Near-record high cattle prices saw agtech sales ‘go ballistic’ at Beef 2021 in Rockhampton earlier this month, as producers spent big on technology and digital services. With 38 Australian and international tech companies on display in the inaugural Ken Coombe Tech Yards, there was plenty of agtech to choose from.
According to Bridget Kirkwood from the AgTech and Innovation Hub at Beef Australia, there has never been a beef-focused tech precinct of this scale anywhere in the world.
‘That’s very fitting,’ says Ms Kirkwood, ‘as Beef Australia has always been the place producers go to see things for the first time.’
The mantra for the tech yards this year was ‘exposure’.
‘We wanted to expose producers to new products, new thought processes, and new opinions. If people aren’t exposed to new tech then they can’t adopt it. The Tech Yards were also about exposing vendors to each other so one of the really exciting outcomes from Beef was seeing developers and innovators interact with each other. That interaction will help create a stronger, healthier, and more integrated agtech sector that can better service the beef industry.’
CQUniversity were on the ground helping producers navigate the impressive array of products and services with a free five-minute ‘Agri-Tech Check’ service. And for those interested in a deeper dive into data and digital, there were the Tech Yard Talks on the RaboTruck Stage exploring tech innovation, data sharing, blockchain, genetics, AI and more.
Raising the Steaks
The appetite for innovation was heightened by a major announcement from Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud, who during his visit to Beef Australia awarded Central Queensland University with a $200,000 research grant to improve meat traceability through existing smart-tag technology and the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).
“What’s even better is that this technology doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We already use sophisticated ear tags in the form of the NLIS, so this research can be used to improve and expand a product that is already in use,” Minister Littleproud said.
The money kept flowing as North Queensland agtech start-up Black Box Co took home the $10,000 prize for this year’s Pitch in the Paddock, beating eight other entries and adding another accolade to their impressive collection.
Also making headlines was the launch of KPMG Origins – Trusted Beef Traceability, a new blockchain track-and-trace project with KPMG, Meat & Livestock Australia and Argyle Foods Group. The system allows consumers to scan a code on the product label to access paddock-to-purchase information about the breeding property, raising conditions, transport and processing practices, certification and more – all fed by data from the Internet of Things (IoT).
KPMG Origins aims to deliver an additional $115m in sales by 2025 by improving the transparency and performance of the supply chain, reducing fraud, and giving consumers the information they need to make better buying decisions.
Water Telemetry the real ‘gateway tech’
According to Bridget Kirkland, many producers who came to the Tech Yards were aware that the agtech market had come a long way in the last three years and wanted to find out what they didn’t already know.
‘Having so many tech products on display in the one precinct exposed producers to products that they didn’t even know they needed and it was common to hear people say, ‘Did you know you could do this?’ she said.
‘We also identified early on that water telemetry products would be the ‘gate way tech’ for many producers. It was the obvious tech solution that people could really ‘get', and from there the utility of other products became obvious. We thought of it as being similar to how we all used mobile phones to make calls, then send emails – and now we use them for everything. We’re seeing a similar evolution when it comes to on-farm adoption of agtech and digital systems.’