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Australian Ministry of Agriculture shifts focus to on-farm technologies, investing $4 billion to drive innovation

In an effort to create a ‘smarter approach to farming’, the Australian Government has announced the plan for a $4 billion investment in the future of farming.

This was relayed in the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper which represents the government’s plan to prioritise advanced technology to enhance innovation of products, processes and practices across the agricultural sector.

The Agricultural sector has not completely transitioned to the digital age, plus advancements in technology has led to a decrease in farm employment to just over 2 percent in 2013-14.

Recognising this, the Government is looking to give farmers access to the latest innovations and technologies through a stronger research, development, and extension (RD&E) system.

Through this, the government has targeted research into technologies such as robotics, digitisation, big data, genetics, and precision agriculture.

“The new priorities will see our Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) take a stronger focus on the areas of advanced technology, biosecurity, soil, water and managing natural resources, as well as promoting industry and on-farm adoption of R&D,” Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce stated, “The government and industry together invest around $550 million annually through the RDCs.

The Government aims to supply farmers with the means to adopt advanced farming technologies and practices. This will build the future of farming and sustain the viability of the agricultural market.

In the white paper, it was announced that the Government is expanding the Rural Research and Development for Profit programme. It will last for a total of eight years until 2022 with an extra $100 million invested.

“The new priorities are now also reflected in the Rural R&D for Profit Programme, which encourages innovative partnerships between RDCs and other organisations,” Minister Joyce said, “More than $26 million in project funding has so far been announced under round one. Round two of the programme closed on 1 December and I look forward to announcing successful projects in the first half of 2016.”

The paper also notes that government and private investment in communications technology, such as GPS to big data tools, will help provide real-time data to facilitate precision farming.

With this, the Government is pledging an additional $60 million towards the Mobile Black Spot programme.

All in all, this increased focus on the future of farming aims to boost the agricultural sector and the market for agri-innovation.

“A strong R&D system drives future productivity growth, and effective natural resource management,” Minister Joyce stated.

Image from Eli Duke- CC BY SA 2.0

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