NT Delegates travel to Albury for GrowAg Summit

By Callen Thompson Senior Extension Agronomist, Katherine

The inaugural GrowAg summit was held in Aulbury from 21 to 23 September. GrowAg is an Australian Government initiative which brings together 100 of Australian agriculture’s young innovators and leaders. The aim of the summit was to cultivate excellence in ag for our farming future. This was facilitated by the sharing of ideas and discussing future challenges and opportunities . Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) was well represented. Teagan Alexander and Callen Thompson, both working on agricultural diversification and both located at Katherine Research Station, were among the 100 delegates selected to attend. Shenal Basnayake CEO of NT Farmers also represented the Northern Territory.

Teagan Alexander and Callen Thompson from DPIR with Shenal Basnayake, NT Farmers

(above) Teagan Alexander and Callen Thompson from DPIR with Shenal Basnayake, NT Farmers

Delegates were fortunate to hear from a range of speakers on three key themes : entrepreneurship and global agri opportunities ; technology  and innovation; and education and leadership. The delegates were also involved in breakout sessions to discuss the above themes with their peers as well as the speakers they had just heard from.

The general theme was that the future for agriculture is an exciting one . Demand for Australian products will increase as the world’s growing middle class looks for high quality products with a clean and green image. To capitalise on this we need to ensure that agricultural productivity is increasing as well as ensuring that we can provide a product that meets specification and is traceable. Australia must lift its productivity throughout the industry. Alistair Davidson from The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources made a good point that 10% of farmers in Australia make 50% of the productivity.

Uptake of innovative technology will be an important factor in achieving sustainable growth in agriculture. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, gene editing, sensors and connectivity of existing and future tools were discussed at the summit. Much of the technology presented could be used in the Northern Territory, but highlights included:

  • Nick Wright from Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Western Australia showed how he was using 3D printing to model water tables. This technology is a great extension tool to allow a better understanding of water resources
  • Dr Guy Roth from Narrabri NSW explained how technology can be used for smarter irrigation through the use of sensors, evaporation loss reduction and automated irrigation
  • Darrin Lee, a mixed farmer from Mingenew WA described how he had set up a Wi-Fi system over his entire property to connect a range of sensors, water points and farm machinery. This allows him to monitor the farm using his smart phone. The key benefit seems to be the ability to do more fishing!
  • Professor David Lamb from the University of New England explained the technology they are developing at the UNE Smart Farm. This includes remote monitoring of livestock, using spatial imagery to asses feed quantity, accessing spatial data and the ‘internet of things ’ (enabling communication between machinery, sensors, infrastructure and devices).

Industry leaders such as Geoff Daniel, Growth Farms and Jim Engelke, Kimberley Agricultural Investment were amongst a group of speakers who stressed that there are no silver bullets when it comes to technology. Timeliness, financial management and good agronomy will always be the characteristics of a successful farm business. Technology will enable us to achieve this more efficiently while collecting the data required to quantify results for ourselves, our investors and our consumer.

GrowAg was supported by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Rural Industries Development Corporation.

Last updated: 29 September 2016