The Australian New Zealand Leadership Council has just announced the formation of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council. This is an exciting development for farmers and ag-tech companies alike, bringing together the best innovators and developers in the farming and technology space.
The newly formed council will promote the region's Agtech ecosystem to the world and work with fellow ag-tech leaders to create new opportunities, foster greater engagement and co-operation and open opportunities to global markets, positioning the two countries as a regional powerhouse in agritech on the world stage.
At the moment we are far from it. $16.9billion was invested in agrifood tech in 2018, according to the AgFunderNews website and, of that, $7.9b was in the United States. Per capita, this is more than 50 times greater than Australasia. In fact, New Zealand and Australia's agritech sectors together invested less than $150million. Without a significant inflow of connected capital, the transtasman's emerging agritech businesses will struggle to scale in the global market.
Kiwis and Aussies represent some of the best farmers in the world but the challenges they face are many — harsh environments, competitive markets, volatile weather and skills shortages.
The food and agribusiness forms a $5trillion global industry that is only getting bigger but, if current trends continue, by 2050, caloric demand will increase by 70per cent, and crop demand for human consumption and animal feed will increase by at least 100per cent. Meeting this demand won't be easy: for example, 40 per cent of water demand in 2030 is unlikely to be met, and more than 20 per cent of arable land is already degraded.
Therefore, the necessity to innovate and think differently about how we can help our farmers is at a critical juncture. Put simply, farmers on both sides of the Tasman will have to be more productive, more competitive and more sustainable if they are to succeed. The understanding of farmers' requirement to do more with less is at the heart of the region's ag-tech community.
We need more investment, more collaboration and more partnerships for agtech to truly prosper. I believe the creation of the Australian New Zealand Agtech Council will help give that mission a voice, a brand and a focus for the sector and is an opportunity to really boost the regions prospects.
Having spent time with ag-tech customers throughout all farming areas of Australia, I can't begin to express how much of a difference quality, operational, customer focused ag-tech makes. When farmers look you square in the eye and say 'the time you're saving me, gives me back hours each week to spend with my kids' it hardens the resolve to keep driving innovation.
I've had other farmers tell me that by knowing they had a leak in a water tank and were able to fix it immediately thanks to Farmbot water monitoring technology, it stopped their cattle losing $15,000 worth of condition overnight, highlighting ag-tech is also making a serious and positive financial impact.
While this sector is growing we need to ensure farmers can get access to new technology and education. It would be great to see government departments, drought funds and assistance authorities recognising that ag-tech plays a vital part in the sustainability journey that Australasian agriculture must go through.
That must be a mix of funding for trials and purchase of appropriate ag-tech and funding for education and training around it to ensure technology adoption is a smooth transition to maximise benefits to farmers.
• Andrew Coppin is managing director of Farmbot.