The Australian dairy industry is currently experiencing a revolutionary shift from the ideas of digitalisation to the actual adoption of these ideas along the supply chain.
It is critical that the industry realises this opportunity to its utmost potential and integrates technological uptake faster than international competitors. We have over 6000 dairy producers in our KG2 farmer database whom we regularly engage in the digital conversation and they know that implementing all elements of this digital revolution is easier said than done.
Technology can add value to the Australian dairy industry
The Precision to Decision Agriculture Project (P2D) which included Dairy Australia and funding from the Federal Government estimated that the dairy industry would be transformed by digital technology to the extent of $497 million or 15 per cent of its current Gross Value of Production (GVP).
The findings from the P2D papers not only illustrate an important first step towards the process of industry wide adoption and adaptation but also demonstrates the valuable nature of benchmarking data to enhance profitability by capitalising on opportunities created by digital agriculture and big data.
Opportunities and limitations of digital Australian agriculture
At KG2 we know that “digital” doesn’t just cover information technology (IT) or online/mobile presence, but rather it covers a broad scope of technologies, including:
- advanced analytics
- customer-centric products and services.
Currently there is a gap between the dairy sector and high-tech, knowledge-intensive service industries which requires collaborative efforts from all levels of government and industry to address. If the Australian dairy industry is to realise the full potential digital agriculture, analysing and solving the following issues is crucial:
- poor telecommunications
- privacy and security
- capital constraints
- capability/time limitations
For farmers to successfully access large data loads, use digital imagery and real time controls around autonomous vehicles, they need better Broadband and Internet of Things (IoT) network infrastructure in rural areas.
The good news is that Telecommunication providers and the federal government’s Mobile Blackspot Program, National Broadband Network and Regional Connectivity Program are all in process of making this happen.
Furthermore, in 2019 Australian agriculture adopted a National Traceability Framework. The framework is designed to set out a common vision and rules for commercial traceability systems across agricultural supply chains. Implementing something of this scale in the dairy industry will require huge amounts of coordination between leading industry players.
Currently SAFEMEAT, a partnership between the red meat and livestock industry and state and federal governments, has taken on the responsibility of moving to a fully digitalised livestock traceability system for Dairy via the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS). Adding to this, farmers will need to adapt with forms such as National Vendor Declarations (NVD) becoming electronic.
Is widespread adoption of agricultural technology possible in the Australian dairy industry?
As good as all these digital improvements sound on paper, farmers are not willing to outlay capital on new technology until they see a proven return on investment. Case studies are therefore critical in accelerating the digital revolution for the dairy industry.
Currently Agriculture Victoria is undertaking an IoT trial of 125 dairy farms in the Maffra region. The extrapolation of key economic and environmental data from these studies will provide the perfect baseline for the dairy industry to move forward in its digital revolution.
From our experience having spoken to thousands of very experienced dairy farmers at the farm gate, the KG2 team has concluded that it’s critical these very farmers are more involved in getting the basic tech conversions right, as often they have already solved the proposed problem through their many years of boots on the ground experience.
Furthermore, its essential that tech companies are more proactive in engaging farmers and have the tough but necessary conversations. Too often we get feedback from farmers that they aren’t willing to invest in new technology because there’s no guaranteed return on investment. Hence, more fruitful market research and farmer engagement is the solution to bridging the technological gap.