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. And he’s opening the gates to Bungulla Farm to help AgriFutures evokeAG. 2024 delegates understand how agtech is driving 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.”

RELATED: Unlocking the potential of autonomous agriculture

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.”

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.”

A firsthand look at the agtech solutions that are de-risking Bungulla Farm

Brad is set to provide valuable insights into the tools and tech he’s using to innovate down his cost curve, at the evokeAG. 2024 sideline event, The Future Farm: On-Farm Innovation Showcase. Hosted by evokeAG. 2023 Gold Sponsor, Carbon Sync, and set against the backdrop of Bungulla Farm, the event offers farmers and agtech industry professionals the chance to witness first-hand how innovative farming practices and technologies can merge to forge a sustainable and profitable agricultural future.

Engage with a lineup of key participants, including Carbon Sync, Wheatbelt Connect, and SwarmFarm Robotics, to learn from their pioneering efforts in soil carbon farming, biomass, potential sustainable aviation fuel projects and agricultural robotics.

For more details and to purchase tickets for this sideline event held on 19 February 2024, click here.

RELATED: Tailored, flexible, adaptable – how Carbon Sync’s farmer-first approach to carbon farming is redefining diversification for farmers

Diversity is the best insurance against uncertainty

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

Brad is exploring how he can add more diversity into Bungulla’s ‘business as usual.’

If you are considering doing the same, join us at evokeAG. 2024, to hear from our event participants, including Wheatbelt Connect.

A joint venture between INPEX, ANZ and Qantas, Wheatbelt Connect is working with WA Wheatbelt land owners to help diversify farm income and aid in land revegetation by planting drought-resilient native mallee tree crops on marginal land. The project is seeking to integrate existing farming systems, carbon farming and potential future renewable biofuel production.

 

A joint venture between INPEX, ANZ and Qantas, Wheatbelt Connect is seeking WA wheatbelt farmers to plant drought-resilient native Mallee tree crops for reforestation, decarbonisation and – in what could be a tremendous leap forward in sustainable fuel – the creation of renewable biofuels.

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

To hear more about this what can be learnt from the wins across Europe and the United States to propel the Australian biofuels industry forward, join us at evokeAG. 2024.

Join Brad and Kate and the Carbon Sync team on 19 February 2024 to learn more about the future of on-farm innovation. For more details and to purchase tickets for this sideline event visit the website.

evokeAG.  2024 will be held on 20-21 February 2024 at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. For more information about evokeAG. 2024, and to purchase tickets, visit: evokeag.com/2024.

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