The Future Farm: How Brad Jones is scaling up innovation, efficiency, and sustainability impact - evokeAG.

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The Future Farm: How Brad Jones is scaling up innovation, efficiency, and sustainability impact

Former Australian Cropping Farmer of the Year and evokeAG. 2024 panellist, Brad Jones champions farming at the intersection of economics and ethos. He shares the ethos that underpins Bungulla Farm and how he's utilising agtech to push down his cost curve, while driving a profitable, sustainable future.

Brad Jones

From tech companies and thinktanks to farm financiers, food retail brands and policymakers – the commonly agreed definition of The Future Farm is one that harnesses innovation, technology, and data to change the way we grow food.

By that metric, Brad Jones has managed a ‘farm of the future’ for more than 20 years. Together with wife, Kate, Brad uses data-driven decision making to optimise each of the key assets that play a critical role in production: soil, machinery, and labour. And he does it at a scale that’s three times the size of the average Australian farm, growing a mix of wheat, barley, canola, and lupins across 11,000 hectares near Tammin, in the heart of Western Australia’s wheatbelt.

The family farm since 1908, the modern-day ‘Bungulla Farm’ represents a unique convergence of tradition and technology in agriculture, with one goal in mind – de-risking the business.

“Over the period 2006-2012, we’d expended quite a bit of capital expanding into neighbouring properties,” explained Brad.

“Our principal objective was to drive down the costs of production where we could, and that meant reducing our chemical use.”

Their solutions included adopting the use of a selective spot spray system for green on brown chemical application.

“But we were at the point where we were bigger than a one-person spray operator job yet couldn’t quite justify two people on the rigs,” said Brad.

SwarmFarm Robotics offered the chance to resolve this scale problem. Its SwarmBot allowed us to fully automate a big part of our spray regime and enabled us to do green on green spraying to drive down our chemical use.”

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Brad describes the experience as a “lightbulb moment.”

“We were using significantly less chemical, and it hadn’t robbed our production one bit. It made sense to keep looking for other ways to capture data to drive even more efficiency across our input use.”

Think weather stations, moisture probes, soil sampling, electromagnetic and radiometric surveys, NDVI, yield maps: multiple layers of data that provide deeper insights into production constraints – and solutions.

Decades ahead of his time, Brad has amassed a bank of data that now acts as something of an insurance policy.

“Before too long, it will be a requirement of sorts – statutory or market-based – to have an ESG environmental social governance program in place,” explained Brad.

“By collecting data now, we’ve got a record of improvement to show customers or regulators when they finally come asking for it.”

Until that day comes, Bungulla is recording enviable returns, the likes of which propelled Brad to the forefront of the Australian grains industry – and the Australian Cropping Farmer of the Year award.

“The 2016 award came about because we’d been using data science and technology to de-risk our business, and we’d reported a 15% return on investment in the process.”

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The average ROI for Australian grain growers is around 4.5%.

Brad explained that, despite the ebbs and flows of markets and seasons, a sharp focus on using data to optimise every input means he’s largely sustained double-digit returns.

“In 2021, our ROI was 13.5%, helped along by a grain price spike and lowish input costs,” explained Brad.

“By 2022, our return dropped back to around 9%. Even though we are low input users overall, we couldn’t entirely escape the eyewatering diesel, fertiliser and chem prices of that year. For 2023, input prices have come back a bit, but because of the season, our yields have, too.”

Brad credits a good friend with having provided a quote that underpins the Bungulla Farm ethos: ‘Diversity is the best insurance against uncertainty.’

Brad joined experts from the aviation, grain and finance sectors at AgriFutures evokeAG. 2024, appearing in a panel discussion which dived into the state of play in the biofuels industry and its potential to support a clearer energy future.

Tap into more discussions here about the role of agrifood tech in driving sustainability across supply chains, news from agtech startups and updates ahead of evokeAG. 2025 in Brisbane, Queensland.




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