More than 300 agribusiness professionals, farmers, technology experts and entrepreneurs heard about the potential for digital agriculture to fundamentally change farm production systems and supply chains.
It followed on from the highly successful Digital Disruption in Agriculture Conference held last year, which explored how digital technology has the ability to change farm practices and inform decision making.
“The agriculture industry is moving to a point where we are getting more serious about where the benefits are in technology, or what we call digital agriculture, and we want to know what the business case for that technology is,” AFI excutive director Mick Keogh said.
“Digital agriculture is emerging right through the supply chain and there is a need for a whole of industry approach that provides benefit from producers and throughout the supply chain.”
Conference delegates were given an overview of who would benefit from digital agriculture, how it could work through the supply chain and what impact that would have on-farm.
AFI research general manager Richard Heath told the conference the P2D ‘Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture’, was the very first project which had all of Australia’s 15 CRC’s as funding partners
“That, on its own, is a significant statement, digital agriculture, and agricultural data, is the first thing, essentially, in which all of agriculture has been able to come together and say, ‘we need to do this together.’
“There is no point in doing it on its own, agricultural data is not specific to one sector.”
“I really hope that attitude continues, post this project.”
He said digital agriculture was an extension of precision agriculture.
“The hardware that is at the heart of digital agriculture has been around for a long time, yield monitors on combine harvesters, is a couple of decades old.
“And precision agriculture was really about hardware, and how it would be applied on farm, individual pieces of technology, doing a specific job.”
Most farms now employed data collection, with some analysis, which informed farm practice.
“It’s been a pretty difficult process, it’s depended on the aptitude of the farmer to really explore that, it hasn’t been something that has been intuitive or easy.”
“Decision agriculture doesn’t focus on the hardware, but focuses on the information that comes from the hardware, and accumulating that information in a much more seamless manner.”
Farmers had always been very good at making decisions.
“Digital agriculture would help aid the process and try and make it more of a data-driven decision making process.”
Mr Heath acknowledged trust issues, in terms of farmers being willing to share data.
“It’s a kind of nebulous thing, just hand it over, they don’t know what is going to happen to it,” he said.
“And there is a big trust issue, in terms of farmers being really willing to let that happen and share that data.”
He said data, gathered on farm, had to go through “many, many steps,” before it could be turned into usable information.
“At some point there needs to be storage, curation, aggregation of data, and that can happen at many different points,” Mr Heath said.
“When you pass on transformed data, you are passing on the intellectual property, and the knowledge that has gone, with transforming that data.”
“Increasingly we are going to have lots of regulatory pressures and compliance issues, around things about how we water, or how we apply pesticide.”
Information gathered from the on-farm data could also be used to help get finance.
“If the bank knows you are watering your produce effectively and that there is a guaranteed crop there, it will perhaps help with operational finance.
But Mr Heath said it was critical benefits were delivered to the farmer.
“Beyond that, nothing really works.