AgTech survey shows gaps ahead of 'revolution'

AgTech survey shows gaps ahead of 'revolution'

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Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

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MORE than half of the state's primary producers are not investing in on-farm technology, while one-in-five have not plans to in the future, according to a survey conducted by the AgTech Advisory Group.

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MORE than half of the state's primary producers are not investing in on-farm technology, while one-in-five have not plans to in the future, according to a survey conducted by the AgTech Advisory Group.

The survey received more than 600 responses from producers, advisors, researchers and suppliers with the biggest barriers identified as concern about return on investment.

With the AgTech Strategic draft plan expected to be released shortly, Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the survey results would play an important role in the final document.

"The feedback received through the AgTech survey demonstrated the need to have a collaborative and cohesive approach to encouraging greater adoption of technology on-farm in SA," he said.

"Most concerningly, the survey found 18 per cent of primary producers told us they are not planning on investing in technology into the future and more than 50pc are not currently investing in technology on-farm and we hope to change this for the better."

The survey found three main categories for barriers to investment, with the value proposition often unclear, difficulty understanding the usefulness of new technologies and difficulty deploying the tech.

"The survey showed the biggest barriers to farmers adopting more AgTech are the return on investment was not always clear (47pc) and more needs to be known about product reliability and longevity (33pc).," Mr Whetstone said.

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Ausveg SA executive officer Jordan Brooke-Barnett said while the overall 50pc statistic was startling, within intensive agriculture, agtech was increasingly important.

"The number one issue is labour - with availability and costs," he said.

While some sectors, such as onions or potatoes, had been able to move into increasing automation, he said others, such as broccoli, were still very labour intensive.

"The industry is looking heavily at robotics as one emerging as a potential saviour," Mr Brooke Barnett said.

He said the look into AgTech was "long overdue" but said there needed to be action to follow up the survey and plan release.

Mr Brooke Barnett said the government needed to back up its plan with a "substantial investment" in the state's research and development capability, while funding could not just go to start-ups, but to established brands to help ensure it reached farmers.

"Even if growers and farmers don't recognise the need, these sorts of technology are going to yield change," he said.

"I think this is the next revolution in ag and it's going to happen fast, so we need to make sure we have the skills."

Mr Whetstone said the state government had already established AgTech demonstration sites at Struan, Kybybolite, and Loxton, as well as establishing an AgTech hub with ThincLab in Loxton to allow farmers and growers to see new technologies in action.

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