In­no­va­tion a must for farms

Tasmanian Country - - OPINION - Wayne John­ston

WE of­ten hear about the im­por­tance of in­no­va­tion to the Aus­tralian econ­omy and its ef­fects on em­ploy­ment and life­style, but un­til re­cently sto­ries of in­no­va­tion in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor were rarely con­veyed to the broader com­mu­nity.

If we look back through his­tory no other group has been as in­no­va­tive or ready to adopt new tech­nol­ogy as farm­ers. The proof is in the fact that we now have a world pop­u­la­tion of 7 bil­lion, com­pared to ap­prox­i­mately 900 mil­lion in 1800. This mas­sive in­crease over a mere 200 years could not be sus­tained with­out the in­no­va­tion of farm­ers who pro­vided the food and fi­bre to al­low this to hap­pen.

Ma­jor in­no­va­tions, such as the stump jump plough (South Aus­tralia, 1877), had a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive ef­fect on the ef­fi­cien­cies and yields of farm­ing. Of­ten machin­ery in­no­va­tions have been the di­rect re­sult of a farmer’s own in­ven­tions and we con­tinue to see that. This has been com­ple­mented by ad­vance­ments in other ar­eas and a rapid adop­tion of th­ese new tech­nolo­gies by farm­ers.

In to­day’s en­vi­ron­ment, we see things like drones and sen­sor tech­nol­ogy be­ing used to en­sure that farm­ing not only re­mains eco­nom­i­cal but is also en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able, for ex­am­ple, us­ing drones and spec­trum anal­y­sis to high­light a weed species in a pad­dock and thereby al­low­ing for spot spray­ing as op­posed to a broad- acre ap­proach. The re­sult is less im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and an eco­nomic and time boost to the farmer.

In a time where costs con­tinue to rise and re­turns have re­mained static, any re­duc­tion in over­heads is a pos­i­tive.

In­no­va­tion is about meet­ing the chal­lenge to pro­vide food and fi­bre to a rapidly ris­ing global pop­u­la­tion

Clearly this chal­lenge is not new, farm­ers have been meet­ing it for the past 10,000 years. What is new is the di­men­sions of the chal­lenge. While the world pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing, the up­side is tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments are also at un­prece­dented lev­els.

How­ever, while there are more sci­en­tists alive to­day than there have been in col­lec­tive his­tory, and many rapidly ob­so­lete in­ven­tions to match, the num­ber of farm­ers glob­ally is de­creas­ing. Our chal­lenge will be not only meet­ing the pop­u­la­tion’s needs, but do­ing so with po­ten­tially less nat­u­ral re­sources and a de­clin­ing num­ber of farm­ers. Farm­ers by their na­ture are in­no­va­tive and the cus­to­di­ans of the food pro­duc­tion sys­tem as we know it.

I at­tended some great events in south­ern Tas­ma­nia since we last spoke. Con­grat­u­la­tions to Terry White and Chris Cu­sick for the Mates For Mates bar­be­cue at Bream Creek last week­end and also for or­gan­is­ers of the suc­cess­ful planned burn­ing field day at Wat­tle Hill.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.