IT was fairly predictable that Tractor and Machinery Association (TMA) chief executive officer Richard Lewis would give machinery a big plug at last week’s WAFarmers conference.
But as usual it was an incisive plug and squarely aimed at politicians, particularly those fanning the dining boom and food bowls of Asia motifs.
“Somehow Australia is going to double its production over the next 15 years,” Mr Lewis said.
“Well we haven’t got double the land so the only way to achieve it is to grow more on what you’ve got.
“And mechanisation will play a pivotal role, particularly when you consider that one third of the world’s food is still harvested by hand.”
Mr Lewis said many innovations had spurred on industries to greater and more cost efficient production and agriculture was the same.
“Our ‘nail gun’, to use an example of what accelerated the building industry, is GPS technology,” he said.
“It’s revolutionising farming and it will improve production efficiencies which means reducing costs.
“We are entering an age where real-time data will mean more decisions are made in the farm office on what is generally termed a connected farm, where a farmer knows the working status of every machine on his property.
“But there’s one big hurdle to negotiate for all this to happen.
“And that’s the lack of reliable mobile reception throughout Australia’s grain-growing regions.
“The TMA has made a submission to the Agriculture Competitiveness White Paper to highlight the need for improved mobile reception to accommodate data transfer but signs are it won’t happen soon.
“We’ve been told there will be a satellite launch in 2018 to eliminate poor mobile reception but that’s three years away.
“There is a need for urgent action now and the TMA is pushing this issue, along with its affiliates including WA’s Farm Machinery and Industry Association (FMIA), which is a member of the TMA board.”
Mr Lewis said the natural progression towards greater productivity involved autonomous (driverless) vehicles but commercial availability would probably be 10 years away.
“There are the obvious safety laws that need to be put in place and of course, a reliable mobile communications network would have to be a given,” he said.
Mr Lewis also encouraged young people to aspire to a career in agriculture.
“If you’re an ag graduate you’re in demand,” he said.
“A total of 92 per cent of ag graduates are being snapped up every year and not all jobs are rural based so there’s something for everybody.”