Great effort has been made towards investing in food and agribusiness, however Australia is still lagging behind with technology compared with many global counterparts.
The establishment of startup hubs, funds, incubators and accelerators across Australia has been promising when it comes to supporting the Australian food and agribusiness sector with innovative technology.
However, there is still a long way to go to match global leaders in the space. Four key focus areas to achieve this are:
Too often the Government is seen merely as a source of funding, however it can play a much more important role in assisting the AgriFood Tech industry with technological innovation. As new technologies come to market, often the first time the Government will see these is when it sits between budget and legal.
As the regulator, it has to make a bold decision whether or not to uptake the technology and make it available to the market. If the AgriFood Tech industry could take on an advisory role and work alongside Government in the developmental stage, it could advocate for the uptake of these new technologies and their positive use in the industry, thus increasing the potential for more innovative outcomes.
Adoption of AgriFood Tech is a common problem, particularly across Australia and New Zealand. Thousands of farmers who are struggling to adopt new technologies are also facing drought and floods (in Australia), and pressure from the community about over intensification of land (in New Zealand).
This increases the importance of creating an ecosystem in which technology developers are brought together with technology users. The focus needs to shift from solving a single issue in the production system, to redefining and reshaping the entire production system. The Government must consider implementation of tax concessions for use of AgriFood Tech on-farm to encourage uptake of new technology at an earlier stage.
Australia has a strong food safety culture and trading system, a trait the rest of the world admires and sees as having huge potential. There is a risk that Australia will lose its differentiation through chasing growth. There needs to be a mindfulness about sticking to what makes Australia unique.
Australia needs to be future focused. Sustainability, circular economy and a connection to those who are eating the food are the themes of the future. Thoughts need to be given to urbanised areas and integrating the green belt around cities.
While Australia most definitely has a variety of unique offerings for the global market, there should also be time taken to gain inspiration and learn from the international network to further connect in this AgriFood Tech revolution.
Israel is a great example of disruptive production systems, the Netherlands is a great example of urban farming, the US has strong venture capital and South East Asia and China have huge, fast-growing markets.
Australia needs to work with these international players as the opportunity is present, and the urgency for AgriFood Tech adoption is immediate.