federal government announced a $1.5 million investment to develop technologies specifically designed to help farmers boost production in pastures and cropping paddocks.
Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said the funding would go towards innovative tools that optimise soil use. He added that effective soil management is key to achieving the forecasted $54 billion in agricultural production predicted in the 2015-16 financial year.
Many farmers invest in crop insurance and other forms of cover to protect against disasters. However, technology could offer an early warning system to help mitigate the effects of unforeseen events.
“This project will develop an interactive system to give farmers near real-time information about their farms, for example, helping to identify the crop varieties likely to give the best returns for the seasonal conditions,” Mr Joyce stated.
“It will increase the digital connections between climate, soil and other information, and aims to give farmers information and improved spatial resolution to help them reduce their input costs and optimise their production.”
The initiative aims to build on previous government projects including the SoilMapp iPad app, which provides farmers with detailed information on nearby soil types from national databases.
NFF pursues digital integration
The government’s investment could be just the tip of the iceberg, with farmers showing increased interest in utilising the latest technological developments to enhance operations.
According to the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the industry readily supports a unified digital platform that provides access to an online community, advanced agricultural tools and policy updates. The NFF is in the process of creating such an environment, which is due to launch in the coming months.
NFF President Brent Finlay said digital engagement is key to securing the future of Australian agriculture. He claimed investing in technology today will allow farmers to be more agile and better resourced in the future.
Earlier this month, the NFF predicted the country’s agriculture sector would achieve record-breaking production levels over the next 12 months. The low Australian dollar and new trade agreements with South Korea, Japan and China are expected to drive a 3.1 per cent jump in output.
“There are so many opportunities opening up before us,” Mr Finlay explained. “As part of the digital platform, farmers will have new ways to take their business to the next level, or get involved in policy development, using tools in the palm of their hand.”