Without investment in new agricultural technology, Australian farm productivity will continue its slow decline, according to agribusiness leaders.
Speaking at the Evoke Ag conference this week, Elders managing director and chief executive officer, Mark Allison said innovative technologies could prevent Australia’s productivity growth from flat lining.
"Annual agricultural productivity growth estimates, for grain, dairy and beef, sit between one and 1.5 per cent per year over the past 40 years," he said.
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"While sheep have grown just 0.2pc annually.
"All are struggling to keep up with declining terms of trade, input costs and the impacts of a more varied, hotter and drier climate.
"Australian wheat yields for instance, have stagnated since 1990."
Mr Allison said the changing climate was one of the factors driving down yield potential and profits.
"Reduced rainfall, water availability, water stress and increasing maximum temperatures have reduced yield potential by 27pc," he said.
"While the adoption of new technology and improved practices by Australian farmers has stemmed the tide and maintained yields up to now, if current predictions are realised, wheat yields will fall from 1.74 to 1.55 tonnes per hectare by 2041."
Mr Allison said compounding this was evidence Australia was losing ground to international competitors.
"This means Australia is losing market share to economies where agricultural trade is growing most rapidly, and to lower cost markets such as North Africa, Argentina and Brazil," he said.
“More productivity growth is essential."
Mr Allison said productivity could be lifted through research and technology.
"Technology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics or any number of innovations can achieve the next rainmaker productivity gains," he said.
"We have our Rural Research and Development Corporations and their effective levy system and we have the corporates and multinationals, all focusing on increasing innovation and investing in growth."
However, Mr Allison said it was fundamental for technology companies to work with farmers to build their trust, and ensure research and development advances were relevant, practical, effective and adopted.
“Research and development cannot be about ticking project milestones, or producing research papers that collect dust on a book shelf,” he said.
“To work this information needs to be in the hands of farmers, driving the practice change we need.
"The significant, vital link is partnerships, collaboration and connectivity which involve the farmer."
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