Technology in agriculture: it’s about connectivity for productivity

Blake Miller, Associate Director, Internal Audit and Risk Compliance Services and Agricultural Advisory
Blake Miller, Associate Director, Internal Audit and Risk Compliance Services and Agricultural Advisory

While digital innovation isn’t normally associated with agricultural production; picking fruit, sowing fields and breeding livestock; innovative and connective solutions are as applicable in agriculture as any other industry.

Technology, when applied to the challenges of agriculture in Australia, will be even more pronounced than that experienced by many other industries. At the heart of the issue is connectivity; the successful application of technology relies on it. Connectivity must be viewed as more than simply enabling the Internet of Things but also to ensure there is collaboration between producers, experts, supply chain participants, government and the public.

This is critical to ensuring the development of technology that is in-touch with real world requirements and does not expose primary producers. Data is the new oil, the challenge for the agriculture sector is in the capture, transfer and geo-truthing of data so that it is quickly available to those who know how to use it and apply it, with a high level of confidence over the data integrity.

Producers and farmers of the future – and today – need to be more digital savvy than their forebears if they are to utilise the potential benefits of data-enabled production. Agriculture will remain fundamentally focused on a physical product, but technology provides the opportunity to exponentially increase the efficient use of resources. To make this happen I believe it is important to be proactive about considering what an operation’s pinch points are, and to then select innovations which aid in relieving those pressures and settling on a strategy to adopt them.

As in any other industry, producers must assess their appetite for risk on an individual basis, logically working through their capacity to embrace new technology and deciphering what that may mean for their livelihood. Corporations, individuals and government each have a role to play in the industry’s digital adoption to produce the best outcome for all. A collaborative approach is necessary to ensure that the development of regulation surrounding innovative agribusiness is a thorough and timely process, bearing in mind just how valuable data is as a resource.

The significance of developing a common language between large businesses and small operators should not be understated. It will be critical in maintaining a healthy industry through times of change. The key will be keeping things simple and asking the right questions:

  1. How will this technology help our business?
  2. It is available where I need it?
  3. Is it practical?
  4. How will it integrate with my business systems and broader supply chain?

By addressing these key questions and directing change accordingly, early adopters of technology will demonstrate just how much the industry can benefit from innovation.

Agriculture remains of high strategic importance to Australia and champions are needed to trial and evolve new technology to ensure that the sector takes full advantage so we remain globally competitive.

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