Potential for Australian farmers and manufacturers to innovate together

Opportunities in advanced technology are leading possibilities for manufacturers seeking to create products for agriculture, according to a project delivered by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and funded by AgriFutures Australia.

The study identified advances such as robotics and artificial intelligence, biotechnology, genomics, renewable energy, and advanced materials as emerging technologies which could expand and grow Australian agriculture.

The research was comprised of a six-part series of “Horizon Scans” which looked to what farmers future needs will be, and how industry can meet them.

With Australian manufacturers working within these fields already, and with an emergent advanced agriculture sector as a growing domestic market for innovation, the combination of both has a positive potential.

“For Australia to remain at the forefront of innovation and to meet our ambitious targets we need to seek out these opportunities and commit to pursuing new ways of doing things. I see these scans as critical in contributing to that,” said Agrifutures Australia managing director, John Harvey.

To take advantage of these possibilities, however, shifts in thinking may be required, as QUT researcher, Dr Grant Hamilton identified.

“Many of the technologies and new industries identified through the scans have obvious application, others may require a leap of faith to understand the potential impact they can have on individual farm businesses or agricultural industries,” said Hamilton.

Senior manager, business development at AgriFutures Australia, Jennifer Medway, encouraged farmers and those investing in agricultural innovation to look close to home.

“Technologies can emerge from inside Australia in sectors unrelated to agriculture and open up new opportunities we haven’t seen before,” said Medway.

Examples of the kinds of technologies pushing thinking forward could include wearable user interfaces, collaborative robots, human augmentation, and human-in-the-loop machine learning. The potential for further applications of these technologies is just around the corner, according to Medway.

“We are already starting to see the benefits of autonomous robotics and human physical augmentation technologies in improving productivity and the safety of workers in repetitive and physically demanding tasks.”