Farm ambassadors part of plan to remove AgTech barrier

Farm ambassadors part of plan to remove AgTech barrier

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NEXT STEP: Regional connectivity and device compatibility are two pillars of the plan aimed at improving the uptake of AgTech on SA farms. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

NEXT STEP: Regional connectivity and device compatibility are two pillars of the plan aimed at improving the uptake of AgTech on SA farms. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

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WITH more than half the state's primary producers saying they do not use any AgTech on their operations, and nearly one-in-five having no plans to, the chair of the AgTech Advisory Group Leanna Read says the next step is to remove the barriers holding producers back.

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WITH more than half the state's primary producers saying they do not use any AgTech on their operations, and nearly one-in-five having no plans to, the chair of the AgTech Advisory Group Leanna Read says the next step is to remove the barriers holding producers back.

A recent survey from the state government asking producers, advisers, researchers and suppliers also showed the biggest reasons for the reluctance to invest was concern about the high costs of the new technology, as well as uncertainty about the benefits and how to use the technology.

Dr Read said while the results were somewhat expected, and consistent across the different sectors, it was useful feedback into the development of the AgTech Strategic draft plan, which was released publicly in the past week.

She said the strategy had two goals - to help increase to adoption of the AgTech on-farm, as well as along the value chain pre and post-farmgate, and to promote the growth of a vibrant, innovative AgTech industry within SA, linked in closely with the producers.

The advisory group says this AgTech can cover a range of arenas but includes sensors, software, Precision Agriculture, imagery, smart farm equipment and genomics.

The draft strategy includes seven pillars to help fast-track adoption of AgTech, including networking and collaboration, demonstration, entrepreneurial capability, skills and education, improved regional connectivity, compatibility of products and government leadership.

Dr Read said cost and a lack of a good case study were often holding back farmers from investing, and one way they wanted to tackle this was through demonstration.

This includes the demonstration farms at Struan, Kybybolite and Loxton - with calls going out for expressions of interest in supplying technology to the Loxton site this week - but also through "intermediaries" and "ambassadors".

"People want to see a demonstration on a real farm, so we need proper operations to be most convincing to people," she said.

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Demo farm calling for AgTech suppliers

She said they would be looking for case studies and farmers willing to be early adopters to share with producers.

She defined an intermediary as someone with broad knowledge of the products available but acting independently of different companies.

Dr Read said she considered the biggest focus to be on networking and collaboration, with AgTech hubs - not necessarily physical - to bring people together and build trust.

"They have to be end-user focused, connecting the AgTech providers and the producers," she said.

She said these connections with the end-user and the developers were important to ensure the technology developed was fit-for-purpose.

Dr Read said other areas to focus on is the need to improve regional network connectivity, to ensure more people could actually use some of these technologies, and compatibility, so farmers did not end up with multiple devices that did not integrate.

She said the draft was a high level strategy at this stage and they pushed for "traction" with stakeholders but they were hoping for industry feedback and government funding, to get the plan into reality.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the government would work with the agricultural community to see the value in AgTech, support its development, and assist the adoption of solutions on-farm for beneficial outcomes.

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