Currently there are three major issues facing agriculture – declining productivity, cost of production and the retention of the next generation. Certainly none of these issues are new, and each issue has been debated extensively across most sectors.
Agriculture in Australia has been cutting edge, it has been at the forefront of a number of key changes – controlled traffic, soil health, genetics and improved varieties through investment in research and development. But we have come to a turning point and as the challenges mount so too does the urgency to respond.
A strong focus in the immediate future should come from advances in technology. Digital agriculture in the form of precision farming, big data, sensor technology and drones presents uncharted potential for productivity gains, and improved management practices. Applications of these technologies provide a far more sophisticated approach to agriculture business decision making and can have a significant positive impact on individual businesses.
“With access to technology and digital farming this could lead the way to better utilisation of land and water, looking at things like intensive agriculture with high value crops and value adding.”
But the first step in adopting any of these technologies for our agriculture communities is ensuring that regional areas have adequate connectivity making the opportunity to improve production through the use of these technologies a viable business option. Currently this is probably the biggest hurdle that farmers faces.
On the Darling Downs the opening of an airport in the region creates that opportunity to go direct to Asian markets and opens a new avenue for local producers. With access to technology and digital farming this could lead the way to better utilisation of land and water, looking at things like intensive agriculture with high value crops and value adding.
It also opens the way for farming co-operatives working as a team to market and sell their produce, providing growers with a greater bargaining power. But these co-operatives must be iron clad in their commitment, with a mindset that no matter how green the grass looks on the other side they remain loyal to that group.
Vibrant local communities and agricultural entrepreneurs also need the backing from strong governments with foresight. In Indonesia the government has created economic zones with incentives for business to set up in areas away from capital cities. These businesses must first prove they are value adding and the produce or product can be exported. Increasing the country’s GDP and creating incentives for increased productivity and value adding and attracting talented graduates and the next generation back to areas that otherwise would not be on the radar.
Staying competitive the food and agriculture sector must have the right people to navigate through a fast paced and dynamic future business environment. This will require a mix of industry and government strategies that focus on attracting the best and brightest to the sector. The more readily food and agriculture enterprises and institutions plan the transition to the next generation, the more upsides there are likely to be for production growth in years to come.