Four fields where ag start-ups will be most successful

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Elders managing director and chief executive officer Mark Allison has identified four fields where Australian agriculture start-ups will be most successful

Mark Allison says nutrition, soil moisture conservation, pest management and genetics are the four areas ag startups need to focus on
Mark Allison says nutrition, soil moisture conservation, pest management and genetics are the four areas ag startups need to focus on

As the managing director and chief executive officer as one of Australia’s largest agribusinesses, Mark Allison has attended a lot of conferences and seen a number of new ideas come and go.

And, as he told the 1,400-strong audience at the second annual EvokeAg conference in Melbourne last month, today farmers are expected to produce more food in more difficult conditions and, in many cases, without the additional profits one might hope for, due to rising production costs.

So what really matters, he says, is how any future advances will help make farming more productive, more profitable and more sustainable.

"What farmers need right now are technological and digital developments that will contribute to the bottom line and the sustainability of their farming operations in the broader agricultural, rural and regional ecosystem," he says.

To do this, there are four different industry sectors within agriculture where start-ups will be most successful, he says.

"The first is nutrition – how can a farmer boost productivity, whether it is through soil or crop nutrition or in livestock with a delicate mix of protein, energy, roughage and minerals," he says.

"The second is soil moisture conservation, improving the water use efficiency on farms, whether it be through cropping, horticulture, irrigation, producing feed for livestock or feeding livestock.

Elders managing director and chief executive officer Mark Allison
Elders managing director and chief executive officer Mark Allison

"Hand in hand with soil conservation is pest management, how can a farmer optimise chemical use to combat weeds and pests for the maximum impact on productivity with minimal impact on the environment and no incremental disadvantage to international trade options.

"Finally, you have to talk about genetics, this includes genetic gain across all breeds and livestock production as well as in cropping when new varieties provide better drought resistance, pest resistance, salt resistance or defence against weeds and other pests," he says.

Collaboration between the industry and government and a serious improvement in telecommunications infrastructure will be vital to both of these, he says, along with a healthy injection of foreign capital.

"We need to raise connectivity levels across rural and regional Australia to at least comparable standards to those enjoyed by our major competitors, the USA and Canada, to ensure we are competitive on a global scale."

"Foreign money will also be vital – last year foreign investment in Australian agricultural land hit $7.9 billion led by the Canadians, followed closely by China and the US," he adds.

"We absolutely need the capital if we are going to deliver the necessary infrastructure and technology gains."

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