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.

Download the Food Agility Brief

Download the Food Agility Presentation