We all know that Australia is a BIG country, and with so much land available it’s not surprising that Australian agriculture is massive as well. It accounts for 58% of Australian land use, 2.7% of GDP and 14% of goods and services exports, with over 400 million hectares devoted to grazing and 30 million hectares to cropping.
In the past 20 years the production value of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has increased by 34% in real terms. Cropping in particular has seen volume expansion, partly resulting from productivity improvements as a result of the adoption of new technology.
Agricultural economic performance is largely driven by large-scale farms, which account for 60% of the output value. But this still means that smaller agricultural businesses, with less than $1 million in annual turnover, are responsible for 40% of production. Their significant role can be boosted by embracing the latest technological developments, which are not solely the preserve of the big players.
Technological advances in cropping
You don’t need to spend a fortune to take advantage of digital innovation. Here’s a snapshot of the latest developments in cropping.
Graincast™ smartphone app
This free phone app created by CSIRO combines local information and satellite technology. Graincast™ analyses national weather and soils information, including daily rainfall, temperature and solar radiation data, to forecast soil moisture and grain crop yield in individual paddocks and the farm as a whole. It enables farmers to make better informed decisions about production, harvest, transport, storage and marketing, resulting in higher returns and lower expenses.
SoilMapp for iPad
Using information form Australia’s national soil databases, SoilMapp delivers information about the type of soil likely to be found on your farm, with insights about water storage, clay content, acidity, salinity, carbon and erosion. It includes maps, photos, satellite images, tables and graphs about your local soils. You can put the data into your APSIM (Agricultural Production Systems SIMulator) computer model.
Used as an interface with APSIM, Yield Prophet® is an internet service providing real-time crop information for better decisions about sowing dates, grain varieties, irrigation and fertiliser.
WaterWise is an irrigation management system, using research in crop biochemistry, weather forecasts and wireless sensors which continually monitor crops and soils. Data analytics applied to the results allow growers to see the water stress of their crop in real time, and predict its future water needs.
Sensors attached to drones can be used for monitoring crop and soil condition, moisture levels, and the presence of pests and weeds.
Look beyond Bitcoin to discover how blockchain ledger-sharing technology tracks farm produce from its paddock origin all the way to the consumer’s plate. The authenticated tracking system proves that the product being sold is exactly what is described on the label, promoting transparency and trust and offering marketing opportunities for single-origin products and the potential for premium prices.
Embrace agritech for improved efficiency, yields and profits
There are plenty of opportunities for smaller-scale cropping farmers to get involved in technology without major financial outlays. But even when investment is required, every dollar spent will pay dividends in the shape of better crop yields, time-saving and efficiency, lower costs and possibly higher prices, and ultimately a better bottom line.