The inaugural Food Agility Summit 2020 held in Sydney, was entitled “Creating a Sustainable Food Future” where it was my pleasure to give the keynote address and hear how many Agri-TechE members were a well-known part of the global agri-tech community in Australia.
Food Agility CRC is a AUS$150million+ public private partnership that is working with academics and end-users to create new digital technologies and services to benefit the Australian agrifood industry. The Summit brought together technologists, researchers and producers to “flip research” to focus on end-user problems in agri-food and unlock the potential of data.
The Summit aimed to unleash data sharing, unlock research talent for industry application, empower the farming system using digital and advanced agri-tech solutions. It featured presentations from funded PhD students, a poster session and around 200 delegates.
Projects underway include:
- Predictive yield modelling for horticulture using Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence
- Enabling collaboration between farmers to through large scale on-farm experimentation and data sharing
- Using blockchain to provide trust the quality, provenance and authenticity of beef using “smart contracts”
- Tracking fish from “bait to plate” via a blockchain app and IOT
- Use of sensors and data provision to help farmers accurately assess the economic value of water for irrigation
- Rice quality and prediction programme for the national network of rice growers
- Valuing the environment in viticulture to identify links between environmentally sustainable practices and long-term financial performance.
“Data, data, everywhere, but does it make us think?”
The Holy Grail of a unified, inter-operable, integrated data platform for agriculture appears as highly sought after in Australia as it is everywhere else.
The potential of such a platform isn’t in dispute, but the complexity of the challenge isn’t to be under-estimated.
Establishing a value proposition for data sharing, which also takes into account data and cyber security, is also tempered with the need to standardise data capture and curation to ensure frictionless exchange across the value chain.
“Anyone for T?”
In her closing comments of the Summit, Food Agility chair Dr Anne Astin emphasised the need for Trust (between all partners in the collaboration), recognising and aligning with current and future Trends, and the importance of effective Translation between research and production. She also emphasised the importance of good Timing to gain Traction and the potential to use Technology as the Tools to help achieve a step change in productivity and sustainability.
Featuring Agri-TechE Members……
Once the conference was over, a trip up to the University of New England in New South Wales also resulted in a meeting with ICT International, who does business with Cambridgeshire-based Delta-T Devices.
We also stopped by the office of our member Austrade for a whistle-stop virtual tour of Australian agriculture.
The University of New England – SMART Farm, Incubator and an Innovation Ecosystem
The University of New England is Australia’s oldest agricultural training facility, providing an opportunity for learning, collaboration and a new agri-tech incubator which is home to around 60 SMEs.
Building the “innovation ecosystem” is a major priority, to harness the research expertise, and maximising the potential for “Proximity to the Problem” in one of the major agricultural areas of the country.
As part of the University the SMART farm (featuring Sustainable, Manageable, Accessible Rural Technologies) is featuring three networks across which a host of sensor technologies have been connected. These are reporting on everything from the usual soil, water and weather parameters, to “tree tech” (measuring water flow in plants), “bee-tech” (monitoring activities and productivity within bee hives) and a host of livestock and arable technologies.
Meet Prof David Lamb, the driving force behind the SMART Farm here.
Australia is a country of huge agri-tech opportunity, much of which is already being realised. It is also a hugely challenging environment in which to farm, with years of severe drought, and more recently fire and flood.
But there is a high degree of resilience, strong export markets and a clear appetite for innovation. We’ll be back!
Note: Keynote speakers and panellists at Food Agility Summit 2020 included: Dr Belinda Clarke, Director Agri-TechE; Dr Mike Briers, Food Agility CEO; Jacqui Wilson-Smith, Agrifood Innovation Strategist, Sustainable Innovation Co; Gavin Smith, President Bosch Australia; Ben Van Delden, AgTech Leader and Head of Markets, KPMG
More information about Food Agility can be found at foodagility.com.