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Roadmap charts course for next decade of farm innovation

The Decadal Plan for Australian Agricultural Sciences 2017–26 was unveiled at Parliament House in Canberra yesterday. The plan places priority on advanced technology; biosecurity; soil, water and management of natural resources; and the adoption of research outcomes.

Genomics, big data, chemistry, climate science and metabolic engineering are all part of the new 10-year road map for agricultural science investment.

"Embracing new ideas in innovation, science and research will drive the next age of agricultural prosperity in this country,” Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Luke Hartsuyker, said.

Minister Hartsuyker said investment in research and development had significantly contributed to the success of Australia's farm sector.

“Technology and innovation has increased the productivity of Australian agriculture in a number of ways, including new crop varieties, selective animal breeding and precision agriculture techniques.”

The plan places priority on advanced technology; biosecurity; soil, water and management of natural resources; and the adoption of research outcomes.

A specific project the plan proposes is the application of new technologies to create ‘digital paddocks’ that draw on a range of data sources to optimise planting, water, fertilisers and herbicides for various crops – depending on conditions.

Embracing new ideas in innovation, science and research will drive the next age of agricultural prosperity in this country.
The Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister

The plan also places emphasise on the need for investment in future-proofing the sector against looming challenges like climate variability and major disease outbreaks.

Australian Academy of Science - National Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Chair Dr Jeremy Burdon said future-readiness was vital.

“Australia has repeatedly faced invasions of plant and animal diseases that, once established, consume large amounts of resources in order to regain control,” Dr Burdon said.

He warned of the danger of not preparing for the future.

“If the status quo is maintained, Australia will be unable to marshal well-coordinated research teams to prepare for, and respond to, these kinds of shocks.

“This will dramatically impact the vision to turn our agricultural sector into a $100 billion sector by 2025.”

National Farmers' Federation (NFF) Chief Executive Tony Mahar said Australian farmers were typically early adopters of new technologies and innovative farm practices.

“The report backs up what the NFF and others have has been saying for years – ag has huge potential – but there is work to be done to reach that potential.

“To continue to achieve productivity gains there must continue bipartisan support to address issues such as energy reliability and affordability; labour flexibility; digital connectivity; infrastructure and new market opportunities – at home and abroad.”

The report backs up what the NFF and others have has been saying for years – ag has huge potential – but there is work to be done to reach that potential.
Tony Mahar, CEO, National Farmers' Federation

"Growing food and fibre on often marginal soils and in a significantly variable climate means our farmers need to be ingenious in how they apply their trade.

"For more than 30 years the combination of farmer contributions for R&D matched by Government funding has seen monumental leap forwards in how farming is carried out in this country.

“Improvements to water use efficiency, the application of precision agriculture and a shift from tillage to non-tillage are just some of the outcomes of R&D investment.”  

The Decadal Plan for Australian Agricultural Sciences 2017-26 was developed using a $474,000 Australian Government grant in 2014-15 under the Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects scheme administered by the Australian Research Council.

 Annually Australian Government invests about $700 million in rural R&D.

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    A decadal plan with these ambitions, should look also to ensure the next generation is excited by food and fibre, by primary industries, to light up their minds to the exciting possibilities. Research and evidence highlights two points, one that the earlier the engagement in food and fibre contexts, the more likely a student is to consider pursuing this interest in senior school or tertiary studies, and secondly that the disconnect the general consumers have between production of food and fibre, and its use of technology, innovation, and the resources it requires, must remain a core focus to address. The work of the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia is at the forefront of this work, and longitudinal funding of this national organisation should sit firmly within this plan, in its vision for the future.

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