In spite of the obstacles, from the droughts to the flooding rains and the droughts again, Australian farmers punch well above their weight: the gross value of the country’s agriculture increased by $4.8 billion to $60.8 billion in 2016-17, with all but two states showing an increase.(1)
This growth can have significant impact on communities; the agricultural sector is the largest employer in our rural and regional communities, making up four percent of Australia’s total employment.
There is even more growth forecasted – particularly if the sector takes advantage of the opportunities provided by technology.
A report released by national startup body StartupAUS in 2016 estimated that the sector can grow to become Australia’s next $100 billion industry by 2030 if it embraces agtech; agtech is defined by StartupAUS as “the collection of digital technologies that provide the agricultural industry with the tools, data, and knowledge to make more informed and timely on-farm decisions and improve productivity and sustainability”.(2)
Modern agtech, StartupAUS tells us, “sets itself apart from the ongoing historical technological contribution to agriculture, because of the speed with which the technology can scale and reach a global market”, pushing Australia even further.
Here are a few agtech startups pushing Australian agriculture further:
AgriWebb was founded in 2013 by Justin Webb, John Fargher, Kevin Baum, and Philip Chan to help farmers do away with pen and paper.
Putting a tablet in their hands instead, AgriWebb has created software to help farmers manage their livestock and the operations of their farm. Among other things, the software allows users to create maps of their farm and then track mob movements and grazing to help track feed-on-offer and daily consumption, manage animals individually, and create, allocate, and track team tasks.
Five years in, AgriWebb is now operating on more than 1,700 farms across Australia, covering 35 million acres, with 10 percent of Australia’s livestock under management on its software.
What’s more, it’s already gone international, with 30 percent of its customers spread across seven other countries.
Oh, you thought blockchain existed only in the realm of fintech and bitcoin? Think again.
Adelaide startup T-Provenance is working to apply blockchain to the realm of agriculture, securing the supply chain.
The startup received $500,000 in funding earlier this year to run a pilot aimed at supporting mango producers. It is working with mango producers Growcom and Manbullo Limited to look at the applications of its technology to ensure food safety, quality, traceability, and authenticity throughout the supply chain.
The startup has Internet of Things-enabled sensors and chips to monitor things like temperature as the produce moves through the supply chain. Blockchain will help foster data collaboration to ensure this information can then be analysed to help optimise quality, optimise shelf life, optimise taste, and reduce wastage.
Fleet Space Technologies
Now, Fleet Space Technologies is more often referred to as a spacetech or Internet of Things startup, but the work it’s doing can have significant applications in agtech.
As it aims to launch a network of more than 100 nanosatellites to create a global network enabling low-bandwidth connectivity for Internet of Things devices, Fleet Space won a grant from the Dutch government earlier this year to run an agricultural project that will monitor rainfall and optimise irrigation.
Flavia Tata Nardini, cofounder and CEO of Fleet Space, explained that a wireless network of irrigation sensors, connected by the startup’s nanosatellites, will allow for more precise agricultural reporting by monitoring weather, water distribution, land quality, and predicting future trends before it’s too late.
Launching a startup can be risky, and so is operating a farm.
Small Business First has insurance deals for members you could consider to help manage risks. For more information see https://smallbusinessfirst.com.au/farm-pack
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