Looking Further Afield: Is Smart Digital Farming the Future of Agriculture?

Looking Further Afield: Is Smart Digital Farming the Future of Agriculture?

The days of farmers visually inspecting and manually harvesting their crops in large-scale industries are ending. It is now far more efficient and profitable to use machines to assist these processes.

Known as smart digital farming, the limitations of human physiology are continually being negated with advancements in technology. As the global population increases, there are now 8 billion of us, this technology will be key in ensuring that agriculture keeps up with increasing human consumption.

Read on to learn more about how smart digital farming is the future of agriculture. 

What is Smart Digital Farming?

Smart digital farming, also commonly referred to as precision agriculture, is a series of cooperating technologies that combine to optimise farming processes and results. The five main technologies associated with it are advanced imaging, sensors, robotics, data analysis and machine learning. 

When working together they make monitoring, sorting and harvesting crops an automated, or at least heavily assisted, process. 

What Technologies are Used for Smart Digital Farming?

The following five technologies are integral to smart digital farming. 

Advanced Imaging

Advanced imaging is an umbrella term that refers to technology that captures high-resolution images of crops or seed batches. These can be analysed and scored by the machine itself, or categorised and stored for later analysis. Machines can quickly and accurately score samples based on the parameters you input. This happens quickly and eliminates the risk of human error. 

Sensors

Remote sensing allows you to analyse vast crops using spectral imaging. Spectral imaging measures light wavelengths emitted from surfaces and assigns a colour to each pixel that acts as a unique signature. Subtle changes to a plant’s composition, such as wilting at the edges or the presence of mould, will appear as different colours, including when the differences are subtle enough to not be seen by the human eye. 

Robotics

Agriculture will always have a physical element to it. Seeds will always need to be planted and crops will always need to be harvested. However, these actions don’t necessarily need to be completed by humans. Machines can automate many of these processes at a large scale. Even surveying can be done remotely with UAVs. In the future, it may become possible for farmers to never need to set foot on the farm!

Data Analysis and Storage

The days of keeping written data are gone. Not only does data need to be digital, it needs to be easily integrated with analysis systems and programs. High-quality precision agriculture devices will have built in data storage and organisation features, with some conducting the analysis as well. 

Machine Learning

Machine learning is when artificial intelligence (AI) in smart digital machines can teach itself without user inputs. A common example is when devices use historical data to refine their algorithms. This means machines become exponentially more effective, as the data they learn from becomes more accurate over time. 

What are the Advantages of Smart Digital Farming?

Smart digital farming increases both profitability and output in all areas where it’s applied. With that said, there are four main benefits that can be identified as the most transformative for agricultural enterprises. 

Saves Labour

To survey an entire field on foot, or inspect every seedling in a batch by hand, you need to pay labour costs. These costs quickly add up, especially when hiring people with more expertise and attention to detail who are more expensive.

Labour is also time consuming. Manual seed testing requires the careful documentation of hundreds of seedlings, while a crop inspection of a large property could require days of travel time. By using technologies like advanced imaging or UAV mounted sensors, you can complete these processes in far less time. 

Saves Costs

In addition to saving labour costs, smart digital farming also reduces waste. With advanced imaging you can identify diseased, mouldy or infested plants before they can spread throughout the crop. You can also be more judicial with the use of water and pesticides by paying greater attention to portions of the crop that require extra care. 

Imaging and machine learning also allows you to troubleshoot genetic issues to eliminate poor quality strains from your batches. Machine learning will improve its algorithms over time by adding historical data of poor seeds and samples to its evaluation criteria. This will exponentially reduce the amount of waste over time. 

Increases Yield

Just as imperfect plants can be removed from crops, the best performing ones can also be identified and used to create better yielding strains. This assisted phenotyping means crops will yield more over time. 

Increased yield obviously makes your enterprise more profitable, but it also enhances your reputation as a supplier. Both of these gains help put you in a position to expand your business.

Increases Scalability

Saving labour and costs, combined with increasing yields, makes your operation far more scalable. From studying seed germination to having a large acreage of ground-standing plants, you are limited by your ability to plant, monitor and harvest. 

With smart digital farming you are able to expedite all three of these processes, allowing you to expand your operations. 

PAS Offer Smart Digital Farming Devices

At Portable Analytical Solutions, we offer a range of devices that can unlock your smart digital farming potential. Headwall Photonics and LemnaTec are both leading manufacturers in the precision agriculture space. While they each have an impressive array of tools, we’ve highlighted two of the most essential for both large and small scale agricultural operations. 

The Headwall Photonics Hyperspec Nano 

Hyperspec Nano
Hyperspec Nano

The Hyperspec Nano is the premier UAV-mountable device for large scale spectral imaging of crops. Manage the health of your plants remotely by surveying large portions of your crops at once. Don’t waste precious time and labour on collecting samples and manual surveying. 

The Lemnatec™ SeedAIxpert 

LemnaTec SeedAIxpert
Lemnatec SeedAIxpert

The Lemnatec™ SeedAIxpert will transform your seed germination testing operation. Don’t rely on individually scoring hundreds or thousands of seeds. Eliminate wasting time and the risk of human error with advanced imaging. The Lemnatec™ SeedAIxpert photographs, scores, and analyses your seed batches for you based on your parameters. 

If you’d like to acquire a device from our smart digital farming range, get in touch today. 

For more information about PAS, including technologies for other industries, visit our website.

The Chromatic Aberration Effect: How it Affects Hyperspectral Imaging

The Chromatic Aberration Effect: How it Affects Hyperspectral Imaging

Hyperspectral imaging technology is an integral part of mining in Australia. Images taken at high resolutions can reveal astonishing amounts of data without needing physical samples.

The catch is, the quality of the images directly affects the quality of the results. 

Chromatic aberration is an optical problem in cameras and some sensors that can distort hyperspectral images and make data unusable. 

