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Navigating the Fields: Challenges in the Australian Grains Industry

The Australian grains industry plays a pivotal role in the nation's agricultural landscape, contributing significantly to the domestic economy and international global food markets. Australia’s cropping exports reached a record $30.99 billion in 22/23, with countries such as China, Indonesia and Japan being the largest consumers of Australian grains. However, like any sector, the grains industry has its share of challenges. From unpredictable weather patterns to market volatility, stakeholders in the grains industry face numerous obstacles that require innovative solutions and strategic planning.

Water productivity and scarcity.

The grains industry relies heavily on irrigation to ensure optimal crop growth, and water shortages are a circuit breaker to sustainable production. Water management practices, efficient irrigation systems, and developing drought-resistant crop varieties are essential to addressing this challenge. Farmers are increasingly looking towards agtech solutions designed to measure and monitor in-field water use productivity for crops. Developing tools beyond mere measurement and offering farmers data and actionable insights is an essential step forward. As farmers begin to adopt agtech solutions on farm, the grains industry benefits from moving further toward a future where resource efficiency and productivity align, creating a more sustainable and resilient agricultural landscape.

AquaTerra, a start-up that provides on-demand information about soil conditions such as moisture and temperature and insights into on-farm managemen

A great example of these new technologies is F2F Harvest program alumni, AquaTerra, a start-up that provides on-demand information about soil conditions such as moisture and temperature and insights into on-farm management. Aqua Terra’s technology aims to provide insights into farming operations, informing agronomists and farmers on soil conditions to help with irrigation management and fertiliser application. This data includes soil moisture and temperature sent every 2 hours and weather and evapotranspiration data, which are crucial in irrigation scheduling. In addition, end-users can access historical data of their farm and generate reports at any stage of the growing season to help in their farm’s management.

Market Volatility

Global grain markets are subject to constant fluctuations influenced by factors such as international trade policies, geopolitical tensions, and currency exchange rates. These market dynamics directly impact Australian grain producers, making predicting and planning for future yields challenging. Diversifying markets, adopting risk management strategies, and fostering international collaborations are vital for mitigating the effects of market volatility.

Automation and robotics to reduce labour and/or efficiency of repetitive tasks

With a focus on reducing labour intensity and enhancing the efficiency of repetitive tasks, these cutting-edge automation technologies are revolutionising how we cultivate and harvest crops. From precision seeding to autonomous harvesting, automation offers a range of solutions that alleviate the strain on the agricultural workforce. Plus, integrating robotics in tasks such as weeding, pruning, and monitoring, allows for a level of precision and consistency unattainable through manual labour. As farms embrace these advancements, they not only address labour shortages but also pave the way for more sustainable and productive agricultural systems.

GeoApsis is a geospatial, mapping and remote sensing startup

In recent years, the demand for precision farming in grain-growing regions of Australia has increased rapidly. Many farmers are keen to increase efficiency through machinery guidance systems. F2F Hone program alumni Thomas Tadrowski, a geospatial, mapping and remote sensing consultant from Western Australia, started to explore the idea of "democratising" precision farming technology implementation. Thomas has created GeoApsis, a company that offers retrofitting of autosteering systems for tractors and supports the value chain to supply satellite support to regional areas to run precision agricultural technology.

Biosecurity, weed, pest and disease control

As the industry confronts the challenges posed by environmental changes and a growing global population. Biosecurity measures act as the first line of defence, preventing the incursion of harmful pests and diseases. Weed management becomes an art as researchers delve into innovative technologies to reduce reliance on chemicals and foster sustainable farming practices. Research and development initiatives are pushing for innovative weed management technologies to assist growers in moving towards new farming systems that are less dependent on chemicals. Farmers are investing in cutting-edge agtech technologies that provide accurate, in-field diagnostics of crop health, performance, and potential threats. By harnessing these advancements, farmers can proactively identify and respond to challenges, increasing efficiency and resilience in the face of a changing climate and evolving agricultural landscapes.

Agtech adoption and skills development

As agriculture becomes increasingly technology-driven, there is a need for ongoing education and skill development within the industry. Many Australian grain farmers face challenges in adopting new technologies due to factors such as cost, accessibility, and a lack of knowledge. Encouraging the adoption of precision agriculture, automation, and data-driven decision-making can enhance efficiency and competitiveness within the industry. 

Farmers2Founders have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by grain growers, and our programs are built with farmers and founders as the foundation, bringing together agriculture and technology to accelerate the growth of Australian agtech startups built to solve key industry challenges and for Australian farmers. 

If you have an idea or proven agtech solution tackling the grain industry's most critical challenges, we can help support you on your journey to commercialisation. Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or a startup looking to validate your idea, we have a TEKLAB Grains program to suit your needs. 

Applications for TEKLAB Grains 2024 programs are now open; for more information, head to the website or book a call with one of the F2F team here.

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