New agricultural startups and technology projects will be able to apply for funding support from a new incubator from early next year.
The ‘innovation accelerator’ fund was one of three digital tech initiatives announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Menangle in NSW on the weekend.
The measures are all aimed at helping Australian farms to benefit from anticipated improvements to rural connectivity from the National Broadband Network (NBN).
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Individuals and companies working in agribusiness will be able to apply for funding support from the new “Sprout” fund for technology-based projects from early next year.
The announcement also included the National Farmers Federation’s online platform which is set to go live in May next year. It will include commentary and blogs and is designed to allow farmers around Australia to communicate online.
Also announced was the NFF’s “Digital Agriculture Service”, which will analyse vast amounts of data being collected across agriculture and make that available to farmers to improve their decision-making and productivity. The digital service is due to be launched in July 2016.
Mr Turnbull said the doors of export markets in Asia had been flung open wider than ever and support for innovation would Australian farmers to access those markets.
“The agenda of innovation is absolutely critical to every industry. It is and always has been innovative and adaptive. They have always been prepared to experiment,” he said.
“These technologies will reduce the operating costs of farms. It will enable individual farmers to expand their scope so they don’t spend as much time going out long distance to check on a water source.”
NFF Chief Executive Officer, Simon Talbot, said the initiatives are designed to help facilitate disruption within the farm sector and to help farmers seize the benefits of faster connectivity.
The NFF has provided the following information on each of the three initiatives announced on Saturday:
The NFF’s Online Platform aims to bring farmers, agribusiness professionals and consumers together in an engaging online platform designed to create value for farmers, agribusiness and consumers.
It will deliver the most up-to-date food and agribusiness news, weather and market information; integrate best management practice; and provide member benefits, blogs, commentary, and the ability to magnify the industry’s voice using campaigns and live policy development.
This marks a major step for Australian agriculture by enabling the industry to tell its story to a much wider audience than ever before.
“As the country’s most geographically dispersed industry, agriculture can gain real value by engaging more effectively online,” NFF CEO Simon Talbot said.
“The Online Platform is a major investment by the NFF in ensuring farmers get the most from improved connectivity.”
Vodafone Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs Dan Lloyd said their investment in the platform further strengthened Vodafone’s commitment to regional Australia.
“Through our network investment and our advocacy for greater regional mobile coverage and choice, we are standing up for regional Australia.
“We are excited to be contributing our global expertise in communications technologies to help support the digital future of Australia’s agricultural sector through this partnership,” Mr Lloyd said.
The Online Platform will go live in May 2016.
National Farmers’ Digital Agriculture Service
NFF is collaborating with Accenture, its Official Strategy and Digital Partner, to develop and deliver new digital technologies and services, which will help Australia’s agriculture sector compete globally.
In bringing Accenture’s global capabilities to the sector, NFF is committed to enabling Australian farmers to make better data-based operational decisions that seek to increase yield and boost revenue while reducing expenses – this Digital Agriculture Service (DAS) being a global first for a peak industry body.
“By creating a new digital service by farmers, for farmers, the NFF, in collaboration with Accenture, can help avoid the scenarios playing out overseas where farmers are overwhelmed by complex and disconnected data locked away by individual service providers,” Mr Talbot said.
“The NFF will implement extensive data security measures to provide protection of farmers’ data for their benefit, and the benefit of the wider industry.
“Today farmers generate volumes of complex data and there is enormous scope to use this data to enhance decision making and improve farm gate returns.
“By taking advantage of major innovation trends such as Big Data and the Internet of Things, tools like the Digital Agriculture Service have the potential to add significant value to farm gate returns in coming years. For the first time in a generation, digital technologies can enable farmers to achieve a quantum leap forward in their performance.”
The NFF aims to launch a publicly available service for all farmers in July; as well as specific solutions for the Cotton, Horticulture and Beef farmers in late 2016, with other commodities to follow soon after.
The new innovation hub for agricultural technologies, ‘Sprout’ will be a mechanism to identify, foster and promote the best new ideas in the food and agribusiness arena.
The NFF and Crowe Horwath parent company, Findex, have assembled a highly skilled assessment panel, and are developing relationships with capital partners to provide agri-entrepreneurs with financial backing.
“The agriculture sector has a proud history of innovation, often led by our farmers themselves,” Mr Talbot said.
“As the pace of innovation globally continues to increase, we need pathways to identify the best ideas and get them to market sooner in order to remain at the cutting edge”.
Spiro Paule, Chief Executive Officer, Findex, said Sprout would be a powerful tool to help drive agricultural innovation.
“This program will be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, supporting grassroots innovation in what is arguably the country’s most important sector,” Mr Paule said.
“Findex will leverage its global expertise in business establishment to assist people and businesses who have new ideas to ultimately further agriculture’s success.”
The first round of applications for incubation via Sprout will open in early 2016.
Coles Managing Director, John Durkan, said Coles was pleased to support the initiatives which would help to drive innovation and ideas in Australian agriculture.
“We know from our experience dealing with thousands of food producers that there are so many innovative farmers continually coming up with powerful new ideas to improve the quality of their food, and boost their efficiency and productivity,” Mr Durkin said.
“We are delighted to help support this first-ever national online platform dedicated to Australian farmers, which will mean they can share information more easily and deliver ideas which will lead to greater innovation and investment in agriculture.”
For more information, please visit the official website: www.nffdigital.org.au