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Technology 'critical' for the future of Australia's agriculture industry

By Catherine Knowles
Tue 29 Sep 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Technology will significantly help in boosting Australia's agricultural industry, according to a new report released by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA).

The Future of Agricultural Technologies report considers how Australia’s primary producers are embracing innovation and adopting technology to improve productivity and adapt to harsh conditions.

Producers in this country are facing notable challenges, including drought, climate variability, biosecurity, global competition and consumer preferences.

As highlighted in the report, various technologies could address these challenges and bring about both incremental and transformational changes to increase the profitability, sustainability and productivity of our agriculture industry.

Historically, Australian producers have been rapid adopters of innovation, and these emerging technologies will help the agriculture sector to transform and tackle current and future challenges.

Australia’s diverse agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector is a $69 billion industry, delivering significant benefits for our nation, particularly at a time where the economy is facing unprecedented challenges, the report states.

However, reaching the Government’s goal of $100 billion by 2030 will likely require more than just incremental technological advancements, according to the report.

Professor Stewart Lockie, one of the Chairs for the ACOLA Expert Working Group, says, “Innovation in our agriculture sector is critical for our economy, our food security and so much more.

"With a supportive policy environment, workforce and investment, we are confident that the future of agriculture in Australia will be one in which data analytics and artificial intelligence are as at-home on the farm as they are in any other high-tech industry.”

The digitisation of farms through the Internet of Things and data gathering and use will likely play a central role in future farm management strategies, allowing farms to track resources, monitor animal and plant health, support farm labour activities and enable precision agriculture, Lockie says.

He says, "Other technologies could help us develop new products to meet climatic conditions and respond to consumer preferences, such as authenticating a product’s origins and quality assurance."

ACOLA Chair, Professor Joy Damousi says, “Increasing technology uptake in our agriculture sector can also help Australia to maximise opportunities for regional employment, business development and Indigenous landholders.”

She also noted that there are clear roles for all stakeholders in supporting the sector to realise the potential of these new technologies, including to stimulate the agricultural technology and innovation ecosystem and build consumer confidence.

The report examines the opportunities presented by nine technologies to improve the efficiency and profitability of agricultural production, develop novel agricultural industries and markets, and to contribute to a range of social and environmental values.

It explores technologies such as sensors, the Internet of Things, robotics, machine learning, large scale optimisation and data fusion, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and distributed ledger technology.

In addition, it highlights the range of challenges and considerations for governments, industry and the wider sector to further develop and enable the adoption of these technologies.

Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO commissioned the report on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council, with support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. It is the fifth report in ACOLAs Horizon Scanning series, which draws on the expertise of Australia's Learned Academies and the Royal Society of Te Aprangi.

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