Innovation has always been an integral part of agriculture
The ACT and Region has been an innovator in agricultural practices and moving forward, incorporating traditional and new knowledge, technology and approaches will be even more important.
Agricultural industries are already developing and implementing practices that are better matched to Australian soils and climate. These include conservation and precision agriculture, which aim to minimise soil disturbance and use information on paddock properties to determine most efficient management practices, respectively.
Agritech is a rapidly growing opportunity in rural and urban areas
Technologies and practices in rural agriculture, as well as emerging urban agriculture, are constantly developing as responses to greater community desire for sustainable and local food.
Agritech is the use of technology and technological innovation to improve agriculture. Some Agritech opportunities include:
- agrivoltaics, the growing of crops or farm animals under renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels
- space saving urban agriculture applications such as vertical farms and modular stackable urban farms
- other city-based solutions such as self-watering urban/indoor gardens, standing hydroponic gardens, rooftop farming kits and so on.
- new disciplines like aquaculture or aquaponics in urban settings.
Combining traditional knowledge and technological innovation is also yielding new possibilities, helping to monitor, scale up and sustainably manage wild harvesting of native plants, for example.
Opportunities also exist along the supply chain. There are Australian-made, environmentally friendly production enablers like biological-based fungicides and livestock supplements that reduce methane emissions, and emerging plant-based products that provide alternatives to meat.
Diversification of farming enterprises can also create stronger business models. For example, incorporating agri-tourism such as ‘pick your own’ and highlighting the region’s farming are already being explored by local businesses.
Examples of emerging, service oriented Agritech are artificial intelligence (AI) enabled drones for irrigation, herbicides, pollination and seed planting; networked devices and sensors for livestock monitoring and management as well as real time access to soil moisture readings and irrigation control.
The ACT and Region is well positioned to embrace such agriculture innovations, from city backyards to large rural farms. We have top research and development institutions including CSIRO, ANU, University of Canberra and the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-technology in our city.
Food for thought
There are factors that limit or slow down the adoption of Agritech innovations. Growers may not be aware that innovations exist, or there may be few local demonstration farms or trial sites to visit.
Establishment and maintenance costs for new infrastructure and equipment are often high, particularly the intensive, enclosed urban farming systems can have expensive energy demands.
Availability of land that is suitable for agriculture or urban farming may be low as land use or rental agreements may limit activities.