National Agriculture Day on Friday 18 November is an initiative of the National Farmers' Federation to promote awareness of the farm sector and the role it plays in Australian’s lives every single day.
This year the #AgDayAU spotlight is on how innovation is driving sustainability and profitability.
Innovation is at the heart of everything Food Agility does and we’re proud of the work we do with industry, technology providers and leading researchers to harness the power of data and digital technologies.
We’ve asked the Food Agility CRC team to share their thoughts on how the agriculture sector can make the most of new technologies and services.
“Within the agricultural sector you’ll find some of the world’s best innovators and early adopters,” said Food Agility CRC Chief Operating Officer, Dr Mick Schaefer. “I think support needs to be given to producers and farmers to enable them to push the envelope and test out new and exciting innovations.”
Dr Schaefer highlighted the lack of internet connectivity in rural areas of Australia is a barrier. “This of course limits the adoption of many digital technologies or means that digital technologies sometimes will just simply not work in remote areas.
“I think we are overcoming some of these barriers by working with companies such as Zetifi and their connectivity extending solutions. But there is still a long way to go to find an Australia-wide solution,” he noted.
That point is echoed by Constellation Lead and HDR coordinator Dr Birgita Hansen who said, “Until we have better internet connectivity across more of the country, then there is little value proposition for farmers and farming operations to invest in many of the technologies touted as the way forward in digital agriculture.”
Dr Hansen also highlighted the importance of working with end-users throughout the technology design process.
“There can be a bit of a ‘build it and they will come’ approach to technology and product development, but the trouble is that sometimes they don’t,” she said.
“Innovations intended to be used at the farm scale need to be co-designed with end users or they will fail to get much uptake.”
Food Agility Chief Executive Officer Richard Norton highlighted the importance of data sharing.
“Data sharing will be the key to driving agricultural innovation over the coming years. With the right framework in place, we can build the trust and transparency necessary for farmers to feel confident in sharing data.”
Data policy manager Gabi Cerega also outlined the importance of improving trust in technology, especially around data privacy and ethics.
“We are overcoming this via government regulation and industry codes of conduct around AI, autonomous vehicles, and data management, for example the NFF Farm Data Code,” she said.
“It is important that technology governance keeps up with innovation. Well thought-out safeguards for technology mean increased trust, and better uptake.”
Project support officer Lucy Hickman is excited to see the rise of integration between a range of tech products and providers.
“The potential to streamline many services into one will be a game-changer for farmers that are already immersing themselves in the range of agtech solutions on the market,” she said.
Food Agility CRC’s Carbon and Natural Capital Lead, Dr Madeline Mitchell, sees value in innovation to support sustainability in agriculture.
“We can mitigate and adapt to climate change, improve water quality and biodiversity as well as derive private benefit from sustainable production and land management,” Dr Mitchell said.
“Recent tools, technologies and programs are helping us achieve this, for example, through decision making tools and data that connect farmers to supply chains and provide credible evidence of outcomes.”
Food Agility Chief Scientist, Professor David Lamb said innovation is exciting when sophisticated analytical or technical solutions are put to work to help solve some of the simplest day-to-day challenges faced by producers.
“Farmers are being listened to and producers are paying close attention to what the technology developers are capable of providing,” Professor Lamb said. “That two-way conversation is seeing more fit-for-purpose solutions in the marketplace now.”
Looking to the future, Professor Lamb believes growing that partnership is critical.
“The most effective way we drive innovation further is to close that gap by sharpening the dialogue between those in the agrifood sector that have those challenges and the amazing talent and skills base we have within our technology and analytics communities.”
Dr Shariati believes teamwork is needed in order to drive innovation in agriculture, "end users farmers, technology providers, researchers and policy makers should work collaboratively," she said. "The whole food value chain needs to be considered to provide end-to end solutions and address real-world challenges."
Portfolio Lead: Innovation and Impact Stephen Summerhayes said innovation benefits much more than just industry.
"What excites me is the incredible potential for agtech to deliver value across the three dimensions of people, planet and profit," he said. "That’s a key focus in our projects and a key driver of team motivation."
What excites me is the incredible potential for agtech to deliver value across the three dimensions of people, planet and profit. That’s a key focus in our Rangelands project (and all projects) and a key driver of team motivation.
Join us in celebrating innovation and the technologies that are making Australian agriculture more sustainable and profitable this #AgDayAU and visit our projects page to learn more about our work in this space.