AGRICULTURE has a proven track record of developing and adopting new innovations to improve on-farm productivity and efficiency, enhance product quality, and open up new markets. Facing disruptive changes, the industry needs to look within and also beyond itself to identify innovations that can maintain (and even extend) its competitive position.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) engaged Deloitte Access Economics, through RIRDC’s National Rural Issues Program, to identify transformative innovations with potential for adoption by Australian agribusinesses.
From a long list of approximately 100 innovations across the economy, six cross-industry innovations were shortlisted based on their potential for application in Australian agribusiness:
- Modern day crowdfunding started with Artistshare in 2001 as a platform for musicians to raise fund to produce digital recordings. It has been since been applied in other sectors including creative arts, social causes, small businesses and start-up technology.
- Big data analytics can reveal insight and strategy from examining large, dynamic data sets to uncover patterns, correlations and trends. It has grown to a US$125 billion global market in 2015.
- Robots and automation to perform repetitive and labour-intensive operations have been readily adopted this innovation include manufacturing, defence, transport and logistics.
- Nutritional genomics seeks to use genetic information and diet to inform targeted health outcomes. To date, the innovation has been developed and applied in the health sector.
- Microgrids are small-scale, locally controlled electricity generation and distribution networks. They can be operated in a controlled, coordinated way independently or in parallel with the main power network.
- GPS trackers are already widely used by sectors such as transport, logistics, ecological research and high-performance sports.
What do we learn from these innovations?
Agriculture can find innovative inspirations from a variety of sectors, not only traditional ‘high-tech’ sectors such as manufacturing and mining, but also creative arts, finance and health care.
The world is transitioning to a knowledge economy
Innovations are driven by various factors, with efficiency, competition and the advancement of digital technologies being the key enablers.
The true value of these innovations is often unlocked when they are combined. For example, GPS enabled robotics informed by big data has the potential to perform targeted activities such as spraying, irrigating or fertilising remotely, with greater accuracy, more safely and at a lower cost than traditional techniques.
The world is transitioning to a knowledge economy. Change is coming, and disruption to traditional ways of producing food and fibre is inevitable. Agribusinesses that do not innovate and adapt to the times will eventually fall behind.
- Based in Melbourne, Dr Daniel Terrill is a partner in Deloitte Access Economics