The horizon scanning report on the future of agricultural technologies has identified how adopting new technologies -- such as sensor, robotic, artificial intelligence (AI), data, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and distributed ledger -- could improve the sector's productivity, diversity, and profitability. The Future of Agriculture Technologies report [PDF] was released by the Australian Council of Learned Academics (ACOLA) on Tuesday, after it was commissioned by Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel, on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), to undertake the project. "Australia's diverse agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sector is a AU$69 billion industry … however, reaching the government's goal of AU$100 billion by 2030 will likely require more than just incremental technological advancements," Finkel said. "Historically, Australian producers have been rapid adopters of innovation, and these emerging technologies will help our agriculture sector to transform and tackle current and future challenges." The report highlighted how the deployment of technologies, such as robotics, coupled with AI and Internet of Things (IoT), has the potential to generate vast amounts of data that could assist with complex decision-making and environmental monitoring, while allowing farmers to devote time to focus on complex tasks, for instance.
"Agriculture 4.0 is the latest evolution of the agricultural life cycle stimulated by digital disruption at all stages of the food supply chain," Cassandra Keener, Investment Director Chicago at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), explains to FoodIngredientsFirst. "Just as Germany is driving economic growth through Industry 4.0, Australia can lead the world in Agriculture 4.0 for the benefit of the Australian economy," she notes. Keener was speaking as Australia for Agriculture 4.0, a new initiative by Austrade, the nation's trade and investment promotion agency, was launched. The project builds on the country's impressive record in agricultural innovation to facilitate foreign investment, exports and collaboration in both agtech and foodtech. The initiative aims to establish Australia as a global hub for agricultural and food innovation. It will showcase Australia's agtech and foodtech capability, and highlight its unique technological advances, research excellence, strong record of innovation expertise, as well as the nation's strong government support and established export channels.
The Australian standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry recommended last week that the federal government commit to the continuation of its mobile blackspot program to lay the required infrastructure foundations for innovation in the agriculture sector. The Smart Farming Inquiry into agricultural innovation made a total of 17 recommendations to the government that focused on the emerging agricultural technologies, key barriers to their adoption, and what the government can do to remove or reduce these barriers. According to committee chair, Rowan Ramsey, the agriculture sector must be able to make the most of the innovation boom in order to support productivity growth and to maintain its competitiveness. "At the core of the agricultural innovation boom are individual farm businesses that make decisions to adopt new technologies," Ramsey said. "If the government wishes to support innovation and growth, it must support these businesses in technology adoption."
Despite a growing population, now predicted to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the agriculture industry must rise to meet demand, regardless of environmental challenges like unfavorable weather conditions and climate change. To meet the needs of that growing population, the agriculture industry will have to adopt new technologies to gain a much-needed edge. New agricultural applications in smart farming and precision farming through IoT will enable the industry to increase operational efficiency, lower costs, reduce waste, and improve the quality of their yield. So, what is smart farming? Smart farming is a capital-intensive and hi-tech system of growing food cleanly and sustainable for the masses.