Home' Target 100 : Food for the Future Contents About the guide
Food for the Future
Explain (article three)
Farming for the future
AUSTRALIAN FARMERS ARE adopting new technologies
that will transform the way we farm, compared to the last
50 years. New research is also helping farmers meet the
big challenges of feeding a growing planet with food that
is affordable, sustainably grown, and able to be produced
in a changing climate.
Digital technology is already being used to redesign cropping
methods and grazing systems. It’s helping farmers make
decisions that increase productivity, improve farm efficiency,
and build resilience to climate variability.
Farmers in Australia face the challenge of supplying new
markets in Asia, with food consumption in the region predicted
to grow by more than 70% by 2050. Australia currently
produces enough food – mainly beef, wheat, rice and dairy
– to feed 60 million people, and exports around 70% of its
agricultural produce. Farming contributes $30 billion a year
to the national economy, but according to a National Food
Plan launched by the federal government in July 2013,
Australia will need to increase the value of its food exports by
45% by 2025 to be a major player in the new global market.
Innovating in a changing world
Australia’s farmers have a long history of supporting
innovation. Farmers were early adopters of computer
technology in the 1990s, with many using ‘decision support’
software to map seasonal crop plantings, soil management
and weather patterns.
Target 100, an initiative by the Australian cattle and
sheep industry to advance sustainable practices and ensure
a sustainable food supply for generations to come, allows
farmers to share how they are developing better ways to
manage and care for their cattle and sheep. Farmers invest in,
and contribute to, the research and development into new
ways to meet the growing need for food worldwide, at the
same time as improving sustainability, and meeting the
challenge of anticipated changes in climatic conditions.
One of the biggest challenges facing farmers is getting enough
water. Farms need to not only be able to work within Australia’s
naturally variable drought cycles, but also to adapt to future
drying conditions. Farmers across the Murray Darling Basin
buy and sell irrigation water online through water brokers,
subscribing to market websites that allow them to compare
prices, dam storage levels and allocation volumes.
Sophisticated technology can help cattle and sheep farmers
gauge their property’s groundcover, trace the salinity of their
soils – which is affected by rising water tables – and reduce
erosion to help keep moisture on-farm. Farmers are also able
to restrict water consumption through using efficient water
points for grazing animals and maintaining healthy soil
and pasture to minimise run-off, while in cattle feedlots,
water is recycled wherever possible.
In a project led by the CSIRO and funded by farmer levies, the
Australian beef and lamb processing industry is looking at ways
to reduce water use by implementing flow meters to monitor
usage, and re-using water for cleaning yards and other
applications. The research project is also investigating how
wastewater can be treated to recover rich organic compounds
and nutrients to use in fertilisers and soil conditioners.
As more farm data management services become available
online, and rural communities get faster broadband
connectivity, agriculture will become a major participant in
Australia’s digital economy.
The CSIRO and the University of New England have designed
a ‘Smart Farm’ that shows how next generation farmers will
benefit from improved access to the internet. Cloud computing
will simplify access and sharing of data libraries. Low-cost
sensor technology will allow farmers to collect data on soil
moisture, map micro-climates across their properties, and
plot the movement of farm animals using digital eartags.
This data will be sent via local wireless networks to remote
cloud computing services, which can analyse and package it
as graphs and weather maps.
Farmers will be able to use their iPhones and iPads to access
high-definition video conferencing from anywhere on the farm.
They’ll also be able to consult agronomy or veterinary services,
run training workshops, and take part in virtual field days.
At demonstration sites developed by the cattle industry,
cattle farmers can learn about new practices that can save
money and carbon emissions, and help in the management
of pests and weeds.
When British and Irish settlers began farming in Australia
just over 200 years ago, they relied on European farming
methods. Many of these methods did not suit Australia’s soils
How will Australia’s farms change over the next 50 years?
Sheep can benefit from grazing on native shrubs.
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