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Beyond the Bale : March 2019
ON FARM 43 PRODUCER-LED TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT With technology rapidly changing many areas of Australian agriculture, a new collaborative project involving AWI and other rural Research and Development Corporations aims to give producers the lead in developing technology solutions for the industry. There are already plenty of new and emerging technologies that make the job of wool-growing easier and more productive: remote monitoring (of livestock, water points and pastures), electronic ID and smart tags, walk over weighing systems, virtual herding, automated irrigation, drones, electronic pasture meters, automated jetting races, feed on offer satellite imagery, motion sensor cameras, electronic fencing voltage alerts... the list goes on. However, the exponential growth in digital technologies during the next five, ten and twenty years will transform Australian agriculture in ways we can now only imagine – and AWI aims to ensure Australian woolgrowers are on the front foot to take advantage of the opportunities. Startups present a transformational opportunity for the Australian wool industry, and a fundamentally new pathway for commercialisation. But to solve real problems and respond to high value opportunities, we need to elevate the role of woolgrowers and other producers and build their innovation potential. FEEDBACK SHOWS WOOLGROWERS WANT TO GET INVOLVED Results from workshops held by AWI last year showed that woolgrowers are really interested in technology. Furthermore, while current woolgrower interaction with agtech startups is limited/ minimal, the majority of the workshop participants said they would be interested in working with entrepreneurs to help them solve problems that are relevant to the wool industry, such as by providing tips to increase adoption or pitfalls to avoid. A large majority of workshop participants even said they would be willing to invest their own money (in a modest way, less than $20,000) in agtech startup companies working on relevant problems. There was also overwhelming support in favour of making awareness of, and opportunities for interaction with, the startup ecosystem more widely available to woolgrowers. At the workshops, the top five areas in which woolgrowers said they commonly experience problems, in order of frequency, were: 1. Labour intensive systems, particularly: feeding, poor availability of labour, and wool handlers 2. Shearing 3. Connectivity, phone, internet coverage, etc. 4. Sheep data collection, accuracy and integrity (lack of automation), mainly: live weight, condition scoring, and reproduction 5. Monitoring and management of sheep welfare, especially during lambing. The key motivation that underpinned the woolgrowers’ problem areas was: “How can technologies help us to do what we already do now, but make it easier and cheaper without our intervention?” Who 20 years ago would have thought electronic ID would have become so prevalent in the sheep industry? It makes you wonder what new technologies will be available 20 years into the future. A COLLABORATIVE RDC APPROACH TO AGTECH STARTUPS Of course, the wool industry and AWI are not alone in wanting to support the development and adoption of technology in Australian agriculture. Many other rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) – including amongst others MLA, Wine Australia, and AgriFutures – have also been looking at producer-driven technology development. A collaborative RDC project has therefore been instigated to reduce costs and leverage network benefits. “The aim from AWI’s perspective is to develop a support system to attract and then develop innovative woolgrowers who are looking for cutting edge innovation and adoption of new technologies to solve wool industry problems,” said AWI Program Manager, Farm Automation & Reproduction, Carolina Diaz. “The project will develop entrepreneurship and technology capabilities amongst participants so they can then solve critical challenges within the industry and successfully bring new agtech solutions to market. The joint-RDC approach will help increase collaboration between producers and the global ag and food tech ecosystem and attract private investors to the industry.” The project is divided in three different streams: • Technology trials: Aimed at producers who are interested in early adoption of technology and who are willing to work with startups to solve problems. • Pre-accelerator program: To enable producers to test and validate their new venture’s concept to determine its commercial viability and potential for industry impact. • Accelerator program: Accelerate the development and commercialisation of more and better solutions that add value to the Australian wool industry. The project will be delivered by Farmers 2 Founders, a business operated jointly by AgThentic Pty Ltd and Food Futures Company Pty Ltd. These consultants will provide facilitators and coaches, program experience across digital platforms, in-person events, and phone/video coaching, case studies and promotional support. For those solutions that successfully reach the end of the pipeline, the consultants will also enable and support access to venture capital and other sources of private investment. MORE INFORMATION www.farmers2founders.com Workshops will soon be delivered where candidates will be recruited for the project. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In the Shops - March 2019