PM Unveils Digital Innovation Plan For Australian Agriculture

12/12/2015 10:25 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Australian Scenics via Getty Images
Stockmen herding beef cattle in yards at Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Farming in Australia will get a digital overhaul, with the federal government unveiling a suite of measures aimed at boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in the nation's agriculture sector.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched the initiatives on Saturday that will involve partnerships with major technology, communications and financial institutions, and be led by the National Farmers Federation (NFF).

The NFF said the package comprised an online platform for farmers, a National Farmers’ Digital Agriculture Service and a new incubator for agricultural start-ups.

Speaking in Sydney's west, Turnbull said Australian farmers were perfectly placed to seize on opportunities created by Asia's burgeoning middle class.

"It is an exciting time to be an Australian farmer," he told reporters.

"The scale of demand is stupendous and it's only going to grow.

"The opportunities have never been greater and the only thing that could hold us back, and I'm sure it won't, is a lack of imagination or determination or confidence or optimism."

NFF chief executive Simon Talbot said the measures were aimed at ensuring farmers were at the cutting edge of technology.

“Through these initiatives we are seeking to facilitate disruption within the farm sector, and help farmers seize the benefits of faster connectivity,” Talbot said.

“We need to reposition agriculture as an industry not of the past, but of the future with a flourishing culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation.

“These three initiatives will help facilitate this shift, while bolstering prosperity across the sector.”

He said the package came as the industry projected total revenue of $1.2 trillion through to 2030.

In 2015, the sector was tipped to record a farm-gate return of $57.6 billion, he said.

The NFF expects the online platform, "Sprout" innovation hub, and digital agriculture service to commence in 2016.

The innovation hub is said to be modelled on Israel’s world-leading agricultural and food sector incubator.

According to NewsCorp Australia, the proposed hub has more than $10m worth of commercial funding from banks, supermarkets, and telcos to back at least 10 start-up projects in 2016.

Today's slated announcement follows the Turnbull Government's pledge this week of tax breaks for new businesses, coding classes for students and visa changes for entrepreneurs in a $1 billion spend over four years.

The Prime Minister says the innovation push will transform the mindset of private business and the public sector and ensure “Australia's prosperity and security in the 21st-century.”

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