by George Nott

Tech driving rise of new agricultural industries

Aug 06, 2019
CareersCollaboration SoftwareDigital Transformation

A report resulting from three years’ research by Queensland University of Technology has identified a number of new agricultural industries that will be arriving as a result of emerging technologies.

Among them the provision of automation-as-a-service for agricultural technology, automation consultancies, and services related to data-driven ‘decision agriculture’.

A total of twenty four potential new agriculture industries were placed on the ‘watchlist’ in the report – Horizon Scanning: Opportunities for New Technologies and Industries – which was backed by Federal Government statutory authority AgriFutures Australia.

Although some of the new industries were not technology-related – such as medicinal marijuana, hemp milk, insect farming, and wild camel harvesting – many were driven by data, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

“In the agriculture sector particularly, we know that emerging technologies have a range of possible impacts on the emergence of new industries,” said John Harvey, managing director of AgriFutures Australia.

“In some cases, the role is to enhance the viability of existing industries, such as through improving productivity and efficiency. In others, technology assumes a transformational role, developing entirely new ways of doing things and facilitating new products to address both growing and emerging markets,” he added.

The rise of providers of pay-per-use and subscription services related to automated agricultural technology; knowledge-based firms that support the large-scale adoption of automation; a product and service industry developing digital, on-farm decision-making platforms; and digital supply-chain system makers is to be expected in coming years, the report said.

Operators that provide edge computing devices – such as in-field sensors, gateways, agbots and drones – as a managed service specifically to the agricultural sector; as well as farmyard machinery repair and maintenance services that rely on 3D printing, are also expected to arrive in the near future.

“Many of the technologies and new industries identified through the scans have obvious application, others may require a leap of faith to understand the potential impact they can have on individual farm businesses or agricultural industries,” said QUT researcher and lead author of the report, Dr Grant Hamilton.

“It takes a highly innovative business or individual to realise those opportunities but the payoff can definitely be worth it,” he said.

The report also compiles a list of 39 emerging technologiesthat will bring benefit to farmers over the next decade.

Among them: wearable user interfaces, 5G, natural language interfaces, quantum computing, human-in-the-loop machine learning, computer vision, collaborative robots, context-aware computing, human augmentation and brain-computer interfaces.

“This number and variety of technologies demonstrates the openness to technology innovation and technology transferability within the rural industries,” said AgriFutures Australia senior manager, business development Jennifer Medway.

“We are already starting to see the benefits of autonomous robotics and human physical augmentation technologies in improving productivity and the safety of workers in repetitive and physically demanding tasks. As the future of work takes shape over the coming decades, these technologies will be essential in driving on-farm transformation,”she added.