool for agricultural enterprises that is designed to facilitate the analysis of complex agricultural management questions. The AusFarm interface allows a user to configure simulations for execution within the Common Modelling Protocol. Management activities are conceptualized as a set of "events" that alter the state of a sub-model; the series of events that takes place in a simulation is governed by rules that describe conditions under which management events will take place.
The AusFarm software package provides a user interface that makes setting up simulations as straightforward as possible.
The set of available models is stored in a "palette", from which the user drags model instances in order to configure a particular simulation. Initial conditions can be input through component-specific dialogs or through a tabular interface. Management rules are entered using an editor that guides the user in the syntax of the rule language. Simulation output variables can be selected for storage and then graphed or tabulated for export. Outputs can be summarised using a range of techniques, including computation of frequency distributions for risk analysis purposes.
The CSIRO Common Modelling Protocol
The CSIRO Common Modelling Protocol (CMP) is a framework, or set of rules, for building simulation models in a modular fashion. The protocol describes specific methods for carrying out the tasks involved in computing a simulation (initialization, integration, transfers of information, error handling etc). The CMP makes it easier to interchange sub-models (referred to as “components” within the protocol) that are developed by different modelling groups. It also enables links to different modelling systems. Modularity in the CMP enables the building of different configurations of sub-models to meet the precise needs of users. Modular construction also allows substitution of particular sub-models by others depending on the needs of the user, for example substituting a more detailed mechanistic sub-model in place of a simpler empirical one. The CMP allows the integration of dynamic, event-based management with the underlying continuous biophysical processes thus avoiding inflexible, arbitrary decisions which otherwise must be made before the simulation starts. Models and decision support tools (DS tools) based on the protocol can be designed to represent more complex applications than existing models or DS tools, especially those that require simulation of multiple enterprises or multiple locations. The CMP is applicable to any kind of dynamic modelling.
CSIRO Agriculture and Food and the Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit (APSRU) jointly developed the CMP using funds provided by CSIRO and other funds administered by Land & Water Australia. The CMP itself is in the public domain; the specification document is available upon request. Software implementing the CMP has been written by CSIRO and by APSRU and intellectual property rights in these software implementations remain with the author organizations.
Overview of AusFarm Using AusFarm