First of its kind agriculture innovation tour connects producers across the country

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Agritech has taken enormous steps in recent times – but on-farm uptake hasn’t advanced at the same pace. Determined to match strides, AgriFutures Australia hosted the inaugural Innovation Intensive Tour in February 2023.

Fourteen growers and producers from AgriFutures Australia’s levied and emerging industries gathered in Adelaide for a, four-day multi-faceted tour designed to support farmers to embrace new research and innovative tools to solve on-farm challenges.

The Innovation Intensive Tour included a complimentary ticket to evokeAG. 2023, giving farmers the opportunity to meet with agritech developers, investors, industry leaders, researchers, and agribusinesses from across the globe.

The experience also included tours of world-class research, tech and innovation facilities and workshops discussing current and emerging industry issues and potential agritech solutions. Delegates met with AgriFutures Horizon Scholars, Rural Women’s Award Alumni and Future Young Leaders.

Cattle and hay producer Munro Hardy, beekeeper Leisa Sams and industrial hemp grower Selena Sylvester were among the producers and growers from across Australia to take part in the Tour.

They share their thoughts on the Tour, evokeAG. and the technology and research they believe will solve on-farm challenges and potentially transform their industries.

Linking livestock producers with agritech

Hailing from Katherine, NT, Munro Hardy has built a successful career in the cattle and hay industries.

Munro is the co-founder and director of Mutual Food and Fibre, a vertically integrated cattle, cropping and fodder production business.

Having worked with countless producers to help them improve production and profitability, Munro is no stranger to agritech, but said the advancements unveiled during the Innovation Intensive Tour and evokeAG. were staggering.

“It was incredible to see the amount of innovation that’s happening right now in different areas that I wasn’t even aware of,” he said.

“The lab-based fertilisers coming out were particularly exciting, and the Australian-based satellites will be a game changer for our imagery and cost of services.”

Munro has dived into an array of agritech solutions over the past 12 months, utilsing AgriWebb and CiboLabs for grazing management. Moisture probes and water monitoring technologies will soon be added to the toolkit, but at the core of advancing his industries is improving soil and yield.

“Everything that I do from feeding lick and moving cattle to fertilsiing and spraying, I want to know the impact that’s having on my soil health and my yield,” Munro explained. “They’re the two main metrics I look at.”

“I want to be able to compare my soil health and my yield on one platform at every key event that I do throughout the year.”

While he’s still searching for this holy grail, Munro said the Innovation Intensive Tour and evokeAG. nurtured strong networks. From rice growers to beekeepers, producer’s insights on the technologies they’ve deployed and where it’s added value was key, according to Munro.

“From a producer’s perspective, it can be a real challenge to connect with other producers and find out what works successfully, so to be able to do that was amazing,” he said.

Technology’s at home in the hive

Nestled in the Sunshine Coast hinterland lies family farming business, Hum Honey, founded by Leisa Sams.

Hum Honey focuses on producing pure, raw cold extracted honey, honeycomb and cold infused honey using organic beekeeping methods.

Boasting a background in veterinary science and a mixed farming property which also runs cattle, Leisa’s no stranger to agritech solutions in her business. An apiary management software system that incorporates Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) currently goes into the hive, allowing Leisa to not only track harvest traceability, but support biosecurity.

With an upcoming agritech project in mind that would allow for enhanced hive monitoring, Leisa said the Innovation Intensive Tour and evokeAG. have inspired future enhanced productivity and profitability for Hum Honey.

“I had some real lightbulb moments during the tour. Seeing research in action, and technology that’s available, and meeting the right connections means I can apply improvements to my own business,” Leisa said.

“I was actually surprised by how far as a sector we’ve integrated tech because we can get very focused on just our own industry, so it was excellent to see so many applications available.”

Cultivating a valuable crop

Selena Sylvester owns an industrial hemp enterprise in Nundle in the New England region of New South Wales. A practicing veterinarian, Selena also runs mixed farming businesses with her family across New South Wales and Queensland.

With record keeping and biosecurity technology already in full force across the family’s farming businesses, Selena said the Innovation Intensive Tour shone the spotlight on the research findings and technological path ahead for the industrial hemp industry.

“Consistency of product is a big thing within the hemp industry, and developing markets for all parts of the plant by utilising a variety of new technologies is going to be very relevant,” she said.

“Light technology such as hyperspectral and near infrared spectroscopy as well as associating that with laser and satellite technology will certainly address both of those challenges.

“Not only will this enable better quality control, you’ll also be able to do infield analysis of the hemp plants to determine which sections of the plant will be suitable for particular markets. This will allow farmers to optimise the return from their crop.”

While the research and technology took centre stage, for Selena, the connections she made on the Innovation Intensive Tour proved just as valuable.

“Meeting Chair of AgriFutures Cathy McGowan OAM, explorer and environmentalist Tim Jarvis AM, and Belinda Lay, the 2019 Rural Woman of the Year was incredibly inspiring, and it was also amazing to connect with researchers through Adelaide University and see their acceptance and encouragement of producers to be involved in what they’re doing,” she said.

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