If you are in an industry that uses hyperspectral sensors, read this article for an explanation and solution for chromatic aberration. 

What is Chromatic Aberration?

Chromatic aberration, which is commonly referred to as colour fringing, occurs when a lens can’t accommodate all the wavelengths of colour on a focal plane, or if the colours are focused in different positions. 

This means colours travel at different speeds through the lens, known as dispersion, and they blur the image. Colours can appear to bleed into each other, or from the ‘fringes’ of objects in the image. 

What are Hyperspectral Sensors?

Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) captures a wide spectrum of light beyond the primary colour range. Individual pixels can be assigned colour ‘signatures’ because each one will emit light slightly differently on the spectral band. These signatures can then be paired with specific minerals during the analysis stage. 

Hyperspectral imaging is used widely in mining and food industries because it can facilitate detailed analysis and predictions without having to collect and destroy physical samples. 

How does Chromatic Aberration Affect Results? 

Chromatic aberration can severely affect results and make images completely unsuitable for analysis. There are two kinds of chromatic aberration

Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration

The first is longitudinal aberration, also known as axial aberration. This occurs when the wavelengths fail to converge at a single point after passing through the lens. This commonly causes fringing, where the outlines of objects or distinctive features have an incorrectly coloured tinge, usually green or purple. 

This colour distortion means light ‘signatures’ can’t be correctly applied where chromatic aberration occurs. 

Lateral Chromatic Aberration

The second type is lateral chromatic aberration, also known as transverse chromatic aberration. This occurs when wavelengths hit the lens at an angle, causing them to reach the focal plane at different positions. This is common with fish eye lenses that allow light to penetrate at unusual angles.

Unlike longitudinal aberration, the fringing won’t appear around the object, but towards the edges of the image instead. Despite this difference, both cause issues with signature assignment and are a threat to accurate data when aberration occurs in hyperspectral imaging. 

Can Chromatic Aberration be Prevented?

Lenses are prisms. This means imperfections in the lenses can cause wavelengths to behave erratically when passing through. Most instances of chromatic aberration are caused by imperfections in the lenses themselves. For photographers, keeping their lenses well maintained and editing out aberrations after the fact is usually sufficient. 

For hyperspectral imaging purposes, time and data are money. You can’t afford to waste either dealing with chromatic aberration. That’s why hyperspectral imaging sensors do away with lenses altogether. Instead, they opt for diffraction gratings.

Diffraction gratings work in the opposite way to lenses. Where lenses focus wavelengths on a single focus plane, diffraction scatters the light instead. This light passes through a lattice where it is processed and reconstructed as a legible image.

Since there is no lens, hyperspectral imaging sensors are mostly immune from the chromatic aberration effect. The only exception to this is if the sensor doesn’t have the ability to read the full light spectrum that is being emitted. In this case, unrecognised colours could still manifest incorrectly in the final image. 

Headwall Photonics

If you want hyperspectral imaging devices that are application specific and can eliminate chromatic aberration over the entire spectral range, Headwall Hyperspectral Sensors are the devices for you.

PAS is the leading supplier of Headwall Photonics products in Australia and New Zealand. They have a wide range of hyperspectral sensors for mining and other industries. 

In particular, the Hyperspec VNIR – SWIR Co-Aligned uses its chromatic aberration correcting imagery to map large swathes of land with a high degree of accuracy. This product is incredibly popular for land surveying and mining exploration – especially with its UAV-mounting capabilities. 

A Hyperspec VNIR – SWIR Co-Aligned device
Hyperspec VNIR – SWIR Co-Aligned

If you’d like to inquire about purchasing your own Hyperspec VNIR – SWIR Co-Aligned, or any other incredible Headwall device, get in touch today.

For more information about Portable Analytical Solutions, visit our website. 

Clear as Mud: 5 Common Methods for Contaminated Soil Testing

Clear as Mud: 5 Common Methods for Contaminated Soil Testing

You can often tell how land has been used decades after based on the composition of its soil. Depending on what the land needs to be used for, the absence of nutrients and biodiversity, or the presence of toxic contaminants, can all affect its value and viability.

There are several common methods for contaminated soil testing, and some are more effective and efficient than others. Read on to learn about them. 

What is Contaminated Soil Testing?

Contaminated soil testing checks soil for the presence of toxic materials, such as:

For land to be viable for certain industries, especially agriculture, it needs to be tested. Likewise, for land to be developed into residential areas, the soil needs to be safe for human habitation.

Why is Accurate Contaminated Soil Testing Important?

Contaminants in soil can harm people in a lot of different ways. It can be absorbed into crops and eaten, and it can be absorbed through our own skin or inhaled. It’s also possible for contaminated soil to leach into the water supply. 

Asbestos soil contamination in particular is a serious threat, as asbestos can lead to terminal illnesses. 

This high risk to human health means the testing of soil is highly regulated. To develop land without the risk of lawsuits, it’s essential that you have a testing method that is fast and accurate. 

The 5 Most Common Methods for Contaminated Soil Testing

The below methods are the most common contaminated soil testing methods, but some are more effective than others. 

1. Gas Chromatography (GC)

The gas chromatography method takes a sample, in this case a small portion of soil, and is put into a gas chromatograph. This device then heats the sample to make it volatile. This heat converts the sample to gas, which passes through an analytical column.

At the end of the column is a detector, which analyses the gas. Different components of the sample will produce different gases, which are recorded by an acquisition software, and will create a chromatogram, which shows a breakdown of the components of the sample.  

The problem with GC is that it is a physical testing method, which comes with several limitations. First, it destroys the sample in the process, which means two samples need to be taken, one for your GC test, and another for lab confirmation.

The gas chromatography is also prone to malfunctions, gas leaks and incorrect assembly. If this occurs, not only does it potentially skew results, but it also costs time and requires another sample to restart the process. Overall, even when GC works correctly, it takes a long time compared to other technologies in this list.

2. Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF)

The laser-induced fluorescence method takes a sample and excites it with a laser. The molecules of the sample become so hot that they become electronically excited. As they return to their ground state, their fluorescence and the resulting spectrum is captured by a photodetector. 

LIF can also be used to detect vibration wavelengths in liquid samples. In these cases it’s the vibrations that are measured. 

Laser-induced spectroscopy is a popular method, but it does have a serious drawback. It’s predominantly designed to identify hydrocarbons, which makes it an excellent testing method for gas, petroleum and oil contamination. The problem is, organic and certain heavy metal substances can also fluoresce and affect the readings. 

3. Infrared Spectroscopy (IRS)

The infrared spectroscopy method uses infrared radiation to test the composition of a sample. By exposing a sample to infrared radiation, the time it takes for the radiation to be absorbed can be measured. Because the sample will be made of various components, the absorption rates will differ on a molecular level. These differences can then be mapped spectroscopically. 

IRS generates very accurate results, because it can test very narrow wavelengths. The problem is, to achieve this, the sample needs to be prepared into very thin layers to facilitate attenuated total reflection (ATR). This can be very time consuming. 

4. Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR)

The near infrared spectroscopy method works very similarly to IRS. It also uses radiation absorption times to create a spectroscopic outline of the different components in a sample. Where it differs is the kind of radiation it uses. As its name suggests, it uses near infrared, rather than fully infrared radiation. This allows it to detect a broader electro-magnetic range. 

Unlike IRS, NIR doesn’t require complex sample preparation because it has the capacity to detect more broadly. This means it is a great tool for testing a wider range of samples, and for testing them quickly. 

The only problem is that to allow the broader range, there is a necessary tradeoff in detection limits. This means it’s ideal for giving an overview of the presence of possible soil contamination, but you would be better off using IRS for a comprehensive breakdown of a particular sample. 

Combined, IRS and NIR can offer a robust contaminated soil testing solution.

5. X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) 

The X-Ray fluorescence method irradiates a sample with X-Ray radiation. Afterwards, as the sample stabilises, electrons emit fluorescent X-Rays of their own. Different elements have different energy release peaks, which act like fingerprints, allowing them to be recorded on a spectrograph. 

While the methods may sound similar, the main difference between XRF, and IRS and NIR, is that XRF analyses at an atomic, rather than molecular level.  This means it combines the accuracy of IRS with the broad spectrum of NIR. 

It also obtains near-instantaneous results, which makes it the ideal technology for working in the field with portable devices. Additionally, it can detect all 26 elements of EPA Method 6200, making it one of the most sought after contaminated soil testing methods in the industry. 

The Niton XL2 and XL2+ Analysers

An XL2 Analyser being used in the field

Thermo Fisher’s Niton XL2 and XL2+ Analysers are the best tools for contaminated soil testing on the market. 

The XL2 is calibrated to detect 30 elements from sulphur to uranium, while the XL2+ can detect from magnesium to uranium. Along with testing for trace metals, they can also identify geochemical traces. 

Their easy point-and-shoot functions and real-time results help minimise how long you or your team need to spend on potentially contaminated surfaces, and it also means testing is much quicker.

Rather than waiting for costly lab analysis turnaround times, you can reliably screen a site before starting work. Then, once lab confirmation arrives, you can start without costly interruptions. 
To purchase your own Niton XL2 or XL2+ Analyser, get in touch with us today.

The Benefits of Hyperspectral Data Imaging for Mine Mapping

The Benefits of Hyperspectral Data Imaging for Mine Mapping

Hyperspectral data imaging is revolutionising mine mapping, and will only continue to improve in the future. The benefits far outweigh the costs, especially when compared to traditional on-foot greenfield exploration. 

If you’re looking for a way to improve the efficiency and profitability of your mine mapping operations, read this guide to the benefits of hyperspectral data imaging.

What is Hyperspectral Data Imaging?

Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) captures a wide spectrum of light beyond the primary colour range. Every pixel of an image can be identified due to the spectral band of the light that it emits, which acts like a signature. 

Different minerals will emit different light signatures, which allows the mineral composition to be identified upon later analysis. 

Hyperspectral data imaging is non-destructive. Where other analysis methods need to agitate or excite physical samples, HSI simply needs to be able to take images of a sample area. 

UAV-Mounted Devices

HSI doesn’t require physical samples, which allows it to be much more scalable and mobile than alternative testing methods. For example, many hyperspectral imaging devices can be mounted on UAVs. This makes mapping large swathes of land affordable and effective.  

The Benefits of Hyperspectral Data Imaging for Mine Mapping

The benefits of hyperspectral data imaging for mine mapping speak for themselves. You can improve almost all areas of your mine mapping without any drawbacks. 

More Detailed Data

When taking physical samples, you can get a highly accurate analysis of the sample itself, but you then need to rely on extrapolation to make assumptions about the rest of the survey area. These assumptions are educated guesses, and there is always an element of risk that the sample will be an anomaly.  

HSI doesn’t need to rely on chance. It can capture wide arrays of data that will confirm the presence of your target minerals throughout the site, not just in small sections. 

Saves You Time

Not only is hyperspectral data imaging more detailed, it’s also much quicker than physical testing methods. For conclusive analysis of an entire site, physical samples would need to be taken as a cross section, which takes time and labour. 

With HSI, especially when aerially captured on a UAV, definitively capturing data over vast distances is far more time-efficient. 

Saves You Money

In business, time is money. That means saving time with hyperspectral data imaging also saves you money. Sending explorers is expensive. You have wages, equipment, vehicles and insurance to pay, and that’s only if everything goes well. 

As landscapes get more rugged, equipment failures or time spent navigating to a site can quickly ramp up the expenses. 

With HSI, you can eliminate these costs. Drone technology is constantly improving, especially now that it is being used in serious capacities for large industries like mining. It is much cheaper to pay for a drone and an operator to conduct long-range data capture, than it is to pay for explorers to be in the field for potentially days at a time. 

