Ag tech key to boosting agricultural output
Posted 15 November 2016
Asian demand is creating opportunity for substantial growth in Australia’s agricultural industry but getting farmers to adopt more efficient and sustainable technology is a key hurdle to clear.
At the recent Huawei Innovation Day Asia in Sydney, National Farmers’ Federation Digital and Industry Partnerships General Manager Charlie Thomas told the audience this year’s farm-gate profit was set to hit $67 billion, up 8% from last year despite low growth in the wider economy.
“If that continues, we’re looking at becoming Australia’s next $100 billion industry, which would put us somewhere around where the coal and iron ore industry sits today,” he said.
“The downside is that in our industry we’ve seen a slowing in productivity growth.
“Our industry used to be a real superstar in terms of productivity growth but it has slowed over the past decade or so. We’re looking at ways we can turn that around and we see the rise of ag tech as a real possibility there.”
However, Bridgit Hawkins, CEO and Director of NZ ag tech firm ReGen, said while the technology to boost productivity existed, the ag tech industry had not yet fully cracked the code of getting farmers on board.
“Once you get beyond the early adopters, the rate of technology uptake is really low,” she said.
“We’ve got very low market penetration in agriculture for a lot of technologies and that’s something we have to address.
“We really have to understand what it is that drives farmers to change how they do things.”
Hawkins said having favourable cost-benefit analyses or better environmental outcomes alone were not necessarily enough to prompt farmers to change their approaches.
“In a farm business where you’ve got a lot of variables to control you don’t go willy-nilly and change anything without being certain about what that change is going to do,” he said.
“This is where regulation can be very powerful. Farmers are not necessarily averse to doing things differently but they need to have a very clear signal that they need to do it, they need to do it now and this is what they need to do.”