Australia’s agricultural sector will be able to better understand and manage short-term climate risks as well as build long-term resilience, following a $19 million investment focussed on understanding climate variability through Agricultural Innovation Australia.
Agri-Climate Outlooks is AIA’s first major initiative in the climate space. It is a four-year program with the Bureau of Meteorology to improve and enhance seasonal outlook services provided to the farming, fishery and forestry industries.
Agri-Climate Outlooks will develop decision-specific digital forecast tools and products tailored to specific commodities. The investment also supports improvements to Australia’s dedicated weather forecast modelling system.
AIA is a not-for-profit, public company established to coordinate joint investment and collaboration in cross-industry agricultural issues of national importance. It attracts investment from public, private, not-for-profit and global commercial entities to deliver agricultural innovation initiatives. Its members include Australia’s 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations spanning the agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries.
BOM has estimated the investment could generate up to $68 million annually in potential value for agriculture.
AIA has facilitated the cross-sectoral investment via a collaboration of ten of Australia’s Rural Research and Development Corporations, including Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, AgriFutures Australia and others.
AIA chief executive Sam Brown said the collaboration was ground-breaking because the RDCs were working together on a large-scale project with common goals to help farmers mitigate the impacts of climate on their enterprises.
“Climate variability is proving to have a significant and devastating impact on agricultural and food production, as we have seen with recent floods, extreme weather events and subsequent food shortages and supply chain challenges,” he said.
“Growers need the most reliable, accurate and timely seasonal forecasting information to help them manage and adapt to changing climates. This initiative will improve the relevance, trust and ease of use of climate information in their decision-making.
“AIA is taking a whole-of-sector approach to agricultural innovation and delivering value to investors – including the growers who invest in us via their RDCs.”
BOM general manager for agriculture and water Matthew Coulton said the initiative would involve deep engagement across the industry to identify high-impact weather and climate-dependent decisions farmers make, and then design fit-for-purpose products and services to support those decisions.
“The investment will also contribute to improving the accuracy of the underlying forecast, which will provide benefit across all the agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries, now and into the future,” he said.
BOM will manage five Agri-Climate Outlooks workstreams, covering products, services, support and industry capability building. The streams include:
- Establishment of a dedicated team of agri-climate specialists to provide relevant insights to support farmers with decision-making.
- Upskilling and training for growers and their advisers to accurately interpret and utilise weather, climate and water products to inform agricultural decisions.
- Development of easy to understand, decision-specific forecast products delivered via appropriate digital channels.
- Development of methods to overlay skill on the Bureau’s seasonal outlook products and promote the methods as best practice to other seasonal outlook service providers.
- Improvements to Australia’s seasonal forecasting, through improved accuracy of multi-week to seasonal forecasts. This will help ensure the future stability of the Australian agriculture sector and increase the potential magnitude of benefits delivered via Workstreams 1-4.
These streams would strategically leverage previous investments made by RDCs and the Australian Government in improving climate and weather capabilities, including the Climate Services for Agriculture platform, AIA said.