Less Costly Unsuccessful Explorations

The cost of unsuccessful explorations is two-fold. You lose the time you could have spent on a successful exploration, and you also lose your investment. 

With HSI, you are far less likely to overcommit to a bad prospect, because you can achieve a more holistic capture of the data in a shorter period of time. That way you can decide early on if a prospect is worth further analysis or not. 

Safer Exploration

While physical exploration is always becoming safer, there are still risks. This is especially true in extremely isolated or remote areas of Australia. Some mining sites can be very difficult to access, especially if the terrain around them is particularly rugged.

With hyperspectral data imaging, the bird’s eye view afforded by UAV technology lets you safely map difficult areas without having to put someone in harm’s way. 

Headwall Photonics Class-Leading Hyperspectral Data Imaging Devices

A Hyperspec VNIR – SWIR Co-Aligned device

The leading hyperspectral data imaging devices on the market are made by Headwall Photonics. They offer a range of sizes and calibration groupings for different industries. 

For mining, the Hyperspec VNIR – SWIR Co-Aligned uses a patented aberration-corrected design that provides very high spectral and spatial resolution with stable measurement accuracy.

Its broadband range of 400-2500 nm makes it ideal for mine mapping, along with the ability to mount it on to a UAV. 

If you’d like to purchase a Hyperspec VNIR – SWIR and transform the profitability of your mine mapping operations, get in touch with Portable Analytical Solutions today. 
We supply Headwall Photonics products, as well as a range of other mining devices. For more details about PAS, visit our website.

Nipping it in the Bud: Non-Destructive Detection & Monitoring of Mould on Cannabis with Hyperspectral Imaging

Nipping It In The Bud: Non-Destructive Detection & Monitoring Of Mould On Cannabis With Hyperspectral Imaging

The Australian legal cannabis industry is valued at over USD 50M and is slated to increase by 30% each year until 2030. But like all relatively new industries, its growth hasn’t come without a few teething issues.

Mould growth has been a persistent problem in cannabis populations. Not only can it reduce viable yields, but common testing methods are cumbersome and destructive. 

With that said, hyperspectral imaging is a technology that is making waves in the cannabis industry. Read on to learn how its non-destructive detection is a faster and more cost effective solution than any of the alternatives. 

How does Mould Impact Cannabis Growth?

Mould can be devastating for cannabis growers and sellers. It can seriously affect the appearance and texture of cannabis, both as a live plant and dry bud, which therefore reduces its value. 

Worse than that, mould can cause allergic reactions and even death when ingested or inhaled. Given the medicinal marijuana market makes up the majority of legal cannabis demand, this is concerning. People who take medicinal marajuana for chronic conditions are often more susceptible to the effects of mould. 

Like with any crop, mould can quickly ravage plant populations without the grower knowing before it is too late. Mould spreads before it becomes visible to the naked eye. Without proper testing, it can be difficult to nip it in the bud. 

What are the Current Mould Testing Methods? 

There are three commonly used methods for testing and detecting mould in cannabis populations. 

Gas Chromatography 

To test a cannabis gas chromatograph (GC), samples of both fresh and dry buds need to be carefully removed, packaged and sent to a third party lab. There, the samples are then heated and the chemical composition of the gases they produce are analysed. 

This method is time consuming, and is more suited to identifying the quality of the cannabis, not necessarily the presence of mould. The sample is also destroyed in the process. 

High-Performance Liquid Chromatography 

High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)  also requires samples to be removed, packaged and sent to the lab. It mainly differs from GC methods because it uses a liquid solvent to separate the components of the sample, rather than a gas.

HPLC is another time consuming method due to the process itself, but also the lab turnaround time. Similarly to GC, it also destroys the sample. Given samples only test a single plant, not an entire population, if you want to scale your analysis to include multiple plants, the destruction of further samples will eat into your revenue. 

Single-Point Reflectance Spectroscopy (SPRS)

SPRS only needs to be calibrated with a direct measurement of a cannabis sample once, and then it can be used to indirectly measure samples. This is a marked improvement over GC and HPLC, as it doesn’t destroy samples and can achieve real-time results. 

The issue is, it can still only measure individual samples at a time, which then need to be extrapolated to predict the characteristics of the larger population. 

All three of these solutions fail to test large enough sample sizes quickly, and are more suited to evaluating the quality of the plants themselves, rather than the presence of mould growth. 

What is Hyperspectral Imaging?

Hyperspectral imaging is a way of seeing a material in more detail. The human eye isn’t capable of seeing much of the colour spectrum, which means we lose a lot of detail. This becomes more true the smaller objects get.

Hyperspectral imaging captures a much wider light spectrum, fine tuned to the point where any tiny variation on the surface of a material will register with its own signature. 

Variations can be caused by changes in size, shape, colour and chemical composition. When analysing cannabis plants and buds, mould spores, even at minuscule sizes, will be revealed through hyperspectral imaging as a different colour to the sample itself. 

Why is Hyperspectral Imaging Ideal for Mould on Cannabis Detection?

Other than its high accuracy, hyperspectral imaging also has several other advantages when testing for mould on cannabis. 

Non-Destructive Analysis

Hyperspectral imaging is non-destructive. That means no samples are unnecessarily damaged or destroyed in testing. It also means samples don’t have to be removed and prepared, which saves time.

Large Spatial Analysis Range

The biggest issue with the SPRS method is the need to test individual points of the population and then assume that data is indicative of the wider population’s health. Hyperspectral imaging avoids this problem by capturing large-scale samples and ensuring heterogeneity across the results. This can be achieved by securing the MV.X over a belt system.

Real-Time Results

Hyperspectral imaging avoids costly time delays when sending samples to the lab. Instead, its results occur in real-time as samples are being taken. This also allows you to act more quickly and decisively if mould growth is detected. 

