Drivers of change: key factors driving innovation in farming

The United Nations estimates global food production must rise by 60% by 2050 to feed a projected world population of 9 billion people. With a finite area of arable farming land available, food producers over the world have needed to reassess traditional practices to achieve greater and more sustainable yields.

Consumers have also become increasingly more discerning about the foods they buy. There are greater expectations now for food to be affordable, healthy, environmentally sustainable and ethically produced.

There are also other key factors faced by Australian agriculture and horticulture industries. The impact of climate change, prolonged droughts, and water shortages have made growing conditions a lot tougher over the past two decades. High labour costs, particularly during harvest, is a major overhead for Australian horticultural growers; while competition for global and local market share is tight.

All these factors have driven the necessity for urgent change in the way farming is done. Advances in agricultural science and technology are critical to enable food producers and growers to become more efficient with limited natural resources, be more sustainable, while growing the optimum produce possible.

Techniques in dry land farming, crop rotations, and no-till systems have responded to prolonged droughts and the impact of broad-acre farming. This is revolutionising grain farming in Australia.

Horticulture too has undergone a revolution in recent years. Soil moisture sensors and sophisticated automated irrigation systems are minimising water usage. Soil monitoring also provides data on nutrient levels, and the presence of disease and pests, eliminating the indiscriminate use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertiliser.

Other recent technological innovations have revealed an exciting evolution in farming practices and machinery. Data and analysis management systems, Cloud platforms, robotics and automated machinery, GPS aided technology, sensor monitoring, WIFI and Long Range Area Network, are opening significant new opportunities for growers to improve farming efficiencies and quality of produce.

While advances in farm technology have lessened the reliance on unskilled labour, farmers now require workers who have the skills and knowledge ready to operate in a digital farm setting. SuniTAFE’s state-of-the-art, purpose built SMART Farm is preparing digitally-literate graduates with skills to set them on the path for dynamic new careers in farming.

SuniTAFE, in partnership with industry, sector experts, Agtech developers, university resources, and local growers, has been keeping step with the advances in digital farming practices. We understand the challenges faced by industry and local growers. SuniTAFE is committed to help local growers transition to new technologies and practices that will help our region thrive, and meet future food demands.