ANDROID dreams of electric sheep and a future where we wake up to a virtual farm assistant, were just some of the topics of conversation at the Australia Farm Institute’s (AFI) Digital Farmers 2018 conference, held in Sydney last week.
Focused on human capital in the digital age, conference speakers were grouped into themes, focusing on how farmers, workers, students, communities and consumers can take advantage of digital technologies.
AFI, executive director, Richard Heath said attendance was impressive an indication of the interest in digital agriculture amongst all sectors of agriculture.
“The conference explores how we use human capital to make digital agriculture work,” he said.
“In Australia we have a genuine multi-stakeholder discussion, which is really important.
“It is bringing new people into agriculture.”
CQ University, senior research officer, Dr Amy Cosby spoke on the importance of using digital agriculture to attract new entrants.
“One of the things we aim to do in our education programs is bridge the gap between urban and country kids,” she said.
“We aim to use agricultural technology as an enticement for students, to show them they have a future in agriculture.”
Liverpool Plains farmer, David Brownhill gave a humorous and insightful crystal ball forecast of the 2068 farmer, acknowledging forecasts in farming were often inaccurate.
“If we are going to focus on weather, accuracy needs to go through the roof,” he said.
Speaking at the gala dinner, previous AFI executive director and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, deputy chair, Mick Keogh asked whether agriculture would need humans in the future.
“There is no doubt that Australian agriculture is facing an era of unprecedented technological change,” he said.
“A case could be made that humans will become largely redundant in the sector in the future.
“Within a decade it will be economically feasible too digitally monitor most, if not all, the factors of production.
“The most logical response for the agricultural sector in Australia is to gain as many insights as possible from the experience of other sectors of the economy.
“Humans will certainly become redundant from some of the tasks and roles.
“But there will be a lot more redundancies if the sector fails to embrace the opportunities for improved global competitiveness that intelligent automation is offering.”
Mr Heath said those who missed the conference could access the presentations through membership to the organisation or online here.
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