Headwall Hyperspec MV.X Test Results 

A Hyperspec MV.X device
Hyperspec MV.X

The best commercially available hyperspectral imaging sensor is the Headwall Hyperspec MV.X. The device is robust and is ideal for line scanning. It uses an image slit that collects reflected light and takes an image every time a row of pixels passes, creating extremely detailed image profiles. 

A recent study conducted at Headwall Photonics with a Hyperspec MV.X tested four unique strains of cannabis. One of them had mould growth, the other three had been previously confirmed to be mould-free. 

The MV.X analysed the spectrum of data and designated the mouldy sample as yellow, and the healthy samples as blue. The results were accurate, with only the mouldy sample appearing as yellow. 

Enquire about a Headwall Hyperspec MV.X

While the Headwall Hyperspec MV.X is proven to be successful for identifying mould on cannabis, it is also useful for a range of applications across agriculture and food processing industries. 

Portable Analytical Solutions (PAS) is a distributor of Headwall products, including the MV.X. If you’d like to inquire about purchasing this product, get in touch today. 

Why is Mining in Australia so Popular?

Why is Mining in Australia so Popular?

Historically, mining has always been one of the backbones of Australia’s economy. But as other founding industries have become less relevant over time, mining continues to thrive.

Despite Australia seemingly embracing a technology and service based economy, mining is proving to be an exception to rule. But why is this the case? Why does mining in Australia continue to be so popular, not just for our own companies, but for international investors as well? 

The answer is complicated, and involves considering more than just basic economics. Read on to learn about the complicated scenario that secures the importance of mining in Australia. 

Mining in Australia is Big Business

Mining is the largest contributing sector to the Australian economy. Throughout the downturn of COVID-19 in 2020, it was one of only four economic sectors to record growth

As of 2021, mining alone was responsible for 10.4% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That clearly makes it the largest sector of the economy. 

The exploration mining budget also increased by 38.8%, or $1.90B, at a higher rate than the global budget growth rate of 35%. This indicates that these numbers aren’t just being produced by existing mines, but that further mine exploration is a continuing – and growing – enterprise. 

According to the 2022-2023 pre-budget submissions by the mining industry, these impressive numbers don’t stop there. In the decade between 2011-2012 and 2000 – 2021, the mining industry contributed:

  • $2.1T in export revenue
  • $132B in company taxes
  • $106B in royalties
  • $257B in capital spending

With a mining industry that is earning that much, it’s no wonder that Australia continues to rely so heavily on it to strengthen its economy. 

Natural Resources

The vast size of Australia, as well as its inhospitable interior, can cause a lot of logistical challenges. One thing it provides that isn’t challenging, however, is an abundance of valuable minerals and ore.

If you combine Australia’s current or late-stage mines and its known reserves, Australia possesses a large amount of the world’s minerals, gold and other precious metals.

Australia notably leads the world in production of:

It also has several of the largest reserves in the world:

  • Iron ore (30%)
  • Zinc (19%)
  • Cobalt (9%)

With such high levels of natural resources, Australia is in a lucrative position when it comes to mining. Whether it sells deposits to international companies, or domestic companies mine them instead, it boosts the economy either way. 

Australia’s Geopolitical Position

Australia finds itself in a strange geopolitical position. As a former British colony, its cultural influences are still dominated by Britain and the USA. But as multiculturalism continues to grow, Australia’s culture is being increasingly influenced by its neighbours in the Pacific and Asia. 

With wide scale conflicts decreasing, old-school military alliances have become less relevant, and trade relationships are becoming more relevant. This puts Australia in a unique position, where it’s culturally tied to nations on the other side of the world, but tied economically to its closer neighbours. 

You might be wondering how this relates to mining in Australia?

Well, we’ve established that mining is Australia’s largest economic sector, so it stands to reason that the countries Australia exports minerals and ore to would be some of its closest trade partners.

The following are the top 5 nations that import minerals from Australia:

  • China 
  • Korea
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong

What do they all have in common? They are all Asian countries with large manufacturing industries, low natural resources, or both. 

The reality is that mining exports are an essential part of Australia’s geopolitical defence strategy. Through maintaining reliable trade relationships with its closest neighbours, and allowing foreign investment into mining ventures, Australia has managed to carve out a niche for itself among some strange bedfellows. 

It’s also worth noting that the pandemic crippled Brazil’s iron ore exporting industry, dethroning them as the  largest iron ore exporter. Since then, Australia has emerged as the leading iron ore exporter in the world, which combined with China being the leading iron ore importer in the world, has further reinforced Australia’s need to produce iron ore.  

Australia’s Labour Market

The benefits of mining in Australia are also felt in its labour market. Mining created 54,000 new jobs between 2010 – 2011 and 2019 – 2020. Over the same period, $246B was paid in mining wages. This job growth is sure to be replicated, and most likely exceeded, over the course of the 2020’s. 

Low employment rates are devastating for any economy, especially through the pandemic. The mining industry helped maintain employment for countless Australian workers during COVID-19, and continue to stimulate employment in regional areas where there aren’t many other employment opportunities. 

Mining also offers a range of employment roles. From unskilled labour to scientific analysis, it provides jobs for Australians across a number of education and skill levels. 

Scientific Research and Development

Government funded research always aims to get a return on its investment. That’s why the Australian government prioritises mining technology research

This has created a cycle where mining continues to be successful, which attracts research, which makes mining more successful, which attracts even more research.  

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is currently funding extensive research in exploration, mineral processing, mining technology, sensing and environmentally sustainable mining. 

The importance of efficient technology to make mining endeavours profitable cannot be overlooked, and Australia is a world leader in this space. With so much investment over a number of decades, it’s no wonder the government continues to invest heavily into mining research and development. 

One of Australia’s Leading Mining Equipment Suppliers

Mining technology covers a range of fields, but being able to quickly and accurately identify elements in the field is essential. X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) technology measures the chemistry of a sample and can reveal its composition. This makes it one of the most useful mining technologies in the Australian mining industry. 

