Energy, or more to the point the cost of it, has become one of the biggest challenges for Queensland businesses, with many farming businesses feeling it more acutely than those in other sectors. We must therefore be able to unlock new technology and innovate to improve energy efficiency and demand management to enhance profitability. The Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) has emerged as a global authority on sustainable food production and used this week’s In Focus Australia event in Brisbane as a catalyst to further drive sustainable agriculture for increased productivity and food security.
Queensland farmers are already taking advantage of incremental efficiency opportunities on farm by upgrading equipment, streamlining processes and increasing throughput for the same or less energy. Some efficiencies pay for themselves within a couple of years and reduced energy consumption reduces energy costs for the future. Farmers are also looking to energy substitutes including solar power, solar thermal, bioenergy and batteries with great success. For example, a Cecil Plains cotton grower saved 66 per cent on the cost to run one of their pumps after implementing energy efficiency recommendations.
While these energy efficiencies can be made on farm now, further sensing and software developments will give farmers greater flexibility by enabling real-time information to guide decision making on irrigation and the application of other inputs. Detailed recommendations on watering, fertilising, trace elements and pest management are welcome additions to reducing energy costs to help drive farm profitability. Events like GFIA’s In Focus bring this type of information under one roof for farmers, and this year’s event was well timed ahead of the extended Energy Savers Program.
Agriculture’s challenge to meet the demands of a growing global population are well known, and it is generally accepted that we will need to feed, clothe and grow amenity for an additional 2 billion people within 30 years. To meet this growing demand while conserving biodiversity, agriculture must continue to utilise game-changing innovations and technologies.