R and D challenges confront Australian agriculture sector

27 Dec, 2017 12:44 PM
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 Narrow engagement with the R and D community could be locking RDCs out of industry gains.
Narrow engagement with the R and D community could be locking RDCs out of industry gains.

RURAL research and development corporations may be missing the full potential of the digital revolution which is sweeping through the agriculture sector.

University of New England McClymont Distinguished Professor David Lamb said the RDCs are too heavily focused on collaborations with familiar institutions, particularly universities with agricultural pedigree.

“RDCs could be missing an opportunity for a new solution which they never even knew existed,” Prof. Lamb said.

University’s with no history in agriculture could have developed valuable solutions in new areas for agriculture, such as robotics, “but if the the uni doesn’t understand agriculture they will miss the boat”.

Prof. Lamb said RDCs were addressing this issue.

“It’s a rapidly evolving area and RDCs are finding their feet. They are, sensibly, recruiting technology specialists to make sense of these challenges and opportunities.”

Many farmers who are yet to adopt previously technology are concerned about the focus on cutting-edge agtech, he said.

RDCs vary significantly in the number of levy payers and the industry's research priorities, but agtech is an emerging priority across the sector.

“RDCs have an opportunity to fill that gap and take a greater role in educational programs. I think they’re coming around and do realise the education gaps they need to fill.”

The 2016 House of Representatives Inquiry into Agricultural Innovation noted a “silo approach” to research among RDCs, where each tackled common problems separately.

​​The inquiry report quoted Charles Sturt University Professor Michael Friend, who explained the issue to the inquiry in practical terms.

“You can pull one lever in terms of grain or you can pull another lever for meat, but often the biggest outcomes at the farm financial performance level can come from the integration of the different bits of the system,” Prof. Friend said.

The inquiry also suggested that solutions should be sought to tackle research projects to fix common problems that impact soil, water and climate change, but noted commodity specific levies discouraged sharing of resources between RDCs.RURAL research and development corporations may be missing the full potential of the digital revolution which is sweeping through the agriculture sector.

University of New England McClymont Distinguished Professor David Lamb said the RDCs are too heavily focused on collaborations with familiar institutions, particularly universities with agricultural pedigree.

“RDCs could be missing an opportunity for a new solution which they never even knew existed,” Prof. Lamb said.

University’s with no history in agriculture could have developed valuable solutions in new areas for agriculture, such as robotics, “but if the the uni doesn’t understand agriculture they will miss the boat”.

Prof. Lamb said RDCs were addressing this issue.

“It’s a rapidly evolving area and RDCs are finding their feet. They are, sensibly, recruiting technology specialists to make sense of these challenges and opportunities.”

Many farmers who are yet to adopt previously technology are concerned about the focus on cutting-edge agtech, he said.

RDCs vary significantly in the number of levy payers and the industry's research priorities, but agtech is an emerging priority across the sector.

RDCs vary significantly in the number of levy payers and the industry's research priorities, but agtech is an emerging priority across the sector.

“RDCs have an opportunity to fill that gap and take a greater role in educational programs. I think they’re coming around and do realise the education gaps they need to fill.”

The 2016 House of Representatives Inquiry into Agricultural Innovation noted a “silo approach” to research among RDCs, where each tackled common problems separately.

​​The inquiry report quoted Charles Sturt University Professor Michael Friend, who explained the issue to the inquiry in practical terms.

“You can pull one lever in terms of grain or you can pull another lever for meat, but often the biggest outcomes at the farm financial performance level can come from the integration of the different bits of the system,” Prof. Friend said.

The inquiry also suggested that solutions should be sought to tackle research projects to fix common problems that impact soil, water and climate change, but noted commodity specific levies discouraged sharing of resources between RDCs.

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FarmWeekly
Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media

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