Why farmers need an agritech strategy, not just an agritech purchase
Understanding the holistic role of agritech is vital for increasing adoption and ensuring a healthy return on investment for farmers. Australian agritech leader and Founder of Farmbot, Andrew Coppin shares his tips on what producers should be asking before adopting technology.
With each passing year, the Australian agricultural industry shows more interest in agritech. The value that technologies like precision agriculture, remote water monitoring, farm management software and robotics can bring to a farm are well demonstrated and increasingly understood.
In fact, the global market for agritech products and services is estimated at $500 billion. It is expected to grow to $730B in the next three years – an annual growth rate of 8%.
And with the announcement in the recent Federal Budget of the Technology Investment Boost, for small and medium businesses to receive valuable tax breaks for investing in technology, we’re set to see more Australian farmers dip their toe into the technology market.
But investing in on-farm technology is not like buying a TV, where you buy a product and sit back and reap the rewards. Any investment in technology requires thought around how the technology fits into your broader business strategy.
As a producer you should be asking yourself a few questions:
- What benefit will this product bring me?
- How will it help me achieve my goals for the short, medium and long term?
- Does it fit within my budget and will there be an immediate ROI?
Those questions will be obvious to most farmers who make purchasing decisions every week. But there’s one critical question that is commonplace in decision making that is often neglected when purchasing technology: ‘How do I extract maximum value from my asset?’
The answer, when it comes to agritech is to look to the broader technology ecosystem for ways to integrate different technologies, with your own agricultural processes. This will create a multiplier effect that should see you extract even more value out of your technology purchase.
McKinsey & Company’s research reported in 2020, that smart crop monitoring could raise global GDP by up to $175B, drone farming by $115B, smart livestock monitoring by $90B and autonomous machinery and smart asset management by up to $60B each.
There is a lot of value on the table and by looking at multiple technologies, each individual farmer is set to reap a high benefit.
Australia’s bounty of agritech solutions
Homegrown agritech solutions continue to deliver fruitful results for Australian farmers. Let’s look at some specific examples here in Australia.
Farmbot is a remote water monitoring solution which uses satellite and cellular connectivity to provide farmers with up-to-the minute information on water levels, potential leaks, flow rates and consumption. It can analyse dams, bores, tanks and troughs.
On its own the technology is powerful, but water is just one element to farming. Why not bring together your water data with Optiweigh’s herd management technology and Agriwebb’s farm management software to learn more about your farm? Technology like Pairtree can bring all these different data sets together into one simple dashboard bringing all your farm management data into one place.
Drilling down deeper, Farmbot has developed several add-ons which create a further multiplier effect. For example, the Farmbot rain gauge automates rainfall data entry and can produce daily rainfall data for specific locations within a property. It can give producers an insight into the micro-climates of their property.
Aggregated data paints big picture strategy for farmers
Again, powerful on its own. But when you combine this with the consumption and flow data of the master Farmbot unit, and holistic data on your herd, soils, and finance within Pairtree and this technology is game changing. Having all this data at your fingertips will enable any producer to make better business decisions based on real data.
For a producer this data can dovetail into a broader technology strategy based on real insights. For example, if the business goal is to become more efficient (doing more with less), data analytics will be a critical component to understanding waste, minimising inefficient labour and producing more.
With this goal in mind, and the tools in the toolbelt to get there, future purchasing decisions can be made which fit the strategy. Or consider this example, you are a producer looking to make changes on farm to combat climate change risks. The Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has devised resources to provide advice to WA livestock producers on ways to manage climate change.
It suggests ways to improve animal husbandry and health, maintain forage productivity, use best adapted pasture varieties and to provide good quality water for livestock.
But you can’t manage what you don’t measure. And without investing in technology which can report on animal health, or soil health or water access – your climate change mitigation strategy is doomed to fail. You won’t know what is working for your circumstances and what isn’t.
The agritech ecosystem is large and technology exists to improve operations across the entire farm, from soil management, livestock management, pest and disease monitoring and human resources. There is a technology solution to just about every farm problem, and with a strategic mindset you should be able to make technology work for you.
Andrew Coppin is the Founder and Managing Director of Farmbot and Founding Director of the Australian Agritech Association.
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