Mick was the keynote speaker at the Australian Agriculture: Growing a Digital Future National Forum held at Parliament House in Canberra in September. The forum bought together representatives from Rural Development Corporations, educators, researchers, government, the private sector and the farming community.
Research has shown that digital innovation could lift the GVP of the Australian agricultural sector by $20.3 billion. Four key areas have been identified as benefiting producers across the sector – managing inputs, automation and labour saving, market access and biosecurity and genetics. The Australian agricultural sector has set a course for Australian farms to produce $100 billion by 2030. In his keynote presentation, Mick outlined the opportunities and challenges for Australian agriculture’s digital transformation.
“In the past, Australian agriculture was able to increase output, despite low productivity growth, by expanding the amount of land and water resources utilised by the sector,” he said.
“That option is no longer available, and in fact the amount of land and water resources available to the sector has declined significantly in recent decades, and is predicted to shrink further.
“Consequently, a key focus of efforts to increase the annual value of agricultural output in Australia must be on improving agricultural productivity.”
The widespread adoption of digital technologies by agricultural businesses is potentially one of the most important ways to stimulate improved rates of productivity growth.
Mick said the advantages that digital technology can bring are not limited to the farm, and some of the biggest gains in value are likely to be generated from the adoption of digital systems that extend seamlessly through the supply chain from farm to consumer.
“Some of the best avenues Australian agriculture has available to increase the value of output involve targeting higher value and premium markets,” he said.
“The beef industry is a good example of this. Twenty years ago the main market for export beef was the hamburger market in the USA. Now we are seeing strong growth in the high value end of the beef market including chilled prime cuts and Wagyu beef exports to Asia.”
Fortunately for producers, Australian supply chains are well placed to provide this information as part of the ‘product’, and digital technologies provide opportunities to supply product information at low cost, as well as creating opportunities to guard against food fraud.
The potential additional value that digital technologies can bring to Australian agriculture was outlined in a detailed economic analysis by the Centre for International Economics under the Precision to Decision Agriculture project – the forerunner to Growing a Digital Future.
“We now possess unimaginable levels of monitoring, and as such digital technology can supply product information at low cost, with better resource management, environmental outcomes and new career opportunities,” Mick said.