Food Agility Funded to Fast-Track the Digital Transformation of Australia’s Food Industry

The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO today announced that the Food Agility CRC will be funded with $50m over ten years through the Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centres program.

The bid consortium is led by the Knowledge Economy Institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), together with QUT and Curtin University. Dr Anne Astin will be the inaugural Chair.

UTS Industry Professor and establishment CEO Dr Mike Briers AO said, “Global food production needs to double by 2050 and the opportunity that presents to the Australian food industry is enormous. Yet we are lagging our international competitors in preparing for a digital future”.

“The Food Agility CRC, backed by government, will be an independent, trusted intermediary to accelerate research adoption and commercialisation - including agTech start-ups - to improve digital services to the sector”, Dr Briers said.

The Food Agility bid raised over $160m in commitments for the proposal and has 54 partners across the food value chain – including 15 technology providers, 11 food production companies, 7 service providers, 7 research providers, 6 regional development agencies, 5 government agencies and 3 industry networks.

“Our unique combination of partners across the value chain will fast-track the digital transformation of Australia’s food and agricultural sector”, Dr Briers said.

“Food Agility will use contemporary agile and user-centric design principles, combined with deep engagement with the food sector, to optimise adoption of digital services”, Dr Briers said.

First projects include,

in horticulture:

Food Agility consortium partners are using the Internet of Things to improve the shelf life of bagged lettuce which is dramatically affected by its water content when harvested. Combining on-farm data with data from processing and retailers optimises those harvesting decisions. Just one day of shelf life dramatically improves yields, reduces food wastage, worth billions to the food industry.

In food export markets:

We are working with the industry growth centre Food Innovation Australia Ltd (FIAL) to develop a Market Insights & Information portal which will use real-time information from a number of sources to produce qualitative and quantitative insights to support businesses interested in entering new markets, both domestically and overseas.

In finance:

Food Agility is working to provide viticulturists with better and more timely information so they can benchmark themselves and identify opportunities to improve farming practices, reduce costs and improve the quality and yield of their produce.

Professor Bronwyn Harch of QUT will be Food Agility’s Research Director. “Our research framework is designed to deliver commercial value, to build capacity across the food value chain, and optimise the research investment”, Prof Harch said.

“Our research programmes will create digitally-enabled solutions by focusing on three critical components - hardware, software and liveware. That means: addressing the sensor and communication technologies that underpin data across food value chains; transforming poorly designed, utilised and connected data into information and insights for decision making; and ensuring best practices are integrated into the workflows of governments, industry and consumers, and building a capable workforce”, said Professor Harch.

Executive Director of the Australian Farm Institute Mick Keogh will be an Independent Board Member of the Food Agility CRC. “I am extremely excited about the possibilities that will be created by the Food Agility CRC. The gap between researchers and the agriculture and food sector has been a frustration of mine for many years”, Mr Keogh said.

“The Food Agility CRC provides Australia with the opportunity to match and surpass the capabilities of our global competitors and optimise the enormous potential the food and agriculture sector holds for the Australian economy”, said Mr Keogh.

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The Yield wins Global Innovation Award

Australian start-up company and Food Agility partner, The Yield, has won a major international award for innovation in agricultural technology.

The award was made by AgFunder, the US-based platform for financiers looking to invest in food and agriculture technology companies.

Winners were chosen following input from AgFunder’s 25,000-strong global people network.

The Yield, which was founded in 2014, combines real-time microclimate data and analytics, to power easy-to-use apps so growers can make better and faster decisions. The Yield has a unique capability to make highly-localised predictions using artificial intelligence.

The Yield’s first solution was in the oyster industry and it is now pivoting into agriculture. It agricultural growing conditions app is available for Apple and Android users.

The Yield, is making waves in agriculture circles for its data analytics and innovative interfaces. It has been credited with 'taking the guess work out of growing'.

Read more

The Final interview


Left to right: David Tomlins, Anne Astin, Mick Keogh, Ros Harvey, Mike Briers, Bronwyn Harch, Gavin Smith, Gerard Davis, Garry Gale.

On 30 November we attended the final interview in Canberra as part of the The Food Agility CRC bid. We pulled together an awesome team representing the broad spectrum of our partners (pictured above) to be interviewed by the Cooperative Research Centres Advisory Committee.  It was a fabulous team effort with everyone performing their role on behalf of all our partners.  

