Farm­ers fail to cap­i­talise on ag tech

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS -

AGRI­CUL­TURAL TECH­NOL­OGY is rapidly de­vel­op­ing but the cur­rent up­take of ‘sen­sor tech­nol­ogy’ among Aus­tralian farm­ers is lim­ited, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by agribusi­ness bank­ing spe­cial­ist Rabobank. Draw­ing on in­sights from 1000 farm­ers across Aus­tralia, the re­cently-re­leased re­port, Does sen­sor adop­tion make cents?, says the use of sen­sor tech­nol­ogy re­mains mod­est. Ques­tion­ing farm­ers across a wide range of re­gions, pro­duc­tion sec­tors and op­er­a­tion sizes (dur­ing its reg­u­lar quar­terly sur­vey of ru­ral sen­ti­ment), Rabobank found less than a quar­ter (23 per cent) were us­ing sen­sor tech­nol­ogy — such as drones, mois­ture probes and ir­ri­ga­tion mon­i­tors, as well as yield map­ping and elec­tronic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (EID). Re­port au­thor, Rabobank agri­cul­tural an­a­lyst Wes­ley Le­froy, said there are “clearly bar­ri­ers to adop­tion that are hold­ing back the farm sec­tor from re­ceiv­ing the value promised by dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture”. “For many farm­ers, the value propo­si­tion (or re­turn on in­vest­ment) for many sen­sor tech­nolo­gies sim­ply isn’t ar­tic­u­lated clearly enough for farm­ers to de­ter­mine they can gen­er­ate a profit from it,” he said. Mr Le­froy said the up­take ap­peared to be higher amongst larger farm busi­nesses, with the sur­vey find­ing large farms (with in­comes above one mil­lion) to have the high­est up­take of sen- sors at 57 per cent — com­pared with a 10 per cent up­take in farm­ing busi­nesses with in­comes be­low $300 000. The high­est rate of sen­sor adop­tion is in the cot­ton in­dus­try (78 per cent) and the grains sec­tor (48 per cent), while adop­tion rates were lim­ited in dairy (20 per cent), beef (10 per cent) and sheep (12 per cent) — with these sec­tors gen­er­ally hav­ing a higher pro­por­tion of smallscale pro­duc­ers. Mr Le­froy said the sig­nif­i­cant cost, time and knowl­edge needed to ex­tract value from some live­stock ori­en­tated tech­nol­ogy was lim­it­ing up­take. The sur­vey found less than 70 per cent of those us­ing the tech­nol­ogy were ap­ply­ing the sen­sor-gen­er­ated data to sup­port farm de­ci­sion­mak­ing, while less than 40 per cent were con­vert­ing the data into profit. In or­der to “close the gap” so farm­ers fully un­der­stand how to use the data and gen­er­ate profit from it, there are two main is­sues that need ad­dress­ing, he said. “At the far­m­gate, there needs to be an in­creased em­pha­sis on hav­ing ad­e­quate tech­no­log­i­cal re­sources, and this goes be­yond soft­ware and hard­ware man­age­ment, as farm­ers also need to have the skills to an­a­lyse the data. “How­ever, for farm­ers to make this in­vest­ment, in both time and money, the value propo­si­tion of us­ing this tech­nol­ogy needs to im­prove,” he said. “Tech com­pa­nies have a big role to play in this, to en­sure farm­ers can eas­ily use the data to as­sist with de­ci­sion-mak­ing, so ‘af­ter-sales ser­vice’ is crit­i­cal.” Mr Le­froy said in the age where farm­ers are gen­er­at­ing more and more data, the own­er­ship of data and pri­vacy is­sues were another con­cern, while many agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers also lacked the tech­no­log­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture and con­nec­tiv­ity re­quired to fully utilise farm man­age­ment tech­nol­ogy of­fered by ven­dors.

Only 20 per cent of the dairy in­dus­try are util­is­ing sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, which in­cludes drones, mois­ture probes and ir­ri­ga­tion mon­i­tors.

Wes Le­froy

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