More Crop Per Drop

Posted on: Tuesday, 20 June 2017 at 5:33:11 AM

Article from the AICC(WA)’s Cisco Technology Series special AgTech event held at UWA on 14 June, 2017, sponsored by CISCO, UWA and KPMG.

Moving beyond our reliance on the resources sector, the Western Australian economy seeks prosperity through new industry development. The largest and most important of these sectors is the agricultural sector.   Israel’s innovation in AgTech has assisted to transform desert terrain and water-starved pastoral regions into territory for fertile and high yield agricultural production.

Mr John Cluer, AICC(WA) Chief Executive introduced the inaugural Technology Series AgTech event by emphasising the Chamber’s role in brokering Israel’s knowhow into WA, particularly at this time when Israel is delivering new and impressive AgTech around the world.

 

From L to R - Mr Matthew Beevers, Partner, KPMG, Mr Ben van Delden, Head of Markets & AgTech Sector Leader, KPMG Australia, Mr Tom Goerke, Director, Innovation Centre Director Australia, Cisco Systems Australia Pty Ltd, Professor Peter Davies, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research), The University of Western Australia and Mr Graham Laitt, President, AICC(WA) and Managing Director, Milne AgriGroup Pty Ltd

 

Professor Peter Davies, globally renowned as a leader in fresh water ecology and water resource management research, placed context into the presentation through discussion of agricultural yield within a warming, drying environment. With a current global population of 7.5 billion people to feed, and the need to double food production by 2050, the role of science and technology cannot be understated.

Professor Davies discussed elements beyond productivity such as the protection of natural resources and ecosystems, food security, climate change and incident biodiversity threats as examples of humanitarian risk.

Professor Peter Davies, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research), The University of Western Australia

 

At a local level, Professor Davies submitted that Western Australia’s interest in AgTech can be represented in terms of economic opportunity. The Agricultural sector is already worth 30,000 jobs, and an $8.7 billion contribution to State GDP. Sharing the example of UWA research farms, he demonstrated Research and Development outcomes from crops, grazing systems and farm management education that all fed into the growing productivity of local agriculture. He also emphasised the importance of collaboration in the field of agricultural and veterinary science across the academic sector, citing the CSIRO’s work across a number of academic institutions as an example.   Professor Davies concluded that stronger collaboration will enable Western Australia to translate research into better management and policy for AgTech.

Mr Ben van Delden, Head of Markets & AgTech Sector Leader, KPMG Australia

 

Mr Ben van Delden, an alumnus of an AICC AgTech Trade delegation to Israel, and Head of Markets and AgTech, KPMG, shared his Israel experience and insights into the evolvement of AgTech in Australia.

With a passionate belief in driving prosperity through an AgTech future, and a visionary pathway for Australia’s global contribution, Mr van Delden observed Israel’s macro-economic approach towards solving problems that was driven by Israeli culture and supported by Israel’s business econsystem. He suggested that AgTech was both a disruptor and an enabler.

“We need to lean in, maintain and enhance product yield. Australia is the seventh largest exporter of food in the world. The global opportunity for AgTech from the private sector estimated to be approximately US$189 billion in the period to 2022, in terms of efficiencies, new products and waste reductions. However to improve the value of the agricultural sector we need to make the sector a more attractive investment proposition. Agtech investment struggles to compete with Fintech because the return periods associated with product development and monetisation are longer”

Further delving into the elements of productivity, Mr van Delden discussed the transition and affordability of ownership within Australia’s agricultural industry. He noted greater corporate investment, generational change, and non-traditional roles within the sector for data analysis and digitalisation as contemporary trends. He also discussed the decision support stage that positions AgTech “at the farm input stage”, optimising the value chain that then follows.

