Australian farmers see value in sharing production results with their peers, with new research suggesting a desire to support the advancement of the industry outweighs concerns about competition.
The research, part of Commonwealth Bank’s bi-annual Agri Insights survey, also shows the farming investment outlook is picking up at the national level, on the back of solid seasonal results across much of the country.
The survey finds 76 per cent of Australian farmers think data sharing is valuable for themselves and the broader sector, and 58 per cent of farmers actively share their own production data.
Tim Harvey, Acting Executive General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness Banking, Commonwealth Bank, says the survey results reflect a collegial approach in the industry, with farmers generally eager to support each other.
“It’s a real sign of the way Australian farmers view themselves less as competitors with their neighbours and more as part of an Australian agribusiness ecosystem that is working to stay competitive on a global scale. Farmers have a strong history of supporting each other and although technology may change, the principles of collaboration and co-operation endure in the digital age,” Mr Harvey said.
“The range of digital tools and insights our industry now has access to makes it easier to aggregate data which helps farmers across regions or commodity sectors learn from each other, benchmark their own results and identify emerging trends around variety selection, marketing choices and other farm management practices.”
Of those farmers who say data sharing is valuable, 49 per cent say it facilitates learning from other farmers, 26 per cent see it as an opportunity to benchmark operations and 17 per cent recognise the industry-wide benefits of reciprocation.
According to the survey, younger farmers are especially excited about digital technology, with 81 per cent of those in the 18-44 age group believing it adds value.
“There’s a real sense of anticipation in the industry about where digital technology can take farming and how it can help build connections across the supply chain. The feeling is that we’re starting to see some of the technology we’ve been hearing about deliver on its promise,” Mr Harvey said.
The survey results come as the national Agri Insights Index, measuring overall investment intentions for the forthcoming 12 months, reaches a near-record high of 10.2 points. This is just 0.1 points below the strongest index result to date, recorded in April 2015.
Farmers are more likely now than at any time since the Index was launched in 2014 to be planning a boost in investment in fixed infrastructure and plant and equipment. The results show 25 per cent of farmers plan to increase their expenditure on plant and equipment in the year ahead and 36 per cent plan to spend more on fixed infrastructure.
Horticulture producers are especially positive, with a record number saying they will increase the scale of their operations in the year ahead (19 per cent saying they will scale up, compared with eight per cent this time last year). Meanwhile, 18 per cent of cotton growers, 14 per cent of both lamb and beef producers, and 10 per cent of summer grain growers say they will scale up their operations in the same period.
Investment intentions are also positive for almost all other sectors, and intentions have strengthened among cotton, lamb, beef, summer grain and wool producers.
“The strong national results are driven largely by good prices and seasonal conditions for producers in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. We are seeing particular improvements in intentions around summer grain and cotton. It’s encouraging to see fairly positive investment intentions across the board,” Mr Harvey said.
Notes to editors:
• Agri Insights surveys farmers in relation to 14 key areas of farm business operation, including physical, financial and people components to create an index measuring investment intentions for the next 12 months.
• Agri Insights asks respondents if they intend to increase, decrease or maintain their level of investment across a range of measures in the coming 12 months. A ‘net change’ measurement is used to evaluate the likely overall impact of farmers’ intentions.
• Questions are divided into three categories: physical (land, plant & equipment, farm infrastructure, commodities), financial (farm inputs, off-farm employment, off-farm investment, technology) and people (education & training, contractors, advisers, employees, family members and the farmers’ personal involvement in the farm business).
• Physical, Financial and People indices are calculated by averaging the net change for all variables within each category. These indices are then averaged to calculate the overall Agri Insights Index.
• The research was conducted among 1,600 Australian farmers during July and August 2016. Research was conducted by Kynetec.
For more details about Agri Insights, see the full report here.