The period to 2050 presents an unprecedented opportunity for growth in Australian agriculture, with Queensland the primary beneficiary. As the nation’s leader in agricultural production, the State’s farmers account for 94 per cent of Australia’s sugar cane, 47 per cent of Australia’s beef cattle herd, 34 per cent of Australia’s cotton and 30 per cent of Australia’s vegetables. With the global population expected to grow to 9 billion during this time, the planet will have to produce more in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested over the past 8,000 years to feed, clothe and grow amenity for this increased number. Continued productivity growth and improved management of existing land and resources is key to meeting these demands.
However, climate, market and consumer changes are translating into risks for the Queensland agriculture sector. Queensland farmers are facing the effects of increasingly severe extreme weather events including floods, droughts and cyclones while dealing with societal pressure to protect biodiversity and meet international targets on greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, as farm businesses are capital intensive, they are often asset rich but have limited cash reserves to invest in innovation and capital improvements. Similarly, a lack of agility to respond and adjust production volume and systems to consider rapidly changing consumer preferences affects critical farm income and ultimately profitability.
Better informed decision making would enable Queensland agriculture to reach its full potential. So, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF), with support from EY, have proposed the development of a Queensland Agriculture Production Planning Tool. The tool will consolidate available data relating to weather, climate, soil, economic and market data amongst other data sets on a single intuitive user friendly portal, to provide decision support relating to the best production options to maximise sustainability from economic, environmental and social perspectives. These factors are crucial enablers for the Queensland agriculture sector to take full advantage of the growth in demand for high quality food, fibre and foliage.
After meeting with the Queensland Government last week and with the initial scoping work complete, the tool will be available next year and will ensure the continued success of the agriculture sector.