By Growcom Chief Executive Officer Stephen Barnard
This week marks the start of Queensland AgTech Month, an annual initiative to highlight the ingenuity and innovation in agriculture and position Queensland as an attractive place to launch an agtech enterprise.
The word “AgTech” is a broad term used liberally, and does need sometimes to be broken down.
AgTech is best understood simply as the intersection between agriculture and technology. It’s the application and coming together on farm of digital software, like tools for analysing imagery, with digital hardware, like drones.
AgTech also includes products and services enabled by technology along the agriculture value chain, from “fintech” or financial technology, through to logistics and to the consumer.
The breadth of scope in AgTech is only matched by it’s potential.
Plenty of insiders and outsiders to agriculture look at our industry, see legacy systems or in some cases an absence of technology, and see big gains to be made. And they’d be right, though often underestimate the difficulty of implementing new technology.
Beyond simply making Australian and Queensland agriculture more competitive in global markets, AgTech represents an enormous export opportunity in its own right. Some estimates suggest it’ll be worth $100 billion to the Australian economy by 2030.
Given AgTech is still in its infancy, jurisdictions that get in place now the conditions necessary for AgTech to thrive will be the winners, selling their AgTech products and services to the world.
One of the core conditions to a flourishing AgTech industry will be accessibility and portability of farm and agribusiness data.
This condition is best understood through the lens of those people calling for a right to repair farm machinery.
While keeping secret the software and data running a tractor might be in the commercial interests of the manufacturer, it adds unnecessary costs for the operator and acts as a significant handbrake on innovation.
More than just tractors, the accessibility and portability of farm data, the ease with which farmers can shift their data and business from one service or product provider to another, is a looming challenge for AgTech as a whole.
This is just one challenge Growcom will be considering in the development of Future Fields, a new 10-year strategic plan for the Queensland fresh produce sector and supply chain.
We will be seeking views from entrepreneurs, practitioners, manufacturers, regulators and growers about how we can better harness data to set up our industry for AgTech success.
For more information about Future Fields visit our webpage www.futurefields.info.