Beef Australia returned to Rockhampton in May, bringing together more than 115,000 people from across the beef sector to enjoy an action packed program including cattle competitions, a symposium and seminars, tech demonstrations, property tours, cooking and butchery demonstrations, and live entertainment.
For the first time, AgTech took centre stage with their own Tech Yards, and the largest beef-focused tech precinct in history.
We spoke with Bridget Kirkwood
from the AgTech & Innovation Hub at Beef Australia to find out more:
Congratulations on a massively successful Beef Australia 2021! Is this the biggest agtech presence you’ve had at Beef Australia?
This is the first time the Ken Coombe Tech Yards precinct has appeared at Beef Australia. At the 2018 event there were only three or four tech exhibitors at the show and this year there were almost forty vendors in the Tech Yards alone.
The Tech Yards was the brainchild of Beef Australia’s chair, Bryce Camm and the Board quickly realised that tech for the beef industry needed a space of its own.
Our research suggests there has never been a beef tech precinct of this scale anywhere in the world. That’s very fitting with Beef Australia as an organisation as Beef has always been the place producers go to see things for the first time.
Why give tech its own space?
Our mantra for the Tech Yards 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 was 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.
Did producers come to the Tech Yards ready to buy or were they doing market research?
Both. Some producers visited the Tech Yards to find out more about product that they had already heard about while others had no idea what they were going to see. 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?’
When people went into the Tech Yards they had to really concentrate because it’s not easy to absorb that much information, especially when you’re being exposed to things you’ve never even considered before.
Sales-wise, we heard that tech-enabled physical products were easy to purchase on the spot and, that many people signed up for introductory software offers. The people who didn’t purchase, appreciated the opportunity to get educated about the available tech and were going to go home and process what they’d learned. We also heard that lots of on-property demonstrations were being planned and for the vendors, generating those leads and getting their product in front of those producers was just as important as on the spot sales.
What was the selection process for exhibitors?
Due to space limitations, not all of the tech on show at Beef Australia could fit in the Tech Yards so we used an EOI process to showcase a strong sample of tech and innovation across the entire beef industry. It was about showcasing new, market-ready or near market-ready products that were of benefit to a segment of the beef supply chain.
At first glance, not every vendor was obviously beef related, for example, InFarm, is an artificial intelligence based business that offers automatic weed detection and dam monitoring and measurement tools – all of which are important for beef producers.
With our mantra of ‘exposure’, we wanted every business with a beef related tech product to know about the opportunity to exhibit in the Tech Yards so we used the AgTech Finder Directory to cross check whether we had reached out to them all.
What was the most popular product in the Tech Yards?
Impossible to answer as once a producer entered the Tech Yards, they stayed and learned about everything in there. However, as part of the Tech Yards mission to expose producers to new tech, Beef Australia commissioned a 3D printer display and it was very popular.
3D printing isn’t new but most people had never seen one in the person and were keen to learn how a 3D printer could benefit them on-property. It was a ‘touch and feel’ space and the most popular prints were the electric fence insulators and pipe fittings because no matter how many pipe fittings you have on hand, when a pipe breaks you never seem to have the right one. The benefit of not having to make emergency trips to town was immediately apparent. People loved it.
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.
What are some of the main challenges producers are talking to you about this year?
The two big ones were labour and recordkeeping. Producers want to understand how they can decrease their dependence on labour through tech, and can see a huge benefit to their business from doing so. As for recordkeeping, consumers and the entire supply chain are demanding high-quality data and thankfully many agtech businesses are making data collection, storage and evaluation easier for producers.
Any advice for agtech companies thinking about exhibiting at the next Beef Australia in 2024?
There’s a huge appetite for tech solutions in the beef industry. If you’re creating a tech solution, reach out to other businesses operating in the beef space and see how your products can work together.
The other thing would be, book accommodation in Rockhampton for the first week in May in 2024, now! Accommodation is hard to get but, as the exhibitors say… if you’ve got a beef product and you’re not at Beef Australia, then does your product even exist? Beef Australia is the largest gathering of producers and beef supply chain participants in the Southern Hemisphere and if you’ve got a product you want to take to market, then Beef Australia is the place to be.