Portable Analytical Solutions specialises in providing state of the art handheld XRF devices. We sell and rent Thermo Scientific’s outstanding range of Nitons and accessories, using the power of XRF to analyse samples from a range of applications. 

Visit our website to enquire about getting your own Niton XRF Analyser today. 

What Does Asbestos Look Like? Asbestos Warning Signs

What Does Asbestos Look Like? Asbestos Warning Signs

For anyone renovating or demolishing older homes, the fear of materials containing asbestos is a real one. You might be wondering whether it is safe for work to proceed, and whether there are any easy ways to spot asbestos. 

Read on to learn what asbestos looks like and what the asbestos warning signs are if you suspect it is in a home.

Please note: Exposure to asbestos can cause life threatening conditions. If you have any suspicions that asbestos is in a home you are working on, do not attempt to identify it yourself. Contact professionals who can identify it safely and definitively. 

What Colour is Asbestos?

The colour of asbestos differs between its natural state and when it is used as a material. 

Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA)

As a naturally occurring mineral, asbestos appears as veins of fibres in rock. Depending on the type, it can appear in four different colours:

  • White – (chrysolite, tremolite, actinolite)
  • Blue – (crocidolite)
  • Brown – (amosite)
  • Green – (anthophyllite, tremolite, actinolite)

If you believe a rock you find contains NOA, don’t disturb it. 

Asbestos Materials

Unlike NOA, asbestos that has been used in materials is not easy to identify. The fibres are microscopic, so asbestos is most often mixed with other materials. This makes it impossible to detect asbestos with the naked eye. It also means the colour of asbestos just becomes the same colour as the material that houses it. 

If you suspect a material contains asbestos, you cannot confirm with a visual inspection. 

Does Asbestos Have a Taste or Odour?

Due to asbestos causing illness through inhalation, many people believe that asbestos has a taste or odour. While this would definitely make asbestos detection easier, unfortunately it is a myth. Asbestos has no odour or taste, and the belief that it does potentially puts people at risk. 

Many older homes can have odours of dust, damp or mould that people incorrectly believe are indicators of the presence of asbestos. The problem is, asbestos is unrelated to these odours, and someone could mistake a lack of ‘old house’ odours to mean a lack of asbestos. 

Sight, taste and smell are all completely ineffective for asbestos detection. Furthermore, by breaking apart, smelling or tasting a material to check for asbestos, you are putting yourself at risk if it does in fact turn out to be contaminated.

Asbestos Warning Signs

If you can’t identify asbestos yourself, you might be wondering if there are any asbestos warning signs that can help you know if you are at risk.

While the applications of asbestos vary wildly, there are some materials and objects that are much more likely to contain asbestos than others, especially if they were made before the 1980’s. 

The most common places to find asbestos in your home are:

While these are areas where asbestos is most commonly found, it isn’t exhaustive. If you are renovating or demolishing an old home, best practice is to get it professionally inspected. Don’t assume that asbestos is or isn’t present without proper confirmation. 

Damaged or Crumbling Material

A major warning sign for imminent asbestos exposure is if a possibly contaminated material is damaged or crumbling. For example, if drywall in an old home is crumbling apart, any potential asbestos contained within is in a friable state – where fibres aren’t bound together and can easily become airborne. 

If this is the case, the safest thing to do is to seal the room and call qualified professionals. 

How to Test for Asbestos? 

If you find there is sufficient reason to test for asbestos, there are two ways this can be done. 

Lab Testing Only

Qualified professionals will remove a sample of the potentially contaminated material and send it to the lab. There, the sample is analysed and the results will be sent to you. While necessary, the time it takes to complete a test and wait for the results can seriously delay a renovation or demolition project. 

Near Infra-Red Spectroscopy (NIR) Screening

NIR screening is by far the most efficient way to screen a home for asbestos contamination. Rather than risking taking physical samples, NIR technology can identify asbestos non-invasively. If a result is positive, simply send the results to the lab and await confirmation. If the results are negative, your project can proceed, 

MicroPHAZIR AS Asbestos Analyser

MicroPHAZIR AS Asbestos Analyser

The microPHAZIR AS is the leading NIR asbestos detection tool.  It can screen for asbestos in just 10 seconds and turns a potentially hours-long sampling process into a few minutes of quick scans. 

With the microPHAZIR AS’  ‘point-and-shoot’ function is designed to be intuitive. Your team will easily be able to get fast, accurate screening results with its incredible ease of use. 

Don’t let not knowing what asbestos looks like halt your progress or put your team at risk. Learn more about the MicroPHAZIR AS today.

Mesothelioma Caused By Asbestos: A Complete Guide

Mesothelioma Caused By Asbestos: A Complete Guide

Asbestos was used as a cheap, multi-purpose material throughout most of the 20th Century.

Unfortunately, what people didn’t realise was that the handy mineral lurking in many of their households was actually deadly if inhaled. 

Read on for a complete guide to one of the most deadly and tragic consequences of asbestos inhalation – mesothelioma.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral that naturally forms into flexible fibres These fibres have been used for a variety of purposes ranging from construction and insulation, to paper and plastic. While its use steadily declined from the 1980’s after its health risks became public knowledge, the buying and selling of asbestos wasn’t officially banned in Australia until 2003. 

Risks of exposure are much lower than when asbestos was still being actively used, however, it is still a threat due to how many homes and products still contain it without their owner’s knowledge. Construction and scrap metal industry workers are particularly at risk when working with properties or materials made before the 1990’s. 

Workers who have been exposed may suffer from cancer and other lung related health conditions. Of these, mesothelioma is considered one of the most deadly. 

Learn more about the danger of asbestos. 

What is Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the outer tissue of internal organs in the human body. Due to its tendency for developing on vital organs, mesothelioma is very difficult to treat or remove. 

The most common organ affected is the lungs, but it also appears on organs like the heart or the stomach, and even the testicles.

