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Courage, curiosity and connection will fuel AgTech revolution

Courage, curiosity and connection will fuel AgTech revolution

The agriculture industry needs to stay curious, be courageous and get connected in order to capitalise on the technology boom.

Interest and investment in agtech are rapidly increasing, but making the most of agtech means dealing with challenges in the implementation and adoption of these technologies.

I was lucky enough to convene a panel recently where three experts addressed an audience of farmers and supply chain partners to discuss the future of agtech.

The panel included agri drone entrepreneur Will Bignell; the CEO of an online livestock trading platform, Anna Speer; and Professor David Lamb, Physicist at the University of New England (UNE) who leads UNE's SMART Farm project.

At the panel, three critical elements were identified as necessary for agribusiness to fully benefit from the technology boom.

Courage and curiosity

With so many technologies available to the market, taking the first step can be daunting. As our panel agreed, it’s important to remember to start small.

For farmers, that can mean identifying one small problem in your everyday operations and finding an innovative way to address it. It could be as simple as using a GPS system to guide staff or consultants to the right paddock.

Thankfully, the boom in R&D and the reduced cost of technology means that risks are more modest. It’s now often a matter of investing a few hundred dollars on a piece of new technology, as opposed to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For example, a smartphone app that can track tank mixtures or track machine maintenance records can greatly help to boost efficiencies, and is an easy first step to take.

Starting is more important than starting big.

Connectivity and data driven success

Inside and outside the farm gate there are technologies that allow more streamlined production and better decision-making. This can include anything from digitally tracking livestock, to virtual fencing, to virtual reality.

The challenge for the industry is knowing what to do with all the available data, and figuring out where it can deliver a competitive advantage.

Data is the new commodity, and we need to connect our data sets across the industry, work on common platforms and improve telecommunications to use it to its potential. This is going to be the next areas of revolution – expect to see a wave of innovation aimed not at collecting data, but using it to make decisions.

What’s next?

In 2015 there was AU$5b spent investing in technology for agriculture alone. This is up from the AU$1b spent only two years prior and the trend is showing no signs of slowing. [1] Over the next five years, we’re going to see big changes in technology for agriculture, not least of all because some of those investors will come from outside the industry.

To find out more about our innovative agribusiness solutions visit our website, or call us on 1300 772 968 to discuss how we can work with your business.

Tim Harvey
Tim Harvey

Acting Executive General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness Banking

Tim Harvey is Commonwealth Bank’s General Manager Regional and Agribusiness Banking for NSW. He leads a team of 150 staff based at 18 locations throughout the state. Tim was raised in a farming family and continues to run his own commercial cropping operation, and he brings his genuine understanding of the sector to his role. His deepest passion is progressing regional and rural Australia, so it can continue to be a lively and vibrant economy. Tim believes innovation and technology are essential if rural and regional Australia are to thrive, and he is currently working on identifying and fast-tracking agri innovation tech projects and partnerships within the Bank. As Regional and Agribusiness Banking General Manager, he is responsible for both agri and regional commercial clients and is highly cognisant of the connection between farm business and other business in our regions.

[1] AgFunder AgTech Investing Report 2015. This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. You should consider seeking independent financial advice before making any decision based on this information.