Three people walking in a field at sunset

AgTech News Dashboard: 10 November 2020

In our feature story this week we interview a beef producer, agtech vendor, and government representative to shine a light on agtech for Queensland Agtech Month, including the launch webinar. In other news, space tech becomes a powerful tool for farmers, a new report looks at agtech technologies for real-life application, how an Australian company is revolutionising agtech, plus John Deere launches a digital farming hub.

Tech fuels growth in Queensland agriculture

November is Queensland Agtech Month, designed to showcase the growing community of innovators working in Queensland agriculture and encourage overseas investors. We interviewed three Queenslanders involved in agtech, to talk about what agtech means for farming now and in the future:

  • Kym Hellmuth runs a 650ha beef enterprise 15km north of Emerald. When a caretaker left, Kym and her husband Tony found themselves spending a lot of time after hours monitoring water, checking stock and other time consuming activities. It was clear that the situation wasn’t sustainable so they decided to investigate potential agtech solutions.

  • James Walker has had a front-row seat for the growth of the agtech sector in Queensland over the past decade. James is the Managing Director of Agrihive  which he established to enhance the financial literacy of farmers and producers, helping them to make better decisions.

  • Paul Stewart is an Agricultural Systems Mechatronic Engineer at Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Read the interviews with Paul, James, and Kym on our blog.

Queensland AgTech Month 2020 - Making Digital Systems Work for Your Business Webinar

Queensland Agtech Month 2020 Webinar: Making Digital Systems Work for your Business

AgTech Finder was delighted to present at the launch of Queensland Agtech Month 2020. Watch the video recording to help you consider the next steps to take to incorporate digital agricultural innovations on your farm. Brought to you by Agrihive, the Queensland AgTech Cluster and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland.

Image from EvokeAG (https://evokeag.com/evokeag/space-technology-australian-farmers/)

Space technology, a powerful tool for Australian farmers

We as humans are naturally curious about the outside world. Our ability to problem-solve, collaborate and explore has driven a new frontier of space-based technologies. In fact, World Space Week’s 2020 theme is ‘satellites improve life’ – so how does space technology add value to the farming sector?

A groundbreaking study into the use of space-based technology in agriculture shows the productivity and precision of Australian farming is about to accelerate, with improved satellite imaging, GPS tracking and remote sensing worth a potential $750 million to agriculture by 2025.

Space-based innovations present unlimited opportunities for rural industries through fine tuning of food and fibre production, connectivity efficiencies, data collection, food traceability, and improved monitoring and response to natural disasters, water management and land degradation.

The collaborative study, due out in November, by AgriFutures Australia and the Australian National University, ‘Space-based technology opportunities for the rural sector’ brought together more than 100 key players in the industry for a series of virtual workshops to investigate how remote sensing, connectivity and geolocation could boost prospects for agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Source: Space technology, a powerful tool for Australian farmers, evokeAG, 9 October 2020

Challenges for Australian agriculture can be met by new technologies

New technologies can bring about both incremental and transformational changes to increase the profitability, sustainability and productivity of Australia’s agriculture industry, says the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA).

Australian farmers face a number of challenges in the coming years. Drought, climate variability, biosecurity, global competition and consumer preferences are some of the greatest. Their impacts threaten Australia’s position among the most efficient primary producers in the world.

However, Australia’s primary producers have shown in the past that they are willing to embrace innovation and adopt technology to improve productivity and adapt to harsh conditions. In the report ’The Future of Agricultural Technologies’ by ACOLA, the technologies that could address these challenges are identified, including:

  • sensors

  • internet of things

  • robotics

  • machine learning

  • large scale optimisation and data fusion

  • biotechnology

  • nanotechnology

  • distributed ledger technology

Source: Challenges Australian agriculture can be met by new technologies, Future Farming, 15 October 2020

SwarmFarm autonomous agricultural robot

How this Queensland startup is revolutionising agtech

Queensland agtech SwarmFarm is not only building advanced farming tech. It’s also setting out to completely revolutionise farms all over the world — an endeavour that’s going to take a little more than a few autonomous tractors.

Founded two years ago by Andrew and Jocie Bate, the startup raised $4.5 million just last month, in a round led by Tenacious Ventures and Artesian. It’s also attracted support from the Queensland Business Development Fund.

Thus far, it’s been focused on providing farmers with autonomous farming machines, with customers typically signing up for a three-year lease with a monthly fee. But SwarmFarm has now added a second string to its bow, through the launch of its SwarmConnect platform — or, as Andrew Bate calls it, “the app store for agriculture”. SwarmConnect allows developers from anywhere in the world to build an app for use on SwarmFarm machines.

Australia has long been a testing ground for agtech, and Bate says most of the major manufacturers won’t release a product to the rest of the world until it’s been fully tested in Australia, “because it’s such a hard operating environment, and such an innovative group of farmers”.

Aussie farmers are forced to be innovative to survive, he says, and they don’t receive the same kind of government subsidies that farmers do in some other countries.

“If you’re not efficient, if you’re not about adopting the latest technology, you go broke,” he says.

“It really breeds a really innovative, early adopter kind of atmosphere in the agricultural world, which is perfect for releasing new technology.”

See SwarmFarm on AgTechFinder here.

Source: “The app store for agriculture”: How this Queensland startup is revolutionising agtech — and why now is the time to do it, SmartCompany, 9 November 2020

Source: Deere.com

John Deere launches digital farming hub for Australia and NZ

John Deere has launched a new home of digital farming information, insights and learning resources.

Designed specifically for Australian and New Zealand farmers, the John Deere Digital Agriculture Hub, features information on the power of data in decision-making, easy-to-understand how to videos and case studies with primary producers speaking about how digital farming has transformed their businesses.

John Deere precision agriculture manager Ben Kelly said the website was built to support farmers with tools and knowledge to make adoption of digital technology both as simple and as profitable as possible.

Source: John Deere launches digital farming hub, Farm Weekly, 4 Nov 2020

New in the AgTech Finder Directory

Rainfall Monitoring by Farmdeck

An app that acts as a digital logbook to help farmers manage machinery service records on their phones.

Paddocks and Grazing Management by Farmdeck

The paddocks and fields feature on the Farmdeck app provides cropping and grazing management capabilities, for example record-keeping of your soil and crop treatments. 

Radford Software Limited

Adds valuable operational efficiency for growers, post-harvest operators, and fresh produce marketers by tracing fresh produce from orchard to market with integrated systems.