FFN Opinion: Why agritech is every farmers friend

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 Samantha Noon.

Australian agriculture is one of the least subsidised in the world – but this doesn’t stop Aussie farmers punching well above their weight.

To keep up with demand, increase production, yields and efficiencies to feed the burgeoning population – with the finite resources we have – many people are turning to technology for the solution.

So how can we harness this tool to our advantage? Firstly, we need to deepen our understanding of its purpose and place in our food system. Why? Because the potential is massive and there’s a world of innovation right at our fingertips, waiting to be discovered.

Just look around, our rising on-farm adoption rates is proof of the appetite. Australia’s landslide of agrifood tech innovation is hitting us at force, with widespread benefits. These emerging technologies are not only driving profits in the paddock but saving precious time, providing valuable data, conserving resources – and attracting global investment from US$29.9million in 2017 to US$90.4 million in 2019, according to AgFunder.

From blockchain to AI and automation, here are a few of Australia’s world-class technologies making headway on the global stage: AgriWebb, SwarmFarm Robotics, FluroSat, Ceres Tag, SWAN Systems, AgriDigital and Soil Carbon Co.

Australia’s advances in robotics, remote sensing, machine learning, biotechnologies and crop monitoring tools only scrape the surface of the possibilities. These scientific discoveries paired with the knowledge of farmers to create more meaningful agritech (not just toys) is helping form a more connected, profitable, efficient and sustainable food system.

National Farmers Federation’s goal for a $100billion industry by 2030 is exciting but bold. It requires a 3% growth rate annually, double the current trend. This goal won’t be achieved without technology – and the incremental adoption of the right technology will be a big part of this.

The Australian Farm Institute agrees the adoption of agritech will be key and could help boost the value of production by $20.3billion. Did you know Australia’s Research & Development Corporations (RDCs) have spent $3.3 billion over the last decade, and helped double industry productivity over the past 25 years?

It’s hard to ignore the wealth of opportunity that R&D offers – and not just to our agricultural industries. Numnuts pain relief technology for sheep, created in partnership with AWI and MLA, is a great example of how agritech can be transferred for use in other industries, like healthcare.

So how do you find these technologies and how can we work together to develop more?
Let me introduce you to growAG. (growag.com) a brand new platform showcasing Australia’s world leading agricultural research, unique technologies, commercialisation opportunities and success stories on the one, publicly available platform launched in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) and all of Australia’s 15 RDCs.

This will be the playground for innovative thinkers, investors, researchers and the toolbox for our farmers, along with the next generation of farmers. Now farmers can see all their levy funded research projects under the one roof, for the first time. I’m really excited to be part of this project, led by AgriFutures Australia.

So, let’s rally together, champion Australia’s world-class research and technology and encourage fellow farmers to be part of the ongoing development to help solve real problems and elevate our food system’s collective power.

Bill Mitchell Optiweigh - Agritech (Supplied by AgriFutures Australia)
Bill Mitchell Optiweigh - Agritech (Supplied by AgriFutures Australia)