Imagine a future where farming is a high-tech profession, agriculture has an ever-greater positive impact on our natural resources, food waste is eliminated and the world’s growing population has enough of what they need (and want) to eat every day. As digital technologies are brought to food and agriculture supply chains around the world, this possible future is seeming more like a near-term reality.

Momentum is undeniably growing for the digitisation of agriculture, as macro trends of population growth, shifting consumer preferences for “cleaner” foods, constrained natural resources, the increasingly connected nature of the world and the growing importance of data and services in global trade flow continue to fuel the uptake of digital technologies.

In Australia there is an increasing understanding of the potential opportunities promised by digital agriculture and its importance to the future of Australia’s food and fibre industries. Agriculture is a critical component of the Australian economy. In the 2016-17 financial year, agriculture was worth more than A$63 billion, making up making up 3 per cent of Australia’s GDP, with exports accounting for over 75 per cent of this value. In the same year, food exports constituted 11.6 per cent of all goods exports.

Looking forward, Australia is well placed to capitalise on growing global demands for food and fibre, especially from the Asia-Pacific region. Projections by Brookings in 2017 suggest the middle class of the Asia-Pacific region will be approximately 153 per cent larger in 2030 than in 2015, and will represent 65 per cent of the global middle class. Australia is proximate to Asia, already has established export channels and maintains a reputation for clean and high-quality produce. In coming decades it is likely the international demand for Australian agricultural products will increase, as will the significance of the agricultural sector to the Australian economy. Capitalising on this opportunity will rely, in part, on the development and adoption of digital agriculture technology solutions: The National Farmers’ Federation has forecast that by 2030, the value of Australian agriculture has the potential to increase to A$100 billion.


Australia’s capabilities in digital agriculture technologies extend beyond the entrepreneurial and technology communities. For example, Australian farmers have a track record of successfully adopting technologies. Analysis from one of Australia’s big four banks, ANZ, has shown that an increase in access to technology since 1995-96, facilitated by a transition into larger scale farming, has led to a 62 per cent increase in output. In more recent years, the uptake in technology-related capital — including fixed assets, appliances, industrial and electrical machinery and equipment, and products based on intellectual property — has been growing at five times the rate of overall capital. Projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show Australian farming is on track to increase its stock of technology-related capital by almost 42 per cent by 2030.

Farmers are keen on technology: one in five Australian farmers are generally positive about digital technologies and report looking to focus their investment in farm technology and innovation in the next 12 months. However, the reality is only around one in 20 make that investment. A lack of a strong value proposition for farmers is a critical barrier to the adoption of currently available digital technologies, as well as to the maturation of the digital agriculture technologies sector.

The digital revolution in agriculture has the potential to fundamentally change the way in which our food and fibre production systems and supply chains operate. Agriculture stakeholders in Australia are beginning to see the opportunities of digital agriculture, and venture capital-backed Australian start-ups are starting to emerge.
Countries with more advanced capabilities in digital agriculture, such as the United States, have begun to demonstrate the potential of predictive and prescriptive data analytics platforms that offer ‘one stop shop’ solutions to farmers. However, whilst the international tech community is inspired by these advances, Australia’s digital technologies sector will need to adapt to the current expectations and capabilities of Australian farmers, and realities of Australian agricultural environments, before digital agriculture technology innovations can be diffused into Australian agriculture at scale.



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