Dig­i­tal tech bar­ri­ers af­fect­ing farm profit

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS - www.farmin­sti­tute.org.au/P2Dpro­ject

AUS­TRALIAN FARM­ERS are miss­ing out on profit gains avail­able from dig­i­tal agri­cul­tural tech­nolo­gies be­cause of lim­ited avail­abil­ity of on-farm telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions to link de­vices. The in­for­ma­tion was dis­cov­ered through a re­cent CSIRO sur­vey across all ma­jor agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries. Three quar­ters of dig­i­tal agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy users re­ported on­go­ing prob­lems with the re­li­a­bil­ity of mo­bile telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­di­cat­ing that poor con­nec­tiv­ity across farms is a key bar­rier to adop­tion. Twenty-five per­cent of all pro­duc­ers sur­veyed were us­ing on-farm telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions to link and an­a­lyse data, with usage high­est amongst cot­ton grow­ers (60 per cent) and low­est amongst sheep and wool farm­ers (18 per cent). The sur­vey also found that while Aus­tralian cot­ton grow­ers are the big­gest adopters of dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture tech­nolo­gies to im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity, they are also the least sat­is­fied with cur­rent op­tions for con­nect­ing and analysing dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion. The sur­vey sug­gested that there is cur­rently lim­ited use of farm an­a­lyt­i­cal soft­ware plat­forms in Aus­tralia. While 89 per cent of sur­vey par­tici- pants col­lect at least one type of farm data, only 19 per cent said they used spe­cial­ist farm soft­ware to man­age it. The sur­vey also re­vealed that knowl­edge and trust bar­ri­ers could im­pede data shar­ing in the fu­ture, re­duc­ing Aus­tralia’s abil­ity to make the most of dig­i­tal farm­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­main com­pet­i­tive in a global mar­ket. “Two-thirds of pro­duc­ers said they knew noth­ing at all, or very lit­tle, about on-farm telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions op­tions and nearly half had no plans to in­stall in­fras­truc­ture in the next five years,” said Mick Keogh, Chair of the Ac­cel­er­at­ing Pre­ci­sion Agri­cul­ture to De­ci­sion Agri­cul­ture Project (P2D). “Three quar­ters of pro­duc­ers were not aware of the terms and con­di­tions in their ex­ist­ing agree­ments with ser­vice providers, which makes them un­com­fort­able. “They’re also more will­ing to share data with other pro­duc­ers than with ser­vice providers, be­cause of trust is­sues around pri­vacy and on-shar­ing.” Mr Keogh said the sur­vey results were con­cern­ing, given the po­ten­tial for sig­nif­i­cant profit gain through the wide­spread ap­pli­ca­tion of dig­i­tal agri­cul­tural prac­tices. “We’re still pulling to­gether the results of our re­search over­seas about the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits avail­able from dig­i­tal agri­cul­tural tech­nolo­gies, but I think the cur­rent fore­cast of 10 to 15 per cent pro­duc­tiv­ity gains for some Aus­tralian in­dus­tries could be con­ser­va­tive. “The clear mes­sage emerg­ing from this project is that we need to work to­gether — and quickly — to make adop­tion eas­ier for pro­duc­ers and cre­ate a vi­brant mar­ket­place for tech­nol­ogy providers.

I think the cur­rent fore­cast of 10 to 15 per cent pro­duc­tiv­ity gains for some Aus­tralian in­dus­tries could be con­ser­va­tive.

“We’ll be re­leas­ing our find­ings, in­clud­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment and prac­ti­cal tools and out­puts for farm­ers, at the end of the year,” Mr Keogh said. Dr Emma Jakku, a CSIRO re­searcher in­volved in the sur­vey said: “We also need to have the right gov­er­nance and pro­cesses in place and pro­vide tools like plain lan­guage in­for­ma­tion guides, train­ing and sup­port to help pro­duc­ers in­crease their dig­i­tal lit­er­acy and over­come their con­cerns.” “Our agri­cul­ture in­dus­tries are at dif­fer­ent stages of adop­tion mak­ing tar­geted strate­gies im­por­tant, but there are a lot of shared chal­lenges that can be more ef­fec­tively ad­dressed by join­ing forces.” The CSIRO sur­vey was funded through the Ac­cel­er­at­ing Pre­ci­sion Agri­cul­ture to De­ci­sion Agri­cul­ture project (P2D), which is led by the Cot­ton Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and jointly funded by the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Ru­ral R&D For Profit Pro­gram and all 15 Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tions. It in­volves re­search sup­port from three uni­ver­si­ties, CSIRO Data 61, the Aus­tralian Farm Institute and the Data to De­ci­sions CRC. The sur­vey can­vassed 1000 pro­duc­ers across 17 in­dus­tries. The full results can be found on the P2D project web­site —

Mick Keogh.

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