Symptoms

The symptoms of mesothelioma differ depending on the type, and also the area of the body where it has formed. 

Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lungs and causes:

  • Lumps in the skin on your chest
  • General chest pain
  • Painful coughing and shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdomen and causes:

  • Abominable swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss

Pericardial mesothelioma affects the heart and causes:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains 
  • Irregular heartbeat or heart murmurs

Tunica vaginalis mesothelioma occurs in the testicles and causes:

  • Swelling
  • Lumps

Unfortunately, the majority of these symptoms don’t become noticeable until later stages. Symptoms can also be confused with other common ailments, and therefore treatment isn’t sought out. 

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

Asbestos exposure is the primary causal factor in 90% of mesothelioma cases. 

When asbestos fibres become airborne, such as during the demolition of a house containing asbestos, they can be inhaled and later turn cancerous. The inhaled fibres can become lodged in the lungs, or can enter the digestive system and become lodged in the abdominal cavity or the testicles. 

Unfortunately, the human body cannot break down asbestos fibres. This means prolonged or frequent exposure can lead to large accumulations of the deadly fibres. 

Over time, they damage the DNA of healthy cells and rampant cancer growth breaks out wherever the fibres are lodged. 

How is Mesothelioma Treated

Sadly, most cases of mesothelioma are terminal. People are usually asymptomatic during the early stages, while during the later stages symptoms are severe and progress quickly.  Only 50% of sufferers will survive a year after diagnosis, with only 10% living for a further 5 years. 

The main reason survival rates are so low is because the cancer is so difficult to remove. Instead of forming tumours that can be removed in one operation, mesothelioma grows along the tissue of multiple organs, which means it is difficult to operate on, and to target for radiation therapy. 

The most important treatment plan for mesothelioma sufferers is often palliative care, focusing on pain relief and prolonging life. 

Prevent Mesothelioma with Preventative Asbestos Testing

With such a poor outlook once mesothelioma has been diagnosed, the most important way to fight it is to prevent the asbestos exposure that causes it in the first place. 

If you work in an industry with a high asbestos exposure risk, like construction or scrap metal sorting, analysing a site before you put yourself or your team at risk is essential. 

Unfortunately, it is also time consuming. Many suspected asbestos cases are negative, and unexpectedly finding asbestos on a job can be dangerous – and halt progress.

To avoid this, you need a way to screen sites quickly and accurately before putting your team at risk.

The MicroPHAZAER AS Asbestos Analyser

The MicroPHAZAER AS is an industry leading asbestos detection tool. With its simple point-and-shoot function, and accurate results delivered in just 10 seconds, detecting asbestos safely couldn’t be simpler. 

The MicroPHAZAR AS is non-invasive, which means you can also avoid the time-consuming safety precautions required for manually taking samples.  

To screen a site, simply conduct a series of scans at different points, and if the results are negative you are clear to proceed. If the results are positive, send the sample away for lab confirmation safe in the knowledge that you didn’t accidentally expose any of your team.

If you want to protect yourself and your team from harmful conditions such as mesothelioma, get in contact today to acquire a MicroPHAZAR AS. 

For more information about, visit our website. 

Greenfield vs Brownfield Exploration

Greenfield Vs Brownfield Exploration

Mining is one of Australia’s most important industries, but have you found yourself wondering how new mine sites are found? 

There are two broad strategies for locating new prospective mining sites: greenfield vs brownfield exploration.

Read on to learn what they are, their pros and cons, and which, if either, is the better strategy. 

What Are the Greenfield and Brownfield Strategies?

Greenfield exploration, also referred to as grassroots exploration, is when new mine sites are located in unexplored or currently undeveloped areas. Ore genesis models are used to predict where mineral deposits can be found. Then, the site is surveyed properly to confirm or disprove the presence of the deposit. 

Brownfield exploration involves searching known or currently mined sites for additional deposits. Because the sites have already been surveyed, this process is usually very straightforward. 

Greenfield Vs Brownfield Exploration

Pros of Greenfield Exploration

Ore isn’t renewable. Every mine will eventually be depleted which means new mines need to be founded to maintain a stable industry. Of the two exploration strategies, greenfield is the only one that can locate new sites, as opposed to revealing extensions of current ones.

From an investment point of view, there is also an element of surprise when greenfield exploring. Ore genesis models are predictive, which means you could survey a prospective site and find a much larger deposit than you originally anticipated. 

Cons of Greenfield Exploration

The potential rewards of greenfield exploration don’t come without downsides. Funding exploration into unsurveyed areas is a big gamble. While data may speculate that ore is there, things like the size, quality and accessibility of the deposit won’t be confirmed until the site is inspected. Not to mention, there is always the possibility that the data is wrong and there is no ore there at all.

Even if ore is found, starting a mine from scratch is very costly. The mine site itself needs to be developed, including creating road access and landscaping. Adding to the costs, all of the mining equipment for the entire operation must be transported to the site. This process takes a considerable amount of time. It isn’t unusual for a new site to take a decade before returning on the original investment. 

Legally, a brand new mine location may be disputed on environmental or cultural grounds, and other interested parties may even attempt to challenge the claim. These may stall, or even permanently prevent, a mine from being founded. 

Pros of Brownfield Exploration

The greatest benefit of brownfield exploration is the high certainty that the endeavour will be profitable with a fast return on investment. Rather than using speculation, data from the existing mine will already show nearby areas where new deposits or entry points could be formed.

A mine started with the brownfield method can take advantage of the infrastructure that has already been established to support the existing mine. Roads, equipment, even personnel, are already present and just need to be extended to the new site. 

Brownfield exploration also mitigates the risk of legal concerns. If the site of the original mine has already been cleared for approval, it is unlikely that a new site within the same area would unearth unforeseen issues. 

All of these positives combine to make brownfield exploration a fast and effective way to source and maintain revenue. 

