Turnbull’s vision good news for agriculture

By David Eyre
General Manager, Research & Development, NSW Farmers

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s $1 billion commitment to innovation and his focus on the enabling role of digital technology presents great opportunities to the agricultural sector. 

Australian agriculture is on the cusp of massive disruption. Technology convergence across the fields of sensing, energy, robotics, genetics and chemistry is transforming food and fibre production, enabling multifactor productivity gains that were inconceivable a decade ago.  At the same time, digital logistics and marketing solutions are driving ‘’disintermediation’’ – the removal of non essential or inefficient steps in supply chains.

All this could add up to increased productivity on farm and also higher farm gate prices, as farming SMEs use digital supply chain and marketing platforms to connect more directly with consumers.

The new technology is dazzling: a practical question is how to access the capital and human resources needed to benefit from it?  Given limitations on telecommunications in the bush, a threshold problem for many farms is simply connecting to the digital economy,

With classic ingenuity and initiative, farmers are rising to the challenge and working around the barriers.  A first step is learning about the trends and opportunities and tapping into the many resources available.

Aginnovators.org.au, for example, is a NSW Farmers initiative supported by the Federal Department of Industry, CSIRO and other key innovation bodies providers. It promotes trends and solutions across the food and fibre value chain and provides a wide range of learning resources.

At policy level, we believe that plenty can be achieved in the near future to break down the barriers to faster adoption.

Part of this is more strategic alignment of programs across education, telecommunications, compliance, export and industry development,

The digital revolution makes it possible to rethink the way industry, science and technology are administered across portfolios and departments. A priority in this regard is ensuring stronger links between agricultural programs and the broader industry and regional development program.

Australia’s ability to produce and value-add high quality food and fibre is perhaps our strongest suite moving forward as a nation.  Having “family farms” as custodians of the production process and speaking to its sustainability and quality is important to Australia’s brand as we compete in high value export markets. Upstream in the value chain we hope to see advanced food and fibre manufacturing precincts established in regional hubs that create new job opportunities and invigorate regional economies.

This future is readily achievable but depends on developing  a shared vision across the many and various stakeholders in the sector.

Click here to subscribe to aginnovators: http://www.aginnovators.org.au/node/191

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Published in The Land - 10 December 2015

Contact: David Eyre

Phone: 1300 794 000

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