Smart farmers

Background last update:23 Aug 2019

Technology to move Australian agriculture forward

A 3-year project aimed at unearthing new ways to move Australian agriculture forward has wrapped up with a list of 39 emerging technologies and 24 new industries.

The 6 part series of ‘Horizon Scans’, developed by Brisbane-based university QUT and funded by AgriFutures Australia highlights futuristic technologies, trends, innovations and new industry opportunities, all with strong potential to expand and grow Australian agriculture.

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Emerging technologies

The latest watchlist of 24 potential emerging agricultural industries that provide opportunities for development include medicinal marijuana, hemp milk, and hydroponic berries, Asian vegetables, hydroponic hops, Australian edible natives, insect farming, wild camel and goat harvesting. While emerging technologies were identified in robotics and artificial intelligence, data, biotechnology, genomics, business models, renewable energy, and advanced materials.

Leap of faith

“Many of the technologies and new industries identified through the scans have obvious application, others may require a leap of faith to understand the potential impact they can have on individual farm businesses or agricultural industries, ” said QUT researcher, Dr Grant Hamilton.

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Grain harvesting in Australia. Futuristic technologies have strong potential to expand and grow Australian agriculture.  - Photo: Gerrit Kurstjens
Grain harvesting in Australia. Futuristic technologies have strong potential to expand and grow Australian agriculture. - Photo: Gerrit Kurstjens

They also present an opportunity for growth, and the capacity to do so in an environmentally sustainable way by using new technologies.

“It takes a highly innovative business or individual to realise those opportunities but the payoff can definitely be worth it,” said Dr Hamilton.

Be open to new possibilities

AgriFutures Australia Senior Manager, Business Development Jennifer Medway encouraged Australian producers to be open to new possibilities.

“Technologies can emerge from inside Australia in sectors unrelated to agriculture and open up new opportunities we haven’t seen before, or overseas technologies have the potential to completely transform the way we do things here in Australia.”

Driving on-farm transformation

“We are already starting to see the benefits of autonomous robotics and human physical augmentation technologies in improving productivity and the safety of workers in repetitive and physically demanding tasks. As the future of work takes shape over the coming decades, these technologies will be essential in driving on-farm transformation,” said Ms Medway.

Examples include Wearable User Interfaces, Natural Language Interfaces, Human-in-the-loop Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Collaborative Robots, Context-aware Computing, Human Augmentation and Brain-computer Interface.

Energy infrastructure

Other transformational technologies identified through the scans are driving smarter and more reliable energy infrastructure.

The increasing availability of low cost and efficient electricity generation and storage technologies will facilitate entirely new models of energy consumption.

“Renewable energy technologies, previously unheard of just a few years ago, are now a real possibility and include Solar Retransmission, Perovskite Solar Cells, Sodium-Ion Batteries, Moisture Harvesting and Artificial Photosynthesis,” said Ms Medway.

Also read: Australian farm robots to assist aging workforce

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