Cons of Brownfield Exploration

Brownfield exploration is a brilliant short term way to generate safe revenue, but if a mine is nearing depletion, greenfield strategies need to be employed. It’s important to recognise when a site has reached its potential and look further afield. 

Which is Better?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as just choosing one or the other. Both are essential to a healthy mining industry. 

If you think of mines as having a life cycle, in the early to mid-life phase, brownfield exploration is preferable because it is the fastest and most cost effective way to access more ore. 

In the long term, however, as the mine’s output slows, it is essential that greenfield exploration is occurring to find new, prospective sites. Given the extended time it takes to find, establish and develop a new mine, greenfield exploration needs to occur in advance of the brownfield-sourced mines becoming depleted. 

It’s also important for Australia’s greenfield industry to stay consistent because it is a big indicator of the viability of mining as an investment for foreign parties. Low greenfield expedition rates can suggest that Australia’s mining efforts are being slowed by legislation, red-tape, and strict environmental laws. 

The Niton XL2 Plus Analyser

If you are involved in greenfield exploration, one way you can make the process more viable is through quick and easy analysis. Portable Analytics Solutions distribute the The Niton XL2 Plus Analyser, a handheld tool for identifying metal alloys and mineral ores in the field. 

Using X-Ray fluorescence (XRF) technology, the Niton XL2 Plus is capable of getting immediate, accurate readings without needing to damage or remove a sample. 

Designed for the field, it’s sealed against moisture and dust, ergonomically designed, and is password and key protected for security.

If you are ready to revolutionise the effectiveness and efficiency of your greenfield exploration processes, contact us today.
For more information on the Niton XL2 Plus Analyser and its array of incredible features, visit our website.

No More Mr Fluffy: How to Identify Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation

No More Mr Fluffy: How to Identify Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation

While Mr Fluffy sounds like the name of a lovable pet, or a kid’s teddy bear, the truth isn’t something to be happy about.

Read on to find out about the dangerous nature of Mr Fluffy and loose fill asbestos insulation. 

What is Mr Fluffy?

Mr Fluffy was a form of insulation used widely in Canberra and parts of NSW in the 1960’s and 1970’s. This ‘wonder’ product was cheap and effective – and too good to be true.

Its main advantages were that it was light-weight, easy to install, and could be ‘blown’ into cavities where it would settle and create a thermal barrier. This method was called loose filling, and could be used to insulate difficult-to-reach areas. 

As a loose fill product, Mr Fluffy was made of raw asbestos fibres that weren’t bonded together. This allowed them to separate and then settle into small areas, hence the ‘settling’ effect. Unfortunately, this settling effect is the main reason that loose fill insulation is so dangerous.

Asbestos becomes harmful when inhaled. As the loose fill asbestos fibres settle they can fall through the roof cavity into the living space. Also, even if extracted, it is almost impossible to be certain that all fibres have been completely removed from a home. 

When was it Banned?

Eventually the health risks of asbestos were publicly recognised and companies were banned from installing  Mr Fluffy in the late 1970’s. Unfortunately, by then many people had been unwittingly living in contaminated homes for years.

In the 1990’s the Australian government removed Mr Fluffy from a large number of homes. Many families continued to live in homes which had undergone this removal process. 

The problem is, in 2014 studies found that even homes that had been ‘cleaned’ were still dangerously contaminated. While the bulk of the fibres had been removed, the ones that had settled into crevices still posed a serious threat. 

How Many Homes Still Contain Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation?

It is now mandatory for Mr Fluffy homes to be listed on a register. The problem is that it’s hard to know how many there are. Over 1000 homes are known to have been contaminated, with 45 remaining on the register, and the rest being demolished. 

Further complicating things, Mr Fluffy was sold directly to customers in sacks for DIY installations, and other partner companies also used it, so records of these homes are particularly incomplete. 

It’s also important to mention the existence of the Loose Fill Asbestos Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program, which involves the government purchasing and demolishing loose filled asbestos insulation homes. If you are demolishing or renovating a home and find this form of asbestos, you may need to stop so that the owner can assess their options. 

How Can You Identify Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation?

For anyone in the construction industry, when renovating or demolishing a house from the 1960’s and 1970’s it is important to have a reliable screening method. This protects the health and safety of your team, and also prevents unexpected asbestos finds from halting work for longer than necessary. 

There are two ways to screen: invasive laboratory testing or with a Near Infra-Red Spectroscopy (NIR) tool. 

Invasive Lab Testing

Invasive lab testing involves securing a sample of the suspected asbestos material and sending it away for laboratory testing. Because loose fill asbestos fibres are friable, meaning they are easily disturbed and made airborne, testing safely is a slow and detailed process. 

The tester must wear complete protective gear, as well as covering any indoor surface where fibres made airborne by the disturbance could settle. They also need to wet the sample before collecting it to limit friable fibres being dislodged. The sample must then be sealed and the tester needs to thoroughly clean themselves. 

This process must be completed by a professional. Wait times from the initial call, to getting the results, will take days. 

If the test confirms the presence of asbestos, it will have been worth the wait. But if it produces a negative result, you will feel frustrated that you lost days of productivity for what was ultimately just a precaution. 

microPHAZIR AS Asbestos Analyser

MicroPhazir AS
MicroPHAZIR AS Asbestos Analyser

The microPHAZIR AS solves this problem. Don’t halt your project for days unnecessarily. The microPHAZIR AS is a non-invasive tool that can screen for asbestos in just 10 seconds. Save hours spent on the sample taking process and get a result immediately. 

The vast majority of homes don’t contain loose fill asbestos insulation. With the microPHAZIR AS you can keep your projects moving, and your team and workplace safe. If the test comes up clear you can resume work, and if it does identify asbestos, the ‘point-and-shoot’ function means your team can limit their health risk by taking a limited amount of physical samples for the laboratory to verify. 

Learn more about the MicroPHAZIR AS.

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