It is good to see the new 2030 report released by the federal government and National Farmers Federation this week. Things have been a bit quiet on the goal-setting front for agriculture in the past couple years.
According to the NFF, agriculture currently produces $60 billion worth of food and fibre, so the $100bn target for 12 years time is aiming pretty high.
National lead agribusiness for KPMG, who produced report, Robert Poole, said the aim was to get people in individual ag sectors to take the lead, as enablers.
The challenge here will be how these “enablers” can connect with the consumer, or allow farmers to do so. This will mean the government needs to get serious about digital access to allow Australian farmers to get closer to their customer.
Telecommunications is therefore critical. If we are to reach $100bn, or even get half way there, we need to get customers to pay more for what we’re already doing. Our climate and biological limitations can only be helped so much by new tech, so rather than looking at gains in productivity, like we’ve largely relied on in the past, we need to create gains in value.
With the auction of the 3.6 gigahertz bandwidth (ie. used for 5G) set for October, all eyes will be on the big telecommunications service providers as to whether they can get 5G rolled out not just to the major regional centres, but to farms.
While cheap, low energy transmitters will help get sensor data off the farm and into the Cloud, farm businesses will have a greater need than ever to also be uploading larger amounts of information via the internet. This is currently a key hurdle for rural businesses.
At the same time, we are also seeing an increase in farmers partnering with overseas investors, such as the Borderless Beef project (see p4-5). But are we aware of the new risks this might bring?
When the local grain trader fails to pay, growers can form a class action and see if they can extract any left over dollars.
However, those traders haven’t bought into your farm, your business, and they’re on the same continent, not halfway around the world.
We’ve seen Bindaree Beef’s ongoing payment battle with a Chinese investor for this very issue. While the prize at the end is shiny, we need better telecommunications and better protections if this is to work.