The agricultural industry is the backbone of the Australian economy. From wool, to beef, to wheat, our farmers provide as much as 93% of our annual produce locally and contribute to our exporting income to the tune of more than $40 billion. Despite its significance within Australia, the agricultural community continues to suffer a high attrition rate of workers, with fewer young people carrying on the family business and fewer new recruits into the industry. So, how do our farmers keep the rest of us fed and clothed, with scarcer resources and increasingly challenging conditions? With technology, it would seem.
Advanced Farming Equipment
Many of Australia’s industries are adopting advanced technologies to help increase efficiency, while keeping costs down. From manufacturing to retail, technology is playing an expanding role in the way we do business. While farming might not immediately spring to mind when considering high-tech business solutions, the agricultural industry is experiencing some incredible technological advancements; and these are set to keep farming possible, in challenging 21st century conditions.
Tech companies around the world are enthusiastically experimenting with robotic technology in the fields of science, medicine, manufacturing and more. Farming robots, however, are set to be the next big development in this exciting technological area. The small team at Farmbot have developed an open-source, CNC farming robot which can assist farmers to plant, feed and monitor crops automatically. The machine even detects weeds, and buries them beneath the soil to allow their biomass to contribute to crop growth.
Meanwhile, Saga Robotics have built a farming robot which can not only monitor crop health, and take care of the weeding, but can also provide optimal lighting conditions for crops, based on the conditions of the growing region. These incredible advancements in farming technology can assist farmers in monitoring the health of their crops, and in tailoring growing conditions which are optimal for each plant.
Drones are quickly becoming a household term, with applications across fields from that of military surveillance to pizza delivery. Farmers are now increasingly using drones to assist with the everyday operation of their farms, in a variety of ways. As drone technology advances and prices become less prohibitive, farming drones can assist farmers with:
- Monitoring soil health and moisture levels
- Detecting diseases in plants and livestock
- Determining optimal times for watering and using pesticides/herbicides
- Surveying paddocks for issues such as lost cattle, or even broken fencing
In fact, there are now drones available on the market which can complete crop spraying, where previously a manned aircraft would have been necessary. These technologies are allowing farmers to plant crops, monitor livestock health and even protect their produce at lower costs; without the need for large seasonal workforces, which are becoming harder to afford.
Household electricity prices are a key driver in the demand for alternatives to traditional energy sources. Renewable energy, however, is also playing a large role in Australian business, and nowhere more so than in agriculture. As electricity prices rise, and farmers become increasingly concerned with the environmental impacts of their operations, renewable energy solutions are an attractive investment opportunity. Beyond the installation of solar PV systems, other solutions such as wind power systems, and even biogas generators are providing farmers with ways to cut both their energy costs, and their carbon emissions. Harnessing natural resources such as wind and solar, as well as by-products of heat and waste materials can be an extremely cost-effective solution to keeping down costs for the agriculture industry.