The potential opportunities ahead for farming are obvious to those of us working in agriculture, and the increasing interest from the research and AgTech industries to upgrade our sector reinforces that optimism. As farmers are called on to increase production while reducing their ecological footprint and input resources such as water and chemicals, research outcomes and technology that can deliver real solutions are becoming increasingly important.
Agriculture has dealt with siloed, disjointed research and tech solutions for some time, and this challenge is increasing as less traditional and new players become more involved. Research data is only useful when it is understood – as Google’s Chief Economist Dr Hal Varian said, we must, “be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it…” Similarly, the design and development model often used by AgTech players is different to the traditional RD&E framework that agriculture has relied on and has become accustomed to.
To ensure more rapid and appropriate research and AgTech outcomes for the sector, the industry models for these less traditional and new players must be made more applicable to suit agriculture’s needs and identify symbiotic solutions that are scalable to farms. Better communication at the input and output ends are needed to ensure more informed concept/product design and to get the ‘solution’ into the right channels for it to be available for farmers.
QFF has an important role to play in bridging this divide and continues to engage with the less traditional and new players to help fill these gaps. Work with Telstra to realise and implement telemetric water metering on farm; CSIRO to augment carbon modelling tools; Griffith University on a nutrient farming strategy; and UQ, USQ and others to progress risk management options are some current areas of focus. With an integrated model and improved channels for meaningful extension, farmers can make more informed decisions about research outcomes and technology to remain productive into the future.