Ag News

Does sensor adoption make ‘cents’?

  • By: Farm Tender "Prime"
  • Feb 06, 2018

Agricultural technology is rapidly developing and is set to change the face of farming, however the current uptake of ‘sensor technology’ among Australian farmers is limited, according to a report by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

Drawing on insights from 1000 farmers across Australia, the recently-released report, Does sensor adoption make cents?, says despite the potential of digital agriculture to improve decision-making and profitability of Australian farms, the use of sensor technology – a widely-available form of digital agriculture – remains modest. And of those that use the technology, only a limited proportion of farmers are using the data to support farm decision making to increase business profitability.

Questioning farmers across a wide range of regions, production sectors and operation sizes (during its regular quarterly survey of rural sentiment) , Rabobank found less than a quarter (23 per cent) were using sensor technology – such as drones, moisture probes and irrigation monitors, as well as yield mapping and electronic identification (EID).

Report author, Rabobank agricultural analyst Wesley Lefroy said while he was not surprised by the relatively modest uptake of sensor technology on-farm, there were “clearly barriers to adoption that are holding back the farm sector from receiving the value promised by digital agriculture”.

“For many farmers, the value proposition (or return on investment) for many sensor technologies simply isn’t articulated clearly enough for farmers to determine they can generate a profit from it,” he said.

Mr Lefroy said the uptake appeared to be higher amongst larger farm businesses, with the survey finding large farms (with incomes above one million) to have the highest uptake of sensors at 57 per cent – compared with a 10 per cent uptake in farming businesses with incomes below $300,000.

The adoption rate did vary across commodity sectors however, with the highest rate of sensor adoption observed in the cotton industry (78 per cent) followed by the grains sector (48 per cent).

In contrast, adoption rates were very limited in beef (10 per cent), sheep (12 per cent) and dairy (20 per cent) – with ...
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