Over the coming weeks leading up to MoD’s AgHack, we will explore some of the most creative innovations, businesses, and people to come out of the Agtech world. But to explore Agtech, you have to know what on earth it is!
Agtech may sound complex, but it’s a digital buzzword for a simple concept: agricultural technology. The Australian Farm Institute tells The Weekly Times that Agtech is about “connecting things that have been around for some time”. It’s bringing what is seen by many as a simple industry to the forefront of human technological innovation to find new and exciting ways using technology to capitalise on agriculture and transform the lives of those who work in the industry.
Agtech is about “connecting things that have been around for some time”.
When we think of agriculture, our first thought is huge swathes of farmland, and the tech associated with this is equally massive in scale. Agtech is to thank for developing sustainable irrigation for acres of crops, and for allowing farmers to pinpoint the perfect time to plant. These developments are incredibly important for feeding us in the long term. But Agtech is a part of our personal lives, too. This is the technology that makes mushrooms grow from our own used coffee grind, and brings good old country farming into our urban environment (No really, just look at Singapore’s buildings! ).
Agriculture is a fundamental pillar holding up the Australian economy. This $60 billion industry feeds not only us, but the rest of the world too; farmers export a whopping 77% of our produce. This is not an industry that can rest on its laurels. It’s hit square in the face by some of the most severe challenges facing the planet today: climate change, increasing food demands, water wastage, and pest plagues to name but a few.
Decades ago, farmers could cater to growing food demand by expanding the amount of land they used. Not anymore. Around 50% of land is used for agriculture already, and most of the other half just isn’t arable. With the increasingly severe effects of climate change, even the land we are using now is getting harder to work with. This is what Australia is made for; we live in one of the harshest environments out there, and we have grown a new breed of farmers and Agtech entrepreneurs.
Agriculture not only needs to address challenges in producing food, but also in making sure it reaches everyone who needs it. Food demand is set to grow 60% by 2060, and yet half of all fruit and veg make it into the bin instead of into our mouths – that’s 5 million tonnes in Australia per year. These challenges cannot be solved by traditional means; farmers called on the digital world for help, and they answered, creating Agtech.
These innovators think of short-term solutions to problems like water shortage by developing waste-reducing irrigation tech, and take a long-term approach to developing sustainable technology to use water smartly.
They develop ways to make the land more hospitable for farm animals and crops now, and are also studying their genetic makeup to create new breeds that are perfectly suited to harsh environments to minimise the environmental impact of farming.
The agriculture industry will double in size by 2030, making it bigger than the iron and coal industries combined. Now more than ever, we rely on Agtech to drive this growth. Horticulture Innovation Australia chief executive John Lloyd tells the Australian Financial Review, “we can’t rely on just being a quality producer anymore, so we have to use technology and automation to drive labour efficiency more and more.”
Technology like driverless tractors, and Uber-esque ride sharing apps to transporting fresh produce are already helping to drive down costs and optimise land and water use. Thanks to drone technology monitoring fence lines, farmers now have an extra five hours in their day and more accurate data. The innovations coming out of this sector are getting more exciting by the day – within ten years, we could have on-ground robots that know when to pick ripe fruit from trees!
You could be a part of this exciting world. AgHack gives you the opportunity to apply your creative thinking to industry challenges to develop innovative solutions using technology. At AgHack’s Launch Party, you will get a look at some of the problems that need your answers, along with a discussion around the available data and potential solutions to guide your thinking. Check out the event for more information and RSVP your place at this FREE night!