Last week, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation participated in the BDO-Australian British Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Agribusiness – Australia’s Powerhouse’ series. The series involved panel sessions around the country to talk about AgTech – the intersection of technology and agriculture.
There is a lot of excitement around this ‘new industry’ and its promises of a ‘big upgrade’ for the sector. While it isn’t really a new industry, as farmers have been embracing technological advancements that help their businesses for years, modelling through the 2017 P2D Project highlighted that digital agriculture alone could increase the gross value of Australian agricultural production by $20.3 billion, so the upgrade claims are real. However, while Australian agriculture has always had an innovative culture, the Australian AgTech market is still in its infancy compared to countries such as the US and Israel where investment levels are about 50 times greater than here.
Some of the immediate AgTech challenges include connectivity and poor telecommunications infrastructure, the trust and legal barriers around data governance, the lack of a strong value proposition for many of the ‘solutions’, and the way some AgTech players bring their products to market – the design and development model often used is different to the traditional RD&E framework that agriculture has relied on and it often involves an iterative process to get the solution farm ready.
Better communication at all levels is also needed. On design and development, tech investment hubs in the right parts of the country could bring more elements together and serve as a ‘sand pit’ to identify symbiotic products and solutions that are scalable to farms. While on the extension side, product managers need to access the right industry networks so they can better connect with the market and provide ongoing support to farmers implementing their products. If the AgTech industry can fill the missing links and some of the immediate challenges can be overcome, farmers can make more informed and timely decisions and more rapidly ‘upgrade’.