When the organisers of several AgTech focused events in Queensland in November first realised how many similar events were being held throughout the same State during the same month, they started to worry – would the competing events counteract and work against each other?
But then it quickly became apparent that where they first saw competition in fact lay a great opportunity to collaborate – why not join forces to create a super charged month for AgTech events across Queensland?
The result has been the creation of a showcase month of 10 events starting with the AgVention field day at Kandanga near Gympie tomorrow, and progressing through the state from Mareeba in the far north to St George in the South, culminating in the 400M AgTech conference and field day in Toowoomba and Esk on November 27 and 28.
Occasionally a practical example emerges that powerfully demonstrates what collaboration can truly achieve.
As Dr Wayne Hall, the Executive Director of Agri-Science Queensland from the Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries told our AgTech Central webinar on Tuesday, the creation of Queensland AgTech Month has been a powerful example of how events that could compete with each other instead pulled together to create something that is bigger than the individual parts. (Click here to watch the recording of our Webinar from Tuesday).
In doing so the various participants have given Queensland the jump in elevating its status to claim the position of “the AgTech State”.
Longreach sheep and cattle producer James Walker from Agrihive said Queensland is the most highly variable rainfall state in the most highly variable rainfall continent in the world, so it makes sense that farmers in Queensland are actively embracing productivity and efficiency benefits AgTech can offer. In fact in many cases farmers were not only seeking out new inventions or technologies but designing them themselves.
Jacqui Wilson-Smith from the Food and Agribusiness Network said the challenges businesses in the food and agricultural sector face are far greater than any business or organisation or region can solve alone.
“So I think the concept of all of us working together across multiple regions and sharing innovations and ideas and ways of trouble shooting is a really exciting start to a better way of working the future,” she said.
A full list of AgTech events being held across Queensland appears below this article.
Some of the specific events and activities showcased in our Webinar on Tuesday included:
AgVention, Mary Valley
Jacqui Wilson-Smith from the Food and Agribusiness Network, Australia’s fastest growing food and agribusiness cluster with 300 members across the whole food value chain from Gympie, Noosa, Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay, highlighted some of the attractions at tomorrow’s AgVention field day near Gympie.
The event, organised by beef producers and Kandanga Farm Store operators Tim and Amber Scott, will showcase regenerative agricultural practices and a range of technologies and speakers including the Provenir mobile abattoir, Celebrity Chef Matt Golinksi, Vence virtual livestock fencing and Moovement GPS cattle tracking ear tags.
It will also include a Backyard Tinkerers Tent with displays from local inventors, farmers and small businesses of prototypes of innovations, products or services.
Ms Wilson-Smith said the region is home to a lot of small and first time farmers, and with that “comes a lot of ideas from other industries”.
“They are particularly good at coming up with new ways and pioneering ways of doing new things,” she said.
Future Agro Challenge, Atherton Tablelands
Jessica Fealy, a mango and avocado farmer, chartered accountant and community leader of Startup Tablelands, spoke about the Future Agro Challenge which will be held on-farm at Mareeba on November 1-2 (next Friday and Saturday).
The two-day initiative is the Australian leg of a global AgTech competition and pitch event which covers no less than 60 countries all over the world each year.
The competition is open to agricultural and food technology startups that are less than five years old.
Australian AgTech startups have amassed an impressive record of success in the internationally event, with SwarmFarm from Emerald taking third place globally last year, while the AgUnity market place took out the Global Agripreneur Award in 2017.
Ms Fealy said a big part of the what sets the Future Agro Challenge event at Mareeba apart is the fact that it is one of the few AgTech pitch competitions in the world that is actually hosted on farm.
This is done to ensure a close connection between technology and agriculture is maintained.
“What we have seen In the past is that sometimes the technology is cool and can do lots of tricky things but it doesn’t actually solve an on farm problem,” she explained.
“We’re really determined to make sure we are focusing on the farmers and hosting an event on farm is a way to keep that front of mind.”
400M Agrifood Innovation Forum, Toowoomba and Esk
Bruce McConnel, general manager of TSBE Food Leaders Australia, described how the 400M Agrifood Innovation Forum, this year to be held over two days in Toowoomba and at Mt Brisbane, Esk, on November 27 and 28, has evolved.
Why 400M? There are 400 million hectares of arable land in Australia that will need to produce enough food to support 400 million emerging middle-income earners in Asia – a challenge that emerging AgTech will be essential to help meet.
In previous years the 400M conference has focused largely on helping innovators pitch for investment.
This year the conference is focusing specifically on the issue of solutions to improve regional connectivity – without which many AgTech innovations cannot be utilised.
“We hear from all of our producers and farmers that what is slowing their adoption of AgTech is the fact they do not have connectivity on their farm,” Mr McConnel said.
“One bar of 3G service when they walk into their farm, so how do we solve that?”
A wide range of large and small technology producers will show their connectivity solutions at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba on November 27, while a visit to the McConnel family’s Mt Brisbane property at Esk on November 28 will provide practical working demonstrations of a range of agricultural technologies in action.
On-farm connectivity systems, drones, solar devices, electronic tags and farm management software will be among the innovations on show.
Qld DAF embracing AgTech
In officially launching Queensland AgTech Month via the AgTech Central webinar, Dr Wayne Hall said it was clear the future of farming is going to be different, and reinforced the point that AgTech developers need to be working directly with farmers if they want their product to successful.
“That is a really key underlying point,” he told the Webinar.
“Farmers want to know if the product they are looking at investing in is going to make them more money, increase their profits, increase their sustainability or free up time to do more valuable jobs that will then improve their productivity.”
He said the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is a big user of AgTech in its own right.
One example is the use of drones and image analysis technology to quickly and cost effectively rate new sorghum varieties
“We have a major sorghum pre-breeding program so there are lots of lines of sorghum being planted out, and rather than manually going through and counting the heads of sorghum, our researchers can now do that in an automated manner.
“It really does save time and it saves labour costs.”
Dr Hall said economic modelling has identified that maximising the implementation of existing digital technologies across the Australian agricultural sector could the lift gross national farm production by more than $20 billion.
QUEENSLAND AGTECH MONTH – LIST OF EVENTS
Agvention, Mary Valley, (Oct 25), Website: click here
Embracing digital innovation in the ag sector, two day workshops, St George (Nov 6-7), Kilcoy/Somerset (Nov 20-21); More information: click here
Growers as innovators workshop, Emerald (Nov 7); More information: click here
Machine Learning and Deep Learning Day, Brisbane (Nov 8); More information: click here
TropAg 2019 Conference, Brisbane (Nov 11-13); Website: click here
Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, Brisbane (Nov 12-13), more information click here
Bioenergy Strong 2019, Brisbane (Nov 12-15), website: click here
Property Computer Mapping Workshops, Charleville (Nov 12), Thargomindah (Nov 13), Eromanga (Nov 14);
400M Ag and Food Innovation Forum, Toowoomba (Nov 27), Mt Brisbane Esk (Nov 28), website: click here