According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the world must increase agricultural output by 70 per cent by the year 2050 to sufficiently feed the growing global population. This presents new opportunities for Australian agriculture to expand and meet this increasing demand for food.
A report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies released this week titled: ’The Future of Agricultural Technologies’, found that the adoption of emerging agricultural technology could help to respond to future trends and catalyse the transformational change needed in the agricultural sector, in terms of profitability, sustainability and productivity. The agriculture sector recognises the need to embrace the use of technology and the opportunities these innovations offer. However, uncertainties remain around the level of public investment in Agtech research, development and extension (RD&E) to realise these opportunities and the support of the digital skills needed to integrate these technologies on farm.
Total agriculture RD&E funding from governments has decreased by more than 27 per cent over the past decade, however, there is a compelling case for increasing funding for the sector. Without strategic government investment in RD&E, there is less innovation which in turn slows the productivity growth and prosperity of the sector.
Moreover, a recent KPMG and Skills Impact report highlighted the existing and future agricultural workforce would need develop new skills to remain competitive globally. Concerningly, less than five per cent of the relevant agricultural sector’s industry training packages were designed to facilitate digital capabilities, meaning we are training for yesterday’s skills, not the agricultural jobs of the future.
To find a solution for the dearth of digital skills in the sector, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has begun important conversations between industry and the training sector through the Queensland Agriculture Digital Skills Working Group. In the lead up to the Queensland election, QFF has advocated for increased investment in RD&E as well as support for the skills needed in the future through industry-led training programs that provide relevant training, and support growth and innovation. Through addressing these investment and skills gaps, we can achieve our vision of a profitable, sustainable and productive sector.