Australian agriculture has always looked to integrate itself with the technological updates that are taking place. Hence, the nation has a long tradition of innovation when it comes to agriculture. In fact, the state and the federal government are great supporters of the merging of agriculture and technology. Agriculture in Australia has to be innovative to survive. Australia’s farms are today amongst the most productive in the world, largely as a result of a willingness – often born of necessity – to do things a different way. Now, in the 21st century, Australian agriculture has adopted innovation as its mantra, with a range of initiatives from business, academia and government to look for new ways to make things happen.
Moreover, agriculture is a key driver of Australian exports. Technology has always played an important role in increasing agricultural output. Hence, there is an extremely valuable opportunity to develop technologies that make a real difference to the economy’s bottom line, while also helping rural Australia realise the economic benefits of the digital technology revolution. The idea that Australia can become a supplier of quality food to Asia’s emerging middle classes is taking hold in Australia’s agricultural industry, and there is an increasing discussion about how best to realise this potential.
According to a recent report, it has been established that more than half of Australia’s food is exported. Export earnings from farm commodities will be around $43.4 billion in 2016, with agriculture comprising 15 per cent of all merchandise exports. But Australia’s agricultural productivity growth, once around 2.9 per cent annually, has fallen back to 1.4 per cent in the last decade, below the global average of 1.7 per cent.
Agriculture Victoria Services, a government-owned company established to provide a commercial interface between government and the agricultural industry and to commercialise government-funded research on technology, is working on a number of projects including livestock tag and trace and a pasture reader.
New South Wales
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is working with various industry and academic partners to develop products including livestock management in sheep, aerial drones, decision support tools via smartphone apps and technology-based irrigation management systems. The DPI is also working with the University of NSW, US technology giant Cisco, CSIRO IT hub Data 61 and NSW Farmers to develop Innovation Central Sydney (ICS), a connected community focused on cloud, analytics, cybersecurity and Internet of Everything (IoT) platforms for agriculture.
The state government has established a $4 million technology commercialisation fund aimed at attracting private sector capital into agricultural R&D. In April 2016 the inaugural Advance Queensland Innovation and Investment Summit included a spotlight forum on agricultural technology. The government, in partnership with CSIRO, James Cook University and QUT, has also developed a ‘digital homestead’ near Townsville to evaluate and demonstrate technologies that enable better decision making on farms, leading to improved productivity and profitability.
Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)