FFN Opinion: Importance of Farm Innovation

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Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent yarn from FFN Director Lachlan Lynch.

“What is now proved was once only imagined” – William Blake.

Innovation is a word that we hear a lot in agriculture, and possibly a little too much. As soon as the word is mentioned, we automatically think of some fresh, new technology that is not yet commercially available - robots that can pick fruit, autonomous tractors, or virtual fencing for livestock. However, as these things are far from reality, we think “I will believe it when I see it” or “it will be a while until I can use that in my business.” For this reason, we often put innovation projects to the side, when it is actually us who should be innovating every day.

As young farmers, we need to stop associating the word innovation with technology, instead acting on the definition of the word which is “the action or process of innovating” and realising that innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any business. Innovation cannot just be left up to the technology companies or research organisations. Who better, than those working directly in the industry every day?

As young agriculturalists, we should take up the responsibility of innovating within our businesses. Although there are lessons to be learnt from those who have gone before us, there is always the opportunity to improve production and profitability. Those who fail to innovate will fall behind their competitors.

I believe that innovation can be as simple as changing your morning routine to see if time can be saved or making the time to read a report you’re interested in at night. Expanding your knowledge base and learning from your industry peers is imperative to successful innovation. Our generation has the ability to collaborate and communicate with ease. We need to capitalise on the opportunities to collaborate and share information to improve the Australian agricultural industry.

I challenge you all, to make innovation a permanent part of your business. Why not add on-farm research projects into your annual budget or goals this year? Make innovation your priority. When you hear about another farmer in your area doing something different, ask questions and learn and consider whether the practice is applicable to your business. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, chances are, the learning is reciprocal and that farmer can also gain insights from you.

Given the nature of farming, isolation is always a part of our life. With the whole of Australia now in isolation due to COVID-19, it has never been easier for farmers gain new skills with the influx of online learning. This opportunity won’t last forever so I encourage everyone to take it.

We have all heard “the world must double food production by 2050 to keep up with population growth”. As the next leaders in Australian agriculture, this is our challenge to meet. This demand will not be met by 2 or 3 technologies but rather a combination of tiny production innovations made every year.