Having participated in the AICC AgTech delegation to Israel, Mr van Delden drew on the educational and social structures of Israel that feed into the nation’s innovation culture. He noted the ability to challenge, the safety associated with trial and error (“it is safe to fail, and learning experience is valued”), and the collective sense of pride that is bedded into the nation’s ethos. Mr van Delden was inspired to write a paper called “Dial up the Chutzpah” that summarised his observations and learning’s for Australia.

From L to R -, Professor Simon Cook, Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Curtin University, Mr Rowan Munchenberg, Managing Director, Bankwest, Mr Liam O'Connell, General Manager, WA Open for Business, Dept. Regional Development, The Honourable Alannah MacTiernan, Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Minister assisting the Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade, Government of Western Australia, Mr Graham Laitt, President, AICC(WA) and Managing Director, Milne AgriGroup Pty Ltd, Mr Ian Blayney MLA, Member for Geraldton; Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry; Fisheries, Parliament of Western Australia, Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA) and Professor Peter Davies, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research), The University of Western Australia

 

Mr van Delden further emphasised the urgency associated with Israeli business culture. “There is a word called ‘Yalla’, borrowed from colloquial Arabic, which essentially means ‘do it now’. Living in an environment where security concerns are real risks there is a feeling of “don’t wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow might never arrive.”

“Australia has equivalent science to Israel, and in some cases we have better science. The fundamental difference is that our science sits in publications on bookshelves, and Israel’s science is visible in start-up business enterprise”.

Mr van Delden provided examples of how science was respected and supported by access to capital. He challenged Australian policy makers, and noted some progress in redirecting Australian innovation funds into incubators for AgTech research. He advocated for academic exchange between Australia and Israel, further endorsed Professor Davies call for academic collaboration, and noted the involvement of Universities in measuring the impact of the sector’s development. “This is a collective responsibility and a call to refresh the incentive model”.

More information on realising Australia's AgTech potential is also available in the KPMG 2016 report on Powering Growth: Realising the potential for Australia AgTech.

  

Mr Ben van Delden, Head of Markets & AgTech Sector Leader, KPMG Australia and Mr Tom Goerke, Director, Innovation Centre Director Australia, Cisco Systems Australia Pty Ltd

 

The third speaker, Mr Tom Goerke, Director of Innovation Centres Australia for Cisco Systems, shared example of new business models and technologies, centred around networking and communications.

He noted that the pace of innovation outstrips the business structures and operating environment.

“A technology cycle may now be a period of one to three years. However a regulation cycle may be a period of five to ten years and an infrastructure cycle has traditionally been as high as fifty to one hundred years”.

This lack of alignment can stifle the optimisation of AgTech investment.

Using Cisco project examples such as Network Topology, Mr Goerke presented his vision for an AgTech future.

Noting business models such as “Farming as a Service” he proposed that cybersecurity, robotics, automated agriculture, and digital infrastructure will prominently feature.

Mr Goerke further demonstrated data connectivity, showing how industrial scale networks and data analysis would feature in AgTech Research and Development.

Ensuring a common theme for the event Mr Goerke also concluded “no one company can do it alone” and joined the call for cross industry collaboration within the AgTech sector.

 The Honourable Alannah MacTiernan, Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Minister assisting the Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade, Government of Western Australia

In the course of panel discussion and audience questions, further issues were raised regarding public policy and industry development. The Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC. Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food was present and endorsed AgTech development. “We are keen to invest, and to bring Universities and business together with Government to develop new AgTech industry based on ideas and innovation”.

The AICC(WA) will further develop an AgTech profile with future events already scheduled to showcase Israel’s leading science and technology for crop and animal farming.

A future delegation to Israel in 2018 is also planned to introduce WA industry leaders to new business opportunities and technology development.

In addition the AICC(WA) is hosting an Indigenous Business Leaders delegation in September 2017, which will also incorporate Agtech and desert farming within its itinerary.

    

About the presenters:

The AICC(WA) acknowledges it’s sponsors, whose generous support contributes to AICC(WA) thought leadership in the development of WA’s AgTech future;

 

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