AN ERNST and Young (EY) report into Australia's agricultural research and development (R&D) has recomended a major shake-up of the sector, including increasing ties between industry and researchers and more focus on regionalisation.
Speaking at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Outlook conference in Canberra this week Andrew Metcalfe, EY Oceania central agencies leader, said regions were the heartbeat of Australia's ag sector.
"Obviously there is good research happening in the cities as well, but the regions are the backbone of Australia's agricultural innovation system," Mr Metcalfe said.
He said focusing on the regions also ensured a good link between the production sector and researchers.
The report found that in spite of investment from government through the research and development corporations (RDCs) Australian ag research was not keeping up with the pacesetters internationally, ranking 20th in the world.
This is in spite of Australia having more government-funded researchers than nations such as the US and the Netherlands, both ranked in the top six.
Mr Metcalfe said Australia was recognised as a great research nation but fell down in bringing ideas to the market.
He said changes to funding models, reflecting more private capital investment, would allow a pipeline to development that saw more commercialisation of technology and research.
"The current RDC model does not encourag flexibility for longer-term science, lowering the chance of transformational breakthroughs."
Another recommendation was for a focus on next generation innovation, including ag-tech solutions.
John Harvey, managing director of AgriFutures, which just held the Evoke Ag ag-tech conference in Melbourne, said it was critical there was a space for ag-tech startups and the production sector to work together.
"At present I think there is still a bit of a different wavelength as to where the meeting point is, farmers might be a bit surprised to find they are coming in with an idea that is still very much in the development phase as opposed to being close to being rolled out."