It was fantastic to have finished the whole bid process on such a high note - now we await the final announcement.

A Great Team
The Food Agility CRC is building a great team. Check us out:
Our stellar researchers are profiled here:

Food Agility CRC bid is in!

 The Food Agility team hit submit. Left to right: Mike Briers, David Tomlins, Leonie Hellmers, Bronwyn Harch and, via FaceTime, Mara Bun.

The Food Agility team hit submit. Left to right: Mike Briers, David Tomlins, Leonie Hellmers, Bronwyn Harch and, via FaceTime, Mara Bun.

The Food Agility CRC proposal has been submitted.

By deadline we had raised over $150m in cash and in-kind commitments. We are seeking funding of $50m from the CRC programme over 10 years (2017 – 2027). 

We have 54 strongly engaged participants – including:
11 food industry companies
15 technology companies
7 service providers
7 research institutions
6 research development corporations and rural research organisations
3 agriculture industry associations and
5 state government departments of agriculture - which may be a first!

This has been a HUGE team effort. So many to thank and so many extraordinary commitments to the cause of a digitally connected food world.
Thank you everyone for your ongoing support and efforts.

Food Agility CRC shortlisted

Today the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, announced that the $150 million Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre bid has been shortlisted for funding, see

Mike Briers, CEO of the Food Agility CRC, said 'We are delighted to have been selected. The future of food is digital. The Food Agility CRC will create a focused effort to accelerate the benefits for Australia from harnessing consumer insight, to reducing the cost of compliance with food safety standards, to increasing access to finance through better handling of risk, to creating the knowledge workforce that will drive the future of the industry'.

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The vision of the Food Agility CRC is to empower Australia's food industry to grow its comparative advantage through use of digital technology. The bid is led by the Food Agility consortium which brings together the food industry, big technology and service providers, researchers along with state and federal governments. The consortium will now submit a full business case and proposal.

The announcement follows a highly-competitive process for Federal Government support for long-term research efforts.

Food Agility's CEO, Dr Mike Briers recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours roll 2016


We're thrilled that Food Agility's CEO, Dr Mike Briers has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday honours roll. He has been made an AO, Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his  distinguished service to the finance and digital technology sectors, particularly in the area of data intensive research and analysis, to higher education, and to Judo.  

Dr Brier's services includes in the finance and digital technology sectors:

·   Chief Executive Officer, Securities Industry Research Centre of Asia-Pacific, 2001-2015. 

·   Director, RoZetta Technology, 2012-2015. 

·   Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Knowledge Economy Institute, since 2015. 

·   Director, The Yield, since 2015. Acting Director, Sense-T, 2014. 

·   Advisory Council Member, Centre for International Finance and Regulation, 2012-2015. 

·   Founding Member, Conscious Capitalism Australia, since 2012. 

·   Founding Chief Executive Officer, Intersect Australia, 2008-2009. 

·   Founding Member, Capital Markets Co-operative Research Centre, 2001. 

·   Member, Prime Minister's Knowledge Nation IOC, 2015.


· Industry Professor, University of Technology Sydney, since 2015 and Adjunct Professor, 2008-2012. 

·  Associate Professor of Business, University of New South Wales, 1998-2003. 

·  Recipient, Prime Minister's Award for University Teaching (Business and Economics), 1998. 


·  President, Judo Federation of Australia, 2012-2014. President, Judo New South Wales, 2011-2012

Talking Point: Digital Farming Key To Feeding Growing World.

As global population marches to nine billion in 2050, never has the task of feeding people been more urgent or more daunting.

 The only way to keep pace with rising demand is to ramp-up productivity growth with improved production or yield, and better management of land and food resources

The only way to keep pace with rising demand is to ramp-up productivity growth with improved production or yield, and better management of land and food resources

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates feeding this crowded world means global food systems need to produce 70 per cent more food.

In Australia, even though our domestic population is increasing, agribusiness is under pressure. Input and compliance costs are higher than our competitors, and rapidly changing market signals are often poorly understood on the supply side of the food value chain.

Valuable agricultural land is being lost as our population grows and farms on the fringe of cities are gobbled up by housing, and changing climate limits the range of sustainable production in some areas.

At the same time, agricultural productivity is stagnating. From an average of around 2.9 per cent per annum growth in the years between 1991 and 2000, it fell to 1.4 per cent in the decade to 2011, and now sits below the world average of 1.7 per cent.

