Governments must take the lead on agtech adoption

Agtech adoption schemes an opportunity for Australian farmers

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South Australian Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham said the government's aim is to be the the national leader in agtech through a collaborative and cohesive approach.

South Australian Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham said the government's aim is to be the the national leader in agtech through a collaborative and cohesive approach.

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Agtech adoption schemes are an opportunity for Australian farmers to increase their productivity and long-term viability.

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The South Australian government is leading the charge when it comes to incentivising the adoption of agtech.

That's according to industry stakeholders Andrew Coppin and John Fargher who are calling on other state governments to follow suit.

SA livestock producers are being encouraged to invest in technology, and the training required to implement it successfully on-farm, through the Agtech Adoption Rebate for Livestock Producers.

Producers can apply for the rebate of up to to $10,000 (excluding GST) once they have completed a Livestock Enterprise Planning session and created a farm agtech adoption plan.

The program is proving successful with 156 producers applying for the rebate since its launch in September 2020.

A further 80 businesses have completed the planning session and are developing agtech adoption plans. All upcoming planning sessions are fully subscribed.

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SA Primary Industries Minister David Basham said the government's aim is to be the national leader in agtech through a collaborative and cohesive approach with initiatives such as an Agtech Strategic Plan, the $5.2 million Agtech Adoption Program and Agtech Demonstration Farms.

"Our farmers and primary producers are some of the most innovative in the world, yet we lag behind in our uptake of agtech," Mr Basham said.

"More than 50 per cent of South Australian primary producers are currently not investing in further agtech and this is a statistic we are setting out to change."

Australian Agritech Association chairman Andrew Coppin said livestock producers were starting to think more about areas in their operation where they could get greater efficiency, connectivity and productivity gains.

He said if there was a silver lining in the COVID clouds it was people in the livestock sector having to think about how to do more with less.

"There's a little bit of forced adoption going on which I think is a good thing," Mr Coppin said.

The Victorian government has made similar strides, launching the $10 million Digital Agriculture Investment Scheme in November 2020. Farmers jumped at the opportunity and the scheme was fully subscribed within a matter of weeks.

The scheme was created to help overcome financial barriers associated with investing in digital agriculture technologies and provides grants from $5000 to $50,000 (excluding GST).

The government has also partnered with hundreds of farmers in the dairy, horticulture, grains, and sheep sectors for a $12 million On-Farm Internet of Things Trial.

"We are supporting the agricultural industry to modernise through investment, innovation and fostering skills of the future, which is a key part of our transformational 10-year strategy for agriculture in Victoria," Victorian Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said.

Western Australia has also invested $580,000 in an IoT grants program as well as offering the Harvest Accelerator Program and Curtin Ignition Program.

WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the government had made a range of investments to support agtech adoption, stimulate innovation and improve digital connectivity.

"Agtech is an essential component of modern farming, no matter what industry or location, to improve productivity and remain internationally competitive," Ms MacTiernan said.

De-risking adoption and rewarding the users of technology is a good strategy, according to AgriWebb co-founder and chief revenue officer John Fargher.

De-risking adoption and rewarding the users of technology is a good strategy, according to AgriWebb co-founder and chief revenue officer John Fargher.

AgriWebb co-founder and chief revenue officer John Fargher said governments assisting in the initial investment of agtech was a great catalyst for uptake.

Mr Fargher said they had received a high quantity of inbound calls from potential customers wanting to take advantage of the Victorian government's scheme last year.

They were busy organising quotes when they learned the scheme was fully subscribed - a great indication that demand was there, he said.

Mr Fargher said education and awareness was the main challenge to the adoption of agtech.

"The place for government and industry is not to go and build agtech solutions - leave that to the experts," he said.

"Where government can really help is in education and awareness."

In Queensland, support is geared towards industry organisations rather than on-farm at this stage.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the Palaszczuk government is committed to supporting agribusinesses to digitally transform to embrace the opportunities presented by new technologies.

"The Palaszczuk government has announced more than $1 million in Agribusiness Digital Solutions Grants as part of Queensland's COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan," Mr Furner said.

"This will deliver nine projects through industry organisations to enhance the development, trialling and adoption of digital solutions across the agriculture and food supply chains."

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Primary Industries said the Clean Coastal Catchment project was delivering incentive grants to encourage the adoption of a range of best practice irrigation and fertilisation technologies.

For farmers considering investing in agtech opportunities, Mr Coppin has some clear advice.

"Define the problem, investigate key providers solving the problem you are trying to solve, talk to people who are using it, and then do all of that before you even start talking to the vendors," he said.

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