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.
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.  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.
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