Beyond the Rhetoric: A Vision for Australian Agriculture

My name is Airlie Trescowthick and I’m the Founder of the Farm Table. Today, I want to share with you my vision for the future of Australian agricultural information exchange –  the Farm Table.

Late last year, I started with an empty sheet of paper and before any new designs were developed or code written, I sat down and planned my vision for the Farm Table and asked myself – at the very core, what did I want to achieve? What was the problem? What did I need to achieve my own farming dreams?

In a nutshell:

  1. I wanted to build a network that allows participants of our industry to be connected and confident.
  2. I wanted to build a network that promotes long-term sustainable habits through knowledge and innovation.
  3. I wanted to build a network that supports profitability and the longevity of Australia’s greatest exporting industry and the farmers that drive it.

To do all this, I needed to create a place where farmers feel at home online, as this is where the power for information exchange and industry connection can really be explored in a far-reaching way.

Lofty ambitions, right? Let’s take a closer look –

Why connected?

“Alone we are smart. Together we are brilliant.” – Stephen Anderson

Regardless of your specialization, all Australian agricultural and farming businesses face similar challenges every day. On the flip side, we’re also provided with boundless opportunity. The big question is, how can we work through these challenges and exploit available opportunities, whilst mitigating risk and increasing profitability?

I believe that access to high quality information is key to solving this dilemma.

We know the world is changing. We know that in order to be successful, we need to constantly upskill, constantly learn, constantly evolve.

Recognising this need is easy – it’s moving past the “knowing” and into the “doing” that we fall short.  Australian farmers are hungry for access to high-quality data and insights, but, with very little time to spare on research, they’re often at a loss as to where they should start.

There is a plethora of information in the minds of older farmers, as well as in the agri-service support industry, but currently it’s just not accessible. Similarly, new research, products, services and ideas need to be shared across industry, and get into the hands of those working within the farm gate.

I believe we can solve this issue by developing a repository of combined intellectual insights and experiences, that is simple to use and designed with the Australian farmer in mind. We need to connect the insights of individuals to support the greater development and success of the whole.

Why sustainable?

“Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity” – Ralph Bicknese

Sustainability can feel like a meaningless buzzword – it pops up in every annual report, and on the back of every new product. But, when you strip sustainability back to its core meaning, without the marketing flash and sexy slogans, it’s clear it needs to be adopted within traditional agricultural discourses.

Sustainable, by definition, means ability to maintain or support an activity over the long-term.

For the agricultural industry to do this, we need to be sustainable in three key areas 1) economically (see below) 2) socially and 3) environmentally.

To be sustainable doesn’t mean living outside the grid or returning to practices of the pre-industrial. Rather, it’s using new knowledge, research and technical developments to ensure we adapt our practices for the future that best ensure we build and maintain soil health, manage our water assets, minimise pollution and promote biodiversity.

Socially, Australian agriculture must maintain and build its social licence to operate, which hinges on us being proactive about continuous improvement across our industry and being transparent on how we do things in order to build trust with consumers and our communities.

This, we need to do together.

Why profitable?

“Want to make a million dollars from farming? Start with two million.”

This feels like a quintessential Australian joke – self-deprecating, a little dark, but with a clear vein of truth. I firmly believe farms like this should be the exception, and never the rule.

Without profitability, our industry doesn’t exist, and Australia’s economy will experience a catastrophic slump. Profitability isn’t about land-gathering, or paying for private schools, or buying new homesteads – it’s about locking down our individual future’s and that of our industry for the benefit of our nation.

Farmers aren’t normal employees – their jobs aren’t 9 to 5, and cattle and crops don’t care if it’s your birthday, if it’s 2am, or if you really need a week by the beach. The innate pull of the land, often handed down through generations, is so much more than a simple pay check – it’s a way of life. But, this way of life needs to be able to generate a healthy profit over the long-term to survive and thrive.

The reality of long-term profitability in farming can be tenuous – weather, economic changes, even just plain old bad luck can quickly detour best laid plans. So, we need to focus on risk mitigation, education, and planning. Farming businesses need to develop systems that enable increased profitability by understanding profit drivers, and need to implement strong leadership and management support structures. And, outside the farm gate, more has to be done to improve the competitiveness of the sector through investment in infrastructure, policy and legislation, connectivity and research.

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I truly believe we are on the cusp of the next agricultural revolution here in Australia – there is so much knowledge just waiting to be shared. There are so many technological tools just waiting to be utilized. There are so many smart, engaged, passionate people just waiting to connect and communicate with their peers.

And I believe The Farm Table can bring all these untapped resources together, for the benefit of our industry.

By creating a trusted industry-wide ecosystem that unites knowledge, people and business, we can drive innovation and growth for all involved.

Stay tuned for more information and head over to our launch page to learn more.