Digital agriculture sprouts innovation
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched an innovation hub to support entrepreneurs in ‘digital agriculture’. The hub is known as ‘Sprout’.
The initiative is part of the National Farmers Federation’s (NFF’s) strategy to apply cutting edge innovation to farm management. Digital agriculture could add $6 billion to the sector’s profits over the next four years.
Mr Turnbull said Australia was best-placed to benefit, with half of the world's middle class—‘the customers for all of the things that Australian farmers produce’—living in east Asia.
The hub aims to connect entrepreneurs with big business and financiers, as well as enabling low-interest loans and channels for crowd funding.
Simon Talbot of the National Farmers Federation says, ‘We've got enough capital to prime the pump and get the first 10 projects through, and then it's a virtuous cycle.’
The first round of applications for Sprout will open early next year.
The NFF has also announced its Digital Agriculture Service, developed in collaboration with business and technology management consultancy Accenture. The service will collate, correlate and interpret the vast amount of data being collected in the agricultural sector, to benefit farmers in their productivity.
Examples of hi-tech data-gathering include solar-powered field robots that collect data on soil health and monitor crops and livestock. Airborne drones can convey information on the height and health of crops. A sim card on the collars of livestock can monitor the animals’ health and breeding cycles.
Combining the data from numerous farms will bring previously unavailable operational and predictive advantages to the broader agriculture and logistics sectors.