Grazing Land Management

Drought hubs and digital strategy funded by $86m investment

Sheep Central, September 2, 2020

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud

DROUGHT resilience adoption and innovation hubs will be established across Australia with an $86 million investment by the Federal Government.

The Australian Government yesterday said the $86 million will establish eight adoption and innovation hubs across regional Australia and will develop a Digital Foundations for Agriculture Strategy.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said the research and adoption program is one of the eight foundational programs of the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund, and the digital strategy forms part of the National Agricultural Innovation Agenda.

“Drought resilience adoption and innovation hubs will support networks of researchers, farmers, agricultural businesses and community groups to enhance drought resilience practice, tools and technology.

“The hubs will also break down silos and provide a physical location where researchers and the community can come together to develop ideas that build drought resilience,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The end result will see a range of enduring institutions that cement partnerships among key organisations.

“I have been working with the rural research and development corporations (RDCs) to support improved collaboration, increased flow of investment and transformative innovation by establishing a special purpose joint investment company,” he said.

The hubs will provide a direct link for research providers such as the RDCs to the farmers, by providing a way for farmers to co-design innovative solutions that deliver real impact on-farm and along the supply chain.

The hubs will be located in regional areas that reflect the key agricultural and climatic zones across the country. The regions targeted are:

  • Southern New South Wales
  • Southern Queensland/Northern NSW
  • South-west Western Australia
  • Victoria
  • Top End Northern Territory/WA
  • Tropical north Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania.

“Through the program there will also be $11 million in funding for Drought Resilience Innovation Grants to support drought resilience initiatives for farmers, community groups, industry, and researchers,” Mr Littleproud said.

Competitive processes to appoint the hubs and a regional university to lead delivery of the program are expected to open in October 2020.

Digital strategy development welcomed

Mr Littleproud said the Digital Foundations for Agriculture Strategy will set the foundations for widespread uptake of digital technologies across our agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries.

“We know that digital technologies and agtech will drive the next wave of growth for the sector.

“In fact, the Australian Farm Institute estimates full adoption of digital tools by the agriculture sector could boost productivity by around $20.3 billion each year,” he said.

Australian Agritech Association founding director and Farmbot managing director Andrew Coppin, said the development of a digital strategy for the agriculture industry is an important step forward for the Australian agtech industry.

“Farmbot is a firm believer in the importance of having a national, agriculture-wide digital strategy which brings together skills, technology, policy and adoption.

“We will be throwing our weight of support behind the strategy and we see it as crucial to the development of our wider agriculture industry and the growth of the nation,” he said.

“The establishment of regional adoption hubs and the development of a digital agriculture strategy needs to incorporate feedback from the pioneering start-ups and scale-ups that are already having success with proven technology.”

Innovation statement to address cross-sectoral challenges

Mr Littleproud said in coming months, the government will also develop a National Agricultural Innovation Policy Statement to position the sector to reap the benefits of innovation, delivering for the Australian economy and our regional communities.

The government said the statement will set out ambitious mission-oriented investment priorities to address significant cross-sectoral challenges — focusing effort and investment across the agricultural innovation system to achieve a step-change in productivity at the farm gate and along the supply chain.

For more information about the Future Drought Fund and other drought resilience building programs click here.

To read more about the National Agricultural Innovation Agenda click here.

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