AUSTRALIAN agriculture is due for a digital health check.
In a first for the sector, government and research bodies will conduct a nationwide survey of primary producers and support industries, to assess the technology as well as red tape and connectivity challenges which will need to be overcome for Australia to capitalise on opportunities in digital technologies.
Dubbed P2D – accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture, the project is supported by, among others, the 15 Rural Development Corporations (RDCs), the federal Department of Agriculture and Water and Australian Farm Institute.
“This project will help quantify potential opportunity and set us up for best practice in effective data use and commercial decision support across all agricultural industries in Australia,” said Australian Farm Institute executive director Mick Keogh, who is P2D advisory committee chairman.
P2D will hold consultation workshop across the country in tandem with a nationwide survey, which has been likened to the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s seminal no till survey in 2008.
“The first step will be to understand the constraints to speeding up adoption of big data and new technologies. Then there will be further questions on how to solve those problems, how to improve connectivity across farms,” Mr Keogh said.
“Importantly, we will look at what legal codes need to be in place around data and ownership – which is very uncertain at the moment.”
P2D leader Rohan Rainbow has jumped across to the project from his consultant role with Cotton RDC said he wants people to attend forums armed with ideas about data and access.
“We want to understand the issues for third parties accessing producers’ data – and not just ownership but the legal implications of how access is assigned,” Mr Rainbow said.
A significant issue for Mr Keogh will be who has legal ownership of data – for example, the information generated from grading a beef carcase.
He said P2D will help fill the “blackhole” of information around uptake of technology in the farm sector, which might help better target investment in research and development.
“You only have to look at our competition in the US, Europe or Brazile – who have quickly developed and adopted technologies for productivity gains.”
The project will present a report to guide new policy and regulation to government at the end of the year.