So, to stay in the game, we will need to do more with less.

The only way to keep pace with rising demand is to ramp up productivity growth with improved production or yield, and better management of land and food resources.

Agribusiness is the next frontier for the “innovation” economy and the terrain is as vast as some of our farms. Ag-tech with its proliferation of novel, hi-tech data gathering techniques — drones, sensors or GPS tracking — provide the tools for unlocking the next wave of productivity gains.

Australian Farm Institute executive director Mick Keogh says an ability to capture digital information at the farm gate is growing rapidly. The key, he says, is turning that flood of information into sensible, decision-supporting tools.

Farmers can now gain control of their farms in ways they would never have dreamt possible a decade ago.

Australian researchers and farmers are developing all sorts of data-driven applications to cut costs and optimise land and water use. Farmers used to speaking in terms of paddock or herd averages can monitor and control inputs with more precision. It is even possible in some cases, to manage decisions down to an individual plant or animal.

“If you control everything to the optimal level, you increase productivity — it’s the old industrial principle that Henry Ford was on to,” says Keogh. “Digital technology really allows agriculture to do that.”

Applied across farm management in Australia, new forms of digital agriculture could add billions to profits on farm and in the agribusiness sector more broadly. This new precision toolkit has meant many young farmers approach farming with new optimism, reflected in the recent increase in enrolments in agricultural studies at tertiary level.

Agriculture has delivered five consecutive years of strong growth and forecasts for this year anticipate a record output of $57.6 billion in raw product forecast — up 8 per cent on last year.

The opportunities for the sector are huge. We sit on the edge of the strongest growing region in the world; we have world-class food safety and environmental credentials; we’ve got modern technology; and we have a strong economy and employ skilled labour.

Serious public and private investment is needed. We need more research, development and collaboration. There is also need for investment in infrastructure. In many areas, leveraging ag-tech to reap productivity gains will require faster internet access. Transport and logistics are also high on many lists.

Former chief executive of the National Farmers Federation Simon Talbot said this year that “if somebody told you there’s a major pillar of the Australian economy that is going to double by 2030, under the right conditions, from a government and societal perspective you would throw all the nation’s resources at it to achieve that.”

This should be a no-brainer. 

Jan Davis is chief executive of the Agribusiness Association of Australia and a former CEO of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association. Mercury, March 30th

The Digital Future of Food

Remember the days when newspapers and TV decided what was news and consumers responded accordingly? Just as the news value chain splintered into a world where people create and share media, the food industry also confronts a changing landscape.

And just like in the media, this disruption is digital too.

Digital technologies are connecting food producers with consumers in new ways. The world is changing from one driven by businesses to one shaped by the consumer – with data analytics powering the transformation.

Food production is becoming localised around cities, driven by demand for local food. Digital technologies can enable localised markets to thrive by sending real-time signals from consumers to growers and back along the value chain.

Despite more people living in apartments, interest in growing our own food and buying food produced locally from supermarkets and restaurants is increasing. This bodes well for food security during natural disasters.

Getting close to consumer preferences is as vital for businesses in rapidly evolving Asian markets as it is in the streets of Melbourne.

As an example of this Skewered Brazilian BBQ is a mobile barbecue company launched in Melbourne in 2015. The company uses Square to leverage digital technology and data to optimise where and what they sell.

Data from Square is powering their business to sell what consumers want, where they want it, at competitive prices. They can control their inventory to cut down waste, which also reduces costs.

“Data analysis through Square has been invaluable for preventing food wastage from our beginnings,” says Emily Gorman, co-creator of Skewered Brazilian BBQ. 

“It is socially and economically beneficial for us as a small company and as individuals to be constantly considering whether or not our food production is accurate and the data we use allows us to solidify this.”


As incomes rise, consumers spend more on food, valuing protein, diversity, and convenience. The rise of Asia is transforming the world. Asia will account for 60 per cent of global food demand by 2050 as consumer incomes grow. But consumer attitudes to price, quality and branding vary significantly across Asia from country to country and there is growing demand for healthy, nutritious, safe, functional and convenient food. 

According to Food Innovation Australia (FIAL)'s Export Market Insights, well-heeled consumers across Asia are a growing market for Australia's safe, clean and tightly regulated Australian food products. How can Australia ensure its comparative advantage in agribusiness and food production is sustained as Asia's growing middle class demands more of clean and green produce?

