By Mark Bennett - Head of Agribusiness at ANZ Bank
Digital disruption and technology are reshaping the world’s industries and Australian agriculture has not been immune with 62 per cent of the sector’s productivity growth since 1995-96 a result of technological advancements.
This is expected to continue over the next twenty years, with unprecedented shifts throughout the entire supply chain driven largely by the development and investment in new technologies.
At present, uptake in technology related capital in Australian agriculture including electronic equipment, industrial machinery, computers and intellectual property is growing at a faster rate (2.5 per cent) than the increase in general capital such as sheds, silos or transport machinery (0.5 per cent).
Today, increasingly refined on-farm technologies are playing an important role in helping Australian farmers’ access higher levels of productivity, profitability and importantly, sustainability.
Only last week in North Queensland at its annual forum, Project Catalyst - a partnership between more than 70 innovative Queensland sugarcane growers, Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups, the Australian Government, WWF and The Coca-Cola Foundation – brought forward numerous examples of collaborative and innovative research and development with a focus on environmental sustainability and productivity.
In an effort to support sugarcane growers and promote ground-breaking farm practices that improve water quality from sugarcane farms impacting the Great Barrier Reef, the group shared insights from current trials being conducted from Koumala to Mossman. The discussion centred on showing growers how to incorporate subsurface mill mud application, groundwater nitrate monitoring, reducing water usage while improving productivity, and minimising nutrient loss from their farms.
Another examples comes from the work of SUMS (formerly WaterSave) their efforts to help farmers to lessen the environmental impact of irrigation through an automated irrigation system which uses a variety of on-farm sensors to reduce power and water consumption. Once installed, the system has the capacity to fully automate the irrigation process and farmers can be alerted the moment a paddock is sufficiently irrigated.
Ongoing investment in new technologies is critical to ensuring continued productivity and environmental mitigation and to encourage the adoption of AgTech, it’s important that innovations also provide a cost benefit.
The $150 million ANZ Energy Efficient Asset Finance program offers our business customers the opportunity to cut their energy costs through innovation. Through the program, eligible assets are financed at a 0.7 per cent p.a. discount to the standard asset finance rate, making it easier for businesses to invest in energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies that will help reduce their energy and fuel costs.
The program is part of ANZ's broader commitment to facilitate investment of at least $15 billion by 2020 to support its customers to transition to a low carbon economy. This target demonstrates our commitment to help drive investment in the low carbon transition and environmental sustainability more broadly.
The impacts of AgTech across the agricultural supply chain are seemingly boundless. While some of the benefits such as productivity and cost efficiencies are well known, more attention must be paid to technology’s ability to provide significant environmental benefits on farm and to communities throughout regional Australia.
At ANZ we believe we have a genuine role to play in environmental sustainability. This aligns with our purpose, business strategy and sustainability framework, and we look forward to continuing to work with our customers to help further improve sustainable farming practices through innovation and the investment in new technologies.