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Growing a digital future for Australian agriculture (16 May 2019)

Authors: Jane Trindall (consultant to CRDC), Andrew Skinner (MLA), Peter Samson (SRA), Jennifer Medway (AgriFutures), Carolina Diaz (AWI), Nicole Stubing (FRDC)

Digital transformation is a step change for all economic sectors and a steady hand is needed to guide the change.

Digital agriculture could lift the GVP of the Australian agricultural sector by $20.3 billion, a 25 percent increase on 2014-15 levels according to a recent project: Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture (P2D). P2D was funded through the Australian government's Rural R&D for Profit program and for the first time all of Australia’s Rural Research & Development Corporations (RDC's) joined forces for this important sector wide initiative. 

The Australian agricultural sector is not ready to reap these benefits and P2D made thirteen recommendations in areas of strategy, leadership, governance and digital literacy for Australian producers to achieve the productivity gains possible from digital technology. 

RDC's are getting on with the job of implementing these recommendations and have invested in three key projects to accelerate the digital transformation of the Australian agricultural sector - focusing on digital strategy, digital literacy and data governance. The projects are:

A digital capability framework and self-assessment tool

The future agricultural workforce will look different to what it does today. Education and training are required across the industry to increase digital literacy of the agricultural workforce. This project will assess the current digital capability of the agricultural workforce, assess the potential impact of emerging technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence on the workforce and identify the digital capability skills gap.

A framework will be developed to guide the industry's investment in education and training programs to bridge the gap. A self-assessment tool will help producers and agri-businesses better understand what digital skills to develop to future proof their businesses.

Key takeaways: Better understanding of the future workforce of agriculture and what digital skills are needed will future proof the industry.

A data governance framework

The risks and rewards of sharing agricultural data are great. Around the world agricultural researchers and lawyers are grappling with what is best practice for the governance of agricultural data. A crucial first step is the development of an Australia-wide agricultural data governance framework, which will encourage the adoption of best practice principles in agricultural data management and sharing. This will bring transparency and trust around the collection, use and sharing of agricultural data.

Key takeaways: Data governance is required to manage the risks and rewards of sharing agricultural data.

A digital agriculture maturity index and self- assessment tool

A digital maturity index and self-assessment tool will be developed for agri-businesses and industries to evaluate their levels of digital maturity across key pillars such as strategy, data, analytics, technology and digital literacy / skills. This will help industries, business and producers identify their digital strengths and weaknesses and to develop digital strategies to target investment in areas that will accelerate digital transformation.

Key takeaways: A systematic approach to develop digital strategies can be used to align and prioritise investment.

We will be engaging with the industry later in the year to explain, validate and test the frameworks and tools developed. We will be welcoming feedback on their utility, practicality and value to Australian fishing and farming businesses. 

This project is a supported by funding from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia, Sugar Research Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, AgriFutures Australia, Wine Australia, Dairy Australia, Australian Pork Limited, Australian Eggs and Horticulture Innovation Australia. The project will be delivered in collaboration with CSIRO, Griffith University, University of Sunshine Coast and a KPMG consortia.

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For more information:

This article was original published on Linkedin by Jane Trindall, CRDC's Innovation Broker.