Global search for new dig­i­tal farm tech

Narrogin Observer - - News -

The world is only “scratch­ing the sur­face” in terms of how dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture will rev­o­lu­tionise food pro­duc­tion, ac­cord­ing to Nuffield scholar Lara Ladyman.

Ms Ladyman, who hails from a sheep and crop­ping farm in Katan­ning, has spent the past year travers­ing the globe in the search for an­swers to how tech­nol­ogy will mould food in the fu­ture.

She will share some of her find­ings to­day at Aus­tralian Farm In­sti­tute’s Dig­i­tal Farm­ers Con­fer­ence in Syd­ney.

“Dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture is about the col­lec­tion and anal­y­sis of data to im­prove farm busi­ness de­ci­sion­mak­ing,” she said.

From on-farm sen­sors, au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, on­line farm man­age­ment tools and pre­ci­sion farm­ing, Ms Ladyman said farm­ers and the wider in­dus­try were al­ready tak­ing ad­van­tage of tech­nol­ogy, but the space had plenty of room to grow.

“A re­cently re­leased re­port by the AFI that iden­ti­fies strate­gies to drive dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion across the na­tion’s agri­cul­tural in­dus­try showed dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture could in­crease the gross value of Aus­tralian agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion by $20.3 bil­lion,” she said. “There­fore, it is crit­i­cal that Aus­tralian farm­ers are able to cap­i­talise on this prom­ise of ‘farm­ing 4.0’ or dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture where a seam­less in­ter­play of sen­sors, au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture, ma­chine learn­ing and big data helps to drive on-farm de­ci­sions and pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

How­ever, Ms Ladyman said dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture re­lied on farm­ers hav­ing good in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity.

“The AFI re­port high­lighted that con­nec­tiv­ity was one of five ma­jor con­straints to dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture,” she said.

“But I think we are only scratch­ing the sur­face of how dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture will rev­o­lu­tionise food pro­duc­tion, from the lab to the lips.”

With the rise of Blockchain and the ad­di­tion of smart pack­ag­ing with em­bed­ded sen­sors to those that mon­i­tor tem­per­a­ture while pro­duce is in trans­port, Ms Ladyman said there were al­ready nu­mer­ous dig­i­tal tools that could track food from the farm to con­sumers. “This tech­nol­ogy can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to sup­pli­ers and, ul­ti­mately, con­sumers,” she said.

Ms Ladyman ex­pected to fi­nalise a re­port on the find­ings of her CBH­sup­ported Nuffield schol­ar­ship in the com­ing weeks.

I think we are only scratch­ing the sur­face of how dig­i­tal agri­cul­ture will rev­o­lu­tionise food pro­duc­tion. Lara Ladyman

Pic­ture: Lara Ladyman

Lara Ladyman, of Katan­ning, has been awarded a CBH-sup­ported Nuffield Aus­tralian Schol­ar­ship to ex­plore the fu­ture of food.

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