New regional agtech demonstration farms and start-up hubs are part of a AUD $?2.4 million investment of the government of South Australia to help primary producers further adopt agtech.
The aim of the investment is to increase productivity and profitability of producers. Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham recently announced the investment at the launch of South Australia’s AgTech Strategic Plan.
“Increasing the uptake of technology on-farm could return up to $ 2.6 billion per annum to the South Australian economy”, Minister Basham said. Over three years South Australia will open additional agtech demonstration farms at government research sites in Nuriootpa, Turretfield and Minnipa and on private properties.
The state will also invest in agtech start-up hubs at Struan in the South East, and on the Eyre Peninsula and will appoint agtech extension officers. More than 50 per cent of South Australian primary producers are currently not investing in further agtech. The government of the state wants to change this statistic.
The South Australian AgTech Strategic Plan identifies key challenges to the adoption of agtech in South Australia, with priorities and key actions. The plan should help accelerate adoption of the ‘best technologies’, increase agricultural supply chain efficiency and resilience, improve agribusiness profitability, and foster leadership and excellence in the development of agtech in South Australia.
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A survey, with over 600 primary producers, advisors, developers, scientists and researchers providing feedback, made clear that producers are often unaware of the technologies available. Farmers also found that some existing solutions are not fit-for-purpose or cost-effective.
This was a recurring theme across all groups surveyed including primary producers, advisors, developers and scientists. There are some important barriers to the adoption of agtech in South Australia. The options are not always well defined or attractive. Agtech solutions need to provide sufficient uplift in functionality and financial return to justify switching away from current practice.
Another problem is that technologies are not always sufficiently fit-for-purpose. This can occur when entrepreneurs do not engage early with producers to ensure agtech products target their key pain points. And many producers already have most of their capital tied up, so there must be a clear value proposition to justify the upfront investment of time and money. In some cases, producers simply lack the capital to make the investment.
The rapid emergence of agtech, and the pace at which it operates, is causing a level of confusion and frustration for producers. Knowledge and persuasion are essential to any decision to adopt or reject agtech. The majority of producers want to see others using the product, preferably those they trust and who are equally conservative, not just early adopters.
It can be difficult for entrepreneurs to engage sufficient early adopters who can, in turn, raise awareness within the broader farming community. If agtech solutions are too complex or unreliable, producers won’t buy in. They do not want to learn or operate multiple systems simultaneously.
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Open data access would also help optimise agtech solutions. And with heavy reliance of digital technologies on internet access, poor network connectivity can be a major limitation to adoption. Producers want ongoing and readily available support and training. There needs to be a reliable source of ongoing technical support, preferably person-to-person.
To overcome these barriers, producers are seeking agtech demonstrations, skills training, Return on Investment (ROI) case studies, independent expert advice, incentives to adopt technology, improved digital connectivity and enhanced agtech compatibility.
From the agtech developer’s perspective, a deeper understanding of primary producer needs is required, and opportunities to integrate their products with other agtech solutions.
There is much to gain. Revenue from South Australian primary industries and related agribusinesses totalled $ 15.2 billion in 2018/19 and supported 76,000 jobs.
New equipment is expensive. So expensive, in fact, that investing in new – and even newer used – equipment can seem like an insurmountable hurdle for smaller-scale producers. So how can small farmers adopt new technology?