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Beyond the Bale : March 2018
The project that brought together all 15 rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) – including AWI – evaluated the current and desired state of digital agriculture in Australia. Digital agriculture is defined as typically involving both the collection and analysis of data to improve decision making, leading to better business outcomes. Examples of digital agriculture include machinery automation to make animal handling more efficient, genetic gains through using objective data for animal selection, and tailoring inputs such as fertilizer to pasture needs. The project concluded that if digital agriculture was fully implemented in Australia, producers across all agricultural sectors in Australia (represented by the 15 RDCs) would benefit from an estimated overall increase in production value of $20.3 billion, a 25% increase compared to 2014-15 levels, while also securing their global competitiveness. For the wool sector, the project estimated that the value of agricultural production would increase by 18%, which is a $452 million boost to the sector’s gross value of production. The overall potential increase in national gross domestic product, including the flow- on effect to other parts of the Australian economy, by the increase in production in the wool sector is estimated to be $1.128 billion. PRECISION TO DECISION PROJECT The Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture (P2D) project was set up by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in 2016 to provide recommendations that help ensure Australian primary producers are able to overcome the challenges currently limiting digital agriculture. Producers across the nation were surveyed to better understand the current perceptions and needs for digital agriculture, with eight regional stakeholder workshops (including two that included a focus on wool, at Tamworth in NSW and Northam in WA) held in five states. Despite the opportunity for enormous benefits from digital agriculture, the P2D project team found that transition from analogue business and production models to digital is also creating challenges for farmers. Current barriers to digital transition include poor connectivity, a lack of confidence in returns from investment in digital agriculture, poor knowledge and support to assess options, and trust and legal issues around data ownership. In its recently released report, the P2D project delivered 13 key recommendations (aggregated from 67 detailed recommendations) designed to catapult Australian agriculture into the digital age. It also provides direction on the next steps required to implement the recommendations. P2D project researcher Richard Heath, from the Australian Farm Institute, said the P2D recommendations call for a “big picture fix”. If digital agriculture was fully implemented in Australia, the wool sector’s gross value of production would receive a $452 million boost. Achieving the full potential of digital agriculture in Australia could boost the value of production across all agricultural sectors by $20.3 billion, according to the findings of Australia’s first whole-of-industry digital agriculture research project. DIGITAL AGRICULTURE COULD UNLOCK PRODUCTION GAINS “Our economic analysis, supported by international value proposition case studies and domestic best-practice benchmarking, gives us a window into the right formula for delivering maximum returns, specific to each industry,” he said. “But to capture the maximum potential, and secure our position as a world leader in agricultural production, we are going to need to act quickly and cooperatively to coordinate a national approach. “If we get this right, agriculture in the future will be digitally enhanced throughout the value chain from producer to consumer, through increased automation, smarter use of inputs, accelerated genetic gains and improved market access and biosecurity.” 52 ON FARM
In the Shops - March 2018