Why distribution agribusiness is the vehicle to driving AgTech adoption in Australian agriculture
Editorial written by Graham Page, Head of Technical Services, Elders for the Summer 2020/2021 Seasons Magazine.
Over the past five years, it has become extremely clear that human capital is the best vehicle to support producers adopting the latest research, innovation and technology. Some would say the trusted adviser is the key stakeholder in any decision making within a farming enterprise.
We all agree the farmer’s needs must be well thought out. If the design thinking doesn’t start with solving a real problem, we are simply trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Any product or service that doesn’t save time, improve quality and/or increase yield will descend to disappointment and ultimate failure.
We need to show financial and environmental sustainability in a way that supports farming lifestyles and best management practice, while showing the social good of the farmer and agricultural industry.
When it comes to practice change and adoption, there has been significant consolidation across the agricultural value chain in the last 10 years.
There are fewer producers, the average farm size is increasing, governments have significantly reduced the number of publicly-funded extension officers, multinational suppliers are amalgamating, distribution agribusinesses are vertically integrating, and everyone is trying to do more with less.
Add to this the complexity of global financial crisis, drought, floods, fires, climate change and global pandemic, and you almost have the perfect storm.
Given all those challenges, it’s critical that investment in research continues and the industry collaborates to bring a significant increase in the adoption of the latest research, which will drive a sustainable future for the whole supply chain. We must also consider the key stakeholder (trusted adviser) farmers turn to for advice.
THE TRUSTED ADVISER
The farmer’s trusted adviser is rarely one individual, institution or business. There are several influences when seeking advice, but with various levels of trust within the decision-making process.
Research suggests the most trusted advice comes from those closest to the business. This tends to be family and friends, consultant, adviser, agronomist, other farmers, neighbours and local trials.
The level of trust decreases the further you move away from the farm. For example, overseas data is seen as less reliable and trustworthy than local trials, public sector advisers and RDCs are considered less dependable than the local farm adviser, neighbours and other family members. We must consider what will drive true practice change and adoption, the vehicle to help make this happen, and whether we have capability and ability to deliver.
In conclusion, when it comes to driving adoption of the latest research, innovation and technology distribution, agribusiness plays a significant role. It delivers the scalability, capability and capacity to develop, extend innovation and technology to producers.
It’s not a matter of just putting technology in the hands of producers, we must be there to support them in understanding how it works, the data it produces and what that means when helping deliver efficiency gains, improving quality, meeting the demands of buyers and consumers, and finally, increasing yield in a more financially and environmentally-sustainable manner.
For more information please contact your local Elders branch.
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