Autumn 2018, Vol. 15, No. 1

SPECIAL EDITION: Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture

How much digital technology will transform agriculture, the likely benefits and disadvantages of these technologies and the issues the sector must address to effectively implement a digital strategy are the issues addressed in the Autumn 2018 Journal. Papers included in this edition are abridged versions of the project reports produced for the Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture (P2D) research program. The P2D program, supported by funding from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, involved all 15 rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs).

Enabling Digital Agriculture in Australia

Jane Trindall, Rohan Rainbow and Emma Leonard

Australia has led the world in the development and implementation of advanced agricultural technologies; yet despite our innovative culture, our agtech market is in its comparative infancy. While deriving benefit from global examples of big data and digital adoption, Australian production systems face some unique challenges that require home-grown solutions. Many Australian producers and stakeholders also lack trust in data management systems and are frustrated by telecommunications connectivity shortfalls. The volume of data gathered is increasing exponentially, but this is of little value unless it can be used to improve on-farm profitability. A lack of producer control and under-utilisation of data are putting Australian agriculture at a global disadvantage.

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An Analysis of the Potential of Digital Agriculture for the Australian Economy

Richard Heath

The impact that unconstrained digital agriculture may have on the Australian economy was estimated by modelling potential productivity gains arising from the application of digital technology. The size of the productivity gains modelled were determined using assumptions of the potential of digital agriculture to lead to more efficient and higher value production and sale of Australian agricultural produce. A 25% boost to the value of Australian agriculture ($20.3 billion increase from 2014–15 GVP) was estimated with all sectors benefiting. Areas providing the biggest cross-sectoral gains were labour savings from automation ($7.4 billion), genetic gains through objective data ($2.9 billion), closer tailoring of inputs to needs ($2.3 billion), and enhancements to market access and biosecurity ($1 billion).

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Surveying the Needs and Drivers for Digital Agriculture in Australia

Airong Zhang, Emma Jakku, Rick Llewellyn and Ernest Isaac Baker

The present research aims to benchmark Australian producers’ needs, perceived benefits, and barriers associated with digital agriculture and big data through a cross-industry survey. The results reveal that current telecommunication infrastructure may impose significant constraints to the potential utilisation of agricultural data technologies. Collection rates of agricultural data, while steadily improving, remain reasonably low. Respondents displayed a general willingness to share data, but also displayed major concerns over aggregated farm data use regarding privacy and the potential to influence markets. These findings underscore the importance of better communicating the value proposition and establishing governance around aggregated farm data.

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The Current and Future State of Australian Agricultural Data

Ross Darnell, Michael Robertson, Jaclyn Brown, Andrew Moore, Simon Barry, Rob Bramley, Michael Grundy and Andrew George

There is significant concern in the agricultural sectors that Australia could miss out on the benefits of digital technologies because of gaps and deficiencies in our data infrastructure or a lack of digital innovative thinking. In reviewing cross-sectoral data it has become apparent how haphazard the development of data and knowledge assets has been in some cases. While the value of information has been recognised, there has not been a fully coordinated strategy around its prioritisation, collection and realisation of value. At the highest level, there needs to be an assessment of whether tools and platforms developed for other markets will be fit for purpose for Australian enterprises.

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Connecting Australian Farmers: Gateways, Gatekeepers and a Forgotten Solution

David Lamb

External data connectivity is a significant choke-point for Australian producers seeking to adopt or deploy many technology-based innovations on farms. In many cases it remains a constraint on their ability to operate even with what they have. This paper discusses some of the challenges faced by producers in getting (then staying) connected, as well as those faced by emerging ‘second-tier’ providers of network connectivity solutions to producers. The paper also revisits a seemingly-forgotten telecommunications option – Ngara – in light of a sector-wide challenge that simply won’t go away.

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Big Data Maturity in Australian Agricultural Industries

Andrew Skinner

The Australian agricultural sector’s big data maturity was assessed using the Data to Decisions CRC ‘Big Data Pillars of Success’ model as a base and augmented with observations of big data maturity in adjacent sectors. The areas appraised for maturity were strategy, data, analytics, culture, architecture, governance and training. Five maturity levels from ad hoc through foundational, competitive, differentiating to breakaway were evaluated. The participating industries demonstrated a low maturity level across all sectors – to move from ad hoc to differentiating or breakaway will require focused cross-industry effort and cross-RDC collaboration.

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Rethinking Ag Data Ownership

Leanne Wiseman, Jay Sanderson and Lachlan Robb

While much has been written on the future state of big data in agriculture in Australia and elsewhere, the majority of the commentary and literature focuses on the benefits that digital agriculture can bring to productivity of agricultural industries – very little has focused on the potential legal issues and barriers to adoption. These barriers include the uncertainty around the ownership of agricultural data, and the consequential lack of producer confidence in the security and the broader benefits of big data. With a lack of certainty, the lack of confidence becomes a barrier to the adoption of technology itself. This paper argues that the focus on ag data ownership is rather unhelpful and in some cases, unnecessary and distracting.

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