Last month, Kate Phillips took a dive into the world of Blockchain and how this technology could be one of the key stepping stones to reach the National Farmers Federation goal of a $100 billion agricultural industry by 2030. This month, Anthony Hall is following the same theme, looking at how improvements in broadacre technology over the past 30 years have led to increased profitability and yield, and how this too will contribute to a booming Australian agricultural industry by 2030.
Let’s start from the start. As we all know well, broadacre farming has been in Australia for generations and we’ve come a long way since the horse-drawn machinery and hand packed hessian bags. But, over the last 10 – 15 years particularly, the industry has really moved forward in giant strides. A few notable examples include:
Chemical chemistry. The improvements in this industry allow for weed control year-round resulting in better moisture conservation and weed-free produce. It has also allowed for improved farming practices like zero tillage.
Zero tillage. Studies show increased yields of up to 15-25% compared to land that had been continuously cultivated prior to adopting zero tillage. Zero tillage also sees flow on benefits such as reduced fuel usage, reduced labor costs and improved soil structure and organic matter.
GPS. The introduction of GPS in machinery brought self-steering machinery, creating opportunities like controlled trafficking, tram lining and yield mapping which assisted in soil compaction management (eliminating 80% of compaction), driver fatigue and more concise record keeping.
These are just a few technologies now considered ‘normal’ in the broadacre industry. So, what’s next?
Technically, drones and satellite imagery are already here, but the way we use the information is always improving and efficiently using the data these technologies provide isn’t that widespread yet.
As the name suggests, broadacre farmers operate over a large area and it can be costly in both time and money to get around the property to get a feel for what is happening. Drones, in their simplest form, are changing this space offering live information for farmers to make management calls on the go.
However, the further you delve into the specifics of what drones and satellite imagery can do; it starts to get more interesting. Drones carry more than just cameras, they use multispectral and infra-red to create NVDI (normalised difference vegetation index) imagery which allows farmers to monitor crop health, detect disease outbreaks and nutrient deficiencies. For example, drones with hyperspectral, multispectral or thermal sensors can identify which parts of a field are dry. This is useful for irrigation farmers enabling them to more efficiently and accurately determine when and where to water. Another example is ultrasonic echoing and lasers (used in light-detection) which allow drones to scan the ground and spray weeds or relay data back to broadacre spray rigs mapping the precise spots weeds are, so they spray the weed only and not the bare ground around them.
As always there are obstacles that limit the progression or uptake of technology in all industries. When specifically looking at drones’ things like safety, privacy, insurance and industry (aviation) compliance have been flagged as hurdles that need to be addressed. However, the financial benefits of overcoming these hurdles could be instrumental in reaching the $100 billion by 2030.
For those not yet ready to invest in drone technology or unwilling to jump the regulatory hurdles, satellite imagery can provide similar information. With more and more satellites being launched into space it’s becoming more affordable for tech companies to access NVDI imagery data for farmers to use. Like drones, this data helps to identify weeds, crop disease, water logging, yield prediction and nutrient deficiencies. And, thanks to NVDI and the data companies out there with their own in-house telemetry that can turn this data into a prescription file making it easily loaded up to an Isobus suitable GPS, farmers can now apply fertiliser or chemical rates to best suit the different soil types or yield variation within each paddock.
Another up and coming technology is the use of soil moisture probes. The water industry is booming at the moment, especially considering Australia’s east coast has been crippled by drought for at least the past two years. Real time data from soil moisture probes can now be sent to your phone showing current available moisture is at different depths. So, again if you are an irrigator you can get an irrigation schedule to tell you how much water is required for that crop.
These are just some of the great technologies coming through broadacre farming. And although these technological improvements will be paramount in reaching our goal of $100 billion, the capital outlay to purchase and implement them isn’t cheap. This is where finance will play a significant role. Alternate finance models, like Agfarm Accelerate, help to manage cashflow throughout the season. Although the program funds the inputs for your next crop, like seed, fertiliser, chemical and fuel, not the technology itself, it frees up other financing facilities for investments in farm improvements throughout the year.
If you would like some more information on Agfarm Accelerate and how it could help your operation adapt to new technologies, call your local regional manager on the details below.
Reid Seaby WA Regional Manager | 0439 625 853
Kate Phillips SA Regional Manager | 0438 128 472
Anthony Hall QLD & NSW Regional Manager | 0400 873 777
James Ryssenbeek VIC Regional Manager | 0447 743 556