Other tech

It’s time to put agrifood tech to the test

- April 12, 2021 2 MIN READ
Over the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of agrifood technologies and Australian agricultural innovation.

Part of this broad trend has seen investment in agrifood tech in Australia grow from US$29.9 million in 2017 to US$90.8 million in 2019, according to AgFunder.

There has been a significant increase in capital investment into developing agrifood technologies, but we have not seen on-farm uptake travelling at the same rate. This is not new information, but the fact is, the tech is stacking up and can provide tangible benefits to a farms’ bottom line.

The World Economic Forum reported recently on a 2020 smart agriculture competition in China for strawberry production that pitted teams of successful traditional strawberry growers against teams of artificial intelligence experts.

At first the teams of traditional farmers – drawing on years of experience and best practice – led the way in production efficiency. Then the technology teams started to catch up with the use of sensors, data analysis and digital greenhouse automation.

After seven months the results showed that the teams using technology produced 196% more strawberries by weight on average than the teams using traditional farming methods. The technology teams also outperformed the competition in terms of return on investment by an average of 75.5%.

This competition is a great example of the kind of work we need to be doing in Australia to help farmers work out which technologies are going to deliver the greatest benefit and in what circumstances.

It is time to think of agritech – not as a trend – but as a business tool. Recently we heard about Wilmot Cattle Co’s carbon deal, where Stuart Austin and his team have earned a $500,000 carbon credit deal with Microsoft. This was done by capturing data on-farm, enabling them to measure and monetise their farms’ carbon sequestration.

Stuart’s team is also using MaiaGrazing technology, an online stocking-rate software coupled with RCS Grazing for Profit training which have proven to be valuable tools in the day-to-day management and systems-based approach to measuring the landscape’s health and managing their farms.

There are dozens of agritech suppliers currently delivering solutions and providing opportunities for farmers to create efficiencies, recognise and act on opportunities, and effectively plan for the future.

AgriFutures Australia has recently launched a Producer Technology Uptake Program focused on supporting farmers to increase the uptake and adoption of technology within their agricultural, fishing or forestry businesses.