The Implications of Digital Agriculture and Big Data for Australian Agriculture

Australian Farm Institute

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Introductory

Farm Table says:

Informative research paper covering future digital technology in agriculture and the effect of big data in Australia and the United States. It includes some interesting case studies and the recommendations that should be considered moving forward.

This research document explores in depth the implications of digital agriculture and big data  and how it could affect Australian agriculture in the future.

Key points were as follows:

  • Digital agriculture is changing the industry in a positive way by enabling a higher degree of information, data and software programs to analyse the information. This technology is assisting producers by enabling them to make more informed decisions on land and livestock management.
  • There is a wide variety of technology already available to producers including the following:
  1. GPS
  2. Electronic collars
  3. Electronic ear tags
  4. Real-time crop yields
  5. Robotic meat processing
  • There remains a lack of confidence in the privacy and security of data with increased technologies that would need to be defined and managed before it would be confidently utilised by producers.
  • Three main factors have drawn interest to big data in recent times, these include:
  1. An increase in the amount of data being collected
  2. A decrease in the costs for computer equipment, software and sensors
  3. A deeper understanding of big data and the way it could change society as a whole
  • Policy-makers are going to be challenged in the future to define new national boundaries to ensure the security of national economies.
  • A barrier that producers face is learning new skills that go with introducing new technology onto their enterprise.
  • The cropping sector has been quite open to learning about and introducing new technology into their enterprises due to the high input costs and reliance on machinery.
  • “Digital agricultural technologies now enable farmers to record numerous attributes of their livestock, such as reproductive state, weight gain, feed conversion ratios and killing-out-percentages (carcase weight as a percentage of liveweight) that can be used to improve farm management decisions.”
  • The types of digital livestock technology that is available is as follows:
  1. Auto-drafters and walk-over-weighing platforms
  2. Livestock tracking systems
  3. Remote and proximal sensors
  4. Virtual fences
  5. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
  6. Satellite imagery
  • Opportunity exists with combining data used on-farm with that used through the supply chain so that producers can analyse and use that information to make improved production decisions.
  • Farmers are able to control the privacy of the data they collect in Australia through digital technology with a legally binding contract (confidentiality agreement).
  • Case studies used in this research paper can be viewed on page 40 – 47.
  • Australian agriculture is limited by the current mobile data service areas that are required to use current digital technology, meaning rural and regional areas are disadvantaged due to poor coverage.
  • Recommendations resulting from this research paper can be viewed on page 53 – 63.
2016 - Australia - Australian Farm Institute
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