Farm Tender

Ag Tech Sunday - Agriculture Megatrends

By Robbie Sefton


Let's face it – there’s very little to get truly excited about in the news media these days.


If it’s not a story about the Coronavirus pandemic, or the latest political or Royal scandal, or an sporting player’s off-field antics, then it’s likely to be about droughts, floods, bush-fires or some other looming natural catastrophe.


Amid this seemingly constant environment of conflict and sensationalism, amplified by social media ‘over-reaction’, the good news often gets overlooked.


Recently, however, a new report was released which generated some positive headlines and is well worth taking the time to read and digest; especially if you’re in the business of agribusiness and farming.


The 36-page document, ‘Megatrends shaping Australian agriculture (2021 update)’, was released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences – the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s research arm.


It refreshes previous research by the CSIRO on this forward-looking agenda and provides plenty of food for thought, on the future of food production and consumption.


While I’m not going to try to rehash its entire contents here, it’s important to share and highlight its importance and implore others to read it.


For a good, succinct summary, it was covered in a well-researched and written article by The Land’s National Agribusiness Writer, Andrew Marshall.


Andrew’s article said the five megatrends are: 3 billion empowered consumers; fractal global politics; producing more from less; climate change and cascading global risks; and disruptive technologies.


“While their full implications might take decades to play out, it is useful to consider how we are positioned to respond to the changes coming our way," said ABARES acting executive director Jared Greenville, in the article.


“Australian agriculture has some crucial strengths, including a positive long-term growth outlook in key markets, and a track record of market-driven productivity growth, innovation and competitiveness.”


The report says a megatrend is defined as “a trajectory of change that will have profound implications across many areas of industry and society”.


“Each megatrend occurs at the intersection of multiple more specific trends and patterns of change – including geopolitical, economic, environmental, social or technological trends,” it says.


An element of the report that I liked the most was its concise summary of the key implications for agriculture, for each megatrend.


In the section on ‘fractal politics’ and subsequent impacts on trade and market access, it says Australia’s reputation for supplying healthy, high-quality, ethical and sustainable products is likely to become more important, “but cannot be taken for granted”.


“The most effective responses will establish trusted information platforms, engage authentically with consumer concerns, acknowledge and address poor practices, and provide evidence of improvements over time,” it says.


I also enjoyed the final section about the importance of positioning for the future, “Will the lucky country surf or sink?”


“Australia is indeed lucky: a ‘lifestyle superpower’ with competitive industries, vibrant communities, and unique landscapes and environmental assets,” the report said.


“But unearned advantage risks complacency, and each generation needs to create the luck – and advantages – it will pass on to the next generation. Will Australia choose to surf or sink?”


In conclusion, I’d encourage anyone in the agricultural and rural sector, with skin in the game, to empower themselves and their business by reading this report, and Andrew’s article, and learn more about this shaping narrative with these consequential, big picture impacts on our industry.


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