To address these challenges, some of Australia's leading big data and agtech experts are coming together with companies across the food value chain with a big vision. By using the same agile principles which have transformed software development, it is possible to encourage sharing data right across the food value chain to boost productivity and sustainability while ensuring provenance - the key to a lasting clean and green food future. 

The Food Agility CRC (led by UTSQUT and Curtin University along with multiple food and tech industry partners) has a vision: to empower Australia's food industry to grow its comparative advantage through digital technologies.

Food Agility CEO Mike Briers brings strong entrepreneurial credentials to our endeavour. Briers has served as CEO of SIRCA, a big-data provider with technology expertise second-to-none in terms of the processing of large-scale and complex financial markets data. 

Food Agility's vision is becoming a reality on the ground through AgTech specialist firm and CRC partner The Yield

 Barilla Bay Oysters

Barilla Bay Oysters

Barilla Bay Oysters is a major producer of oysters with over 100 hectares in oyster leases. They are fully integrated with a processing plant for frozen half-shells, a restaurant, a shop and a tourist centre.

Oysters are live products which command a premium price. Live oysters from Australia return 10 times a tonne more than cooked oysters from China. There is a big market potential in Asia with growers reporting up to 600 per cent margins for exported oysters.

Oyster sales rely on Australia's reputation for excellent food safety standards. They are filter animals. When it rains, oysters accumulate toxins from land run-off. Based on data from the nearest weather station, the regulator then closes oyster farms temporarily to protect human health.

Each closure can cost growers like Barilla Bay Oysters between $A20,000 to $A100,000 a day. Nationally this costs around $34 million annually. Analysis indicates closures can be reduced by at least 30 per cent using real-time salinity sensors.

“We are currently in a commercial trial with CRC partner The Yield,” Barilla Bay Oysters Manager Justin Goc said.

“Using their technology, we can reduce the number of harvesting closure days giving an instant return on investment.”


Australia's food industry must be market led to create more value and must be supply ready to capture the export opportunities on our doorstep. This means understanding demand through better and more dynamic market intelligence, as well as growing demand by leveraging our brand for safe and sustainable food.

But being demand driven is not enough – we also need to then ensure we can meet demand. The biggest barriers to supply are access to finance and labour shortages. 

Just as a new suite of financial products will be tailored to offer better terms to growers with operations de-risked through sensor-based intelligent networks, so will experiential learning, robotics and autonomous systems enable a new generation of skilled agricultural workers in years to come.

These opportunities arise in response to systemic challenges and will not be solved by any one business. But they can be solved with collaboration between food and technology companies, both small and large, working in tandem with Australia's research community.

Mara Bun is a company director, consultant and moderator. She is bid consultant to Food Agility CRC, an entrepreneurial, industry-led research team building a platform to support the Australian food industry's response to the digital era.


University of Technology (UTS) to host KEi National Centre with $2 million investment

The Hon. Victor Dominello, NSW  Minister for Innovation  and Better Regulation announced Friday that the University of Technology Sydney will host the national centre for the Knowledge Economy Institute (KEi).

UTS has appointed Dr Mike Briers as its first industry professor and the first Australian Professor of the Internet of Things. Mike will continue to lead the KEi.  UTS said that Mike brings vast experience and insight gained at SIRCA, itself a collaboration of more than 35 universities, mainly in Australia and New Zealand, developing global data and advanced tools for big data research and innovation.

UTS announced that it will invest $2 million in the KEi and thanked Sirca for its leadership in establishing the KEi.

UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said the digital revolution is making it possible to know things that were previously hidden and see patterns, connections and interdependencies that make complex problem solving easier and better decision making possible.

"The UTS Knowledge Economy Institute will explore how the transformative power of digital technology can be harnessed to solve the biggest challenges facing Australia and the world today,"  Vice Chancellor Professor Brungs said.

"To compete globally, with much bigger contenders, and to protect and grow our economy as the resources boom declines, Australia must fight to be a leading knowledge economy, be an agile innovator and have the courage to take risks.

"This is why UTS has invested $2million in establishing the Institute and appointed Mike Briers with his invaluable academic expertise and industry knowledge and connections to be its leader.

"Cross collaboration – across disciplines, across industries and in partnership with varied communities will be key to future breakthroughs in innovation. This will be the context from which the Knowledge Economy Institute will operate – for the benefit of society."