In addition to drought, the Australian agriculture industry faces supply chain disturbances, rising supply costs, worker shortages and consumers’ increasing desire for transparency and sustainability.
Technological innovation and adoption are the key to creating a more resilient agricultural region. Rachel says this is because real-time data helps farmers make day-to-day decisions that boost productivity and profitability.
“For example, weather apps are really important tools for planning,” she says. “Crop farmers can use them to look at the month’s rain forecast to ensure they can plant seeds and put fertiliser on without it being washed away, and cattle farmers can use them to decide when to start wet season spelling or when to put a urea lick out. Because if that gets wet from rain and the cattle eat it, it can lead to urea toxicity issues.”
Other beneficial technologies include walk over weighing systems, pregnancy testers, and traceability and tracking systems.
“The walk over weighing machine is set up as an entry point to water for the cattle. So, if a cow or steer walks over the system and they’re sale weight, they can be sent to market. If they go over and they’re underweight, they can go back to a feeder paddock where they can grow more,” Rachel says.
“New technology in pregnancy testers can tell you if a cow is pregnant in early gestation and if there’s any inherent or genetic diseases in that cow, all in a matter of seconds.
“There’s also a lot of new technology coming out around traceability, because people want to know more about where and when their food is grown and processed, which is also good for biosecurity.”
Many of these technologies serve as management tools that allow farmers to determine where to allocate resources and evaluate the reproductive performance of their cattle.
“It’s all about the triple bottom line,” Rachel says.
“From an economic standpoint, if farmers are increasing productivity, they’re able to build better financial and natural asset reserves which increases the resilience of their farm. From a social standpoint, the farmers are able to provide employment and spend money in their local community which helps sustain businesses and regions. And from an environmental standpoint, if farmers are removing cattle from their property as soon as they are ready to go to market, the cattle are not eating as much grass and in turn there is more ground cover which means there is less runoff or erosion during periods of rainfall.”