Australia: Future-proofing farm management
18 Nov 2019
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and oversight of farm
operations with new
Systems and solutions that manage agricultural activities have
been instrumental in helping Australian farmers to improve
productivity, increase operating efficiency and reduce costs.
Across Australia, producers are embracing technologies such as
global positioning systems and farm management software that
utilise the Internet of Things technology to manage livestock and
crop production, harvesting, irrigation and record-keeping.
The widespread use of technology across the Australian
agricultural sector has created an environment where agtech
firms can find the infrastructure, talent, customers, partners and
investors to grow their business.
Australia offers opportunities for organisations of all sizes, from
scaleups seeking their first international market to trial and
enhance their solutions to multinational corporations looking to
source, collaborate and/or develop agtech solutions. Cisco and
KPMG are just two multinationals that have built a strong agtech
practice in Australia and established their global agriculture and/
or agtech headquarters here.
A country that embraces innovation
With one of the lowest agricultural subsidies in the world,
Australia has long relied on new technologies to increase yields,
improve farm management and drive efficiency. Australian
farmers’ adoption of cutting-edge agtech has contributed to the
agricultural sector’s average productivity growth rate of two per
cent per annum over the past decade.
There’s no better place for agtech innovation than
the diverse microclimates of Australia. With one of
the most open and challenging agricultural industries
in the world, our growers must innovate to remain
Ros Harvey, Founder and Managing
Director, The Yield.
To cater to this tech-savvy market, long-established
organisations and startups alike are developing farm
management and input or irrigation management solutions for all
types of environments, including aquaculture, crops, horticulture
Australian companies such as AgDNA, Agersens, AgriWebb,
AgWorld, Automed, CeresTag, FluroSat, Maia Technology,
Observant, Rubicon, Swan Systems and The Yield are drawing
on their first-hand experience to develop solutions that address
everyday issues that producers face.
‘It is an exciting time as so many new technologies are being
developed to meet the challenges we’ll face in the future, not just
on the farm but along the entire food supply chain,’ says Harvey.
Globally relevant solutions
Thanks to variations in soil type, climate and commodities,
organisations can effortlessly develop solutions in Australia that
are relevant to markets across the world.
An example is The Yield, which developed a microclimate
sensing solution, Sensing+ for Agriculture.
The Yield designed its on-farm hardware which is manufactured
by Bosch to measure microclimate weather and growing
conditions. The data recorded by the sensors is converted into
a seven-day forecast using artificial intelligence and predictive
models. By combining multiple data points with analytics, the
technology delivers insights that enable users to make faster and
more informed decisions about when to plant, irrigate, protect,
feed and harvest their crops.
The Yield’s technology has been certified in the United States
and the company is planning to enter the American market. The
company has also been granted global patent protection for
technology that predicts a local environmental weather condition
or point from gridded weather data, assisted by artificial
‘Our international partners always comment on the high level of
collaboration and innovation they see coming out of Australia.
Australia’s ecosystem is supported by initiatives like the
Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Program, including the
Food Agility CRC, and our Rural Research and Development
Corporation network. These bring together government, the
research community and industry to help our research and
development efforts for industry and community.’– Ros Harvey,
Founder and Managing Director, The Yield.
The Yield’s pioneering technology has been noticed on the
world stage. In 2019, Harvey was invited to brief the Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the
World Bank and the European Bank of Reconstruction and
Development on applying digital technologies to develop food
systems. The panel also discussed how digital agriculture could
contribute to the FAO’s future strategies.
We're excited about growing into new markets and helping more
growers on more farms around the world,’ says Harvey.
Investment drives innovation
Australia’s venture capital market has expanded substantially in
recent years, doubling in total size from 2016 to 2017. There were
51 agtech investments in 20171.
There are plenty of opportunities
for international investment, due to a rising number of seedstage companies seeking funding. In 2018, the first specialist
agtech venture firm, Tenacious Ventures, launched in Australia.
Local and international investment has propelled the
development of agtech solutions. The Yield undertook a
successful Series A capital raise in April 2017, with backing from
lead investor Bosch, KPMG and global investment marketplace
AgFunder. The Yield has also partnered with Microsoft and was
recognised as a top-performing partner globally in the Internet
of Things category in 2017. The company is featured in a global
Microsoft advertising campaign about the power of artificial
‘The value we gain from partnering with these organisations is
beyond simply investment; we have partnerships with major
international players that can share their deep knowledge of the
industry and geographic markets,’ says Harvey.
The domestic market is also a source of funds, which helped
AgriWebb grow its business in the company’s early days.
AgriWebb offers farm management software that digitises
livestock recordkeeping, while also storing audit and compliance
data. The platform enables farmers to improve their productivity
and farm management capabilities. AgriWebb’s software has
grown from a tablet app just five years ago, to become a market
leader in the livestock industry in Australia, the UK, South Africa
‘Early investment came from the Australian believers, who
themselves were innovative farmers, early adopters of the
product and others who had a real belief and support for the
agricultural technology community,’ says Justin Webb, Cofounder and Chair of AgriWebb.
In 2018, AgriWebb received A$14 million investment from wellregarded UK-based agricultural investment firm, WheatsheafGroup.
‘At Wheatsheaf we take an innovation-led approach to
identifying, investing in and helping to develop product or
service-led companies that have the potential to make a material
difference in improving the efficiency of food production,’ says
Anthony James, COO of the Wheatsheaf Group.
‘We see AgriWebb as a global leader in farm
management technology and look forward to working
with the AgriWebb team to further our mutual goals
of improving livestock production around the world.’ 2
Anthony James, COO, Wheatsheaf Group.
Australian governments at all levels are investing in infrastructure
and programs to support the adoption, trialling and development
of farm management solutions.
Geoscience Australia, a national agency specialising in
geoscientific research, is tasked with leading the adoption of
location-based technology across a wide range of agricultural
The agency is leading a program to provide a coordinated
national Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) network
and develop an Australian Satellite-Based Augmentation System
(SBAS). The two complementary projects will combine industryleading ground-tracking infrastructure to improve satellite
Establishing the necessary ground infrastructure will enable data
from global constellations of satellites to be tracked, verified and
optimised for precise positioning down to three centimetres
across Australia in areas with mobile coverage. The project
capitalises on Australia’s geographical advantage as one of the
few countries in the world with high visibility to six GNSS.
Once operational, the Australian SBAS will augment GNSS
signals to set a new benchmark in positional accuracy. An SBAS
will overcome current gaps in mobile and radio communications
and provide a positioning accuracy of ten centimetres without
the need for mobile coverage.
‘A key part of the program is providing 10-centimetre opensource positioning, which will potentially become miniaturised
and smartphone accessible,’ says Dr John Dawson, Section
Leader, Positioning, National Positioning, Infrastructure Branch
Positioning and Community Safety Division at Geoscience
Australia. ‘We have been running a two-year testbed – mapping
vineyards, virtual fencing and livestock tracking, autonomous
tractors and drone spraying and spreading.
‘There are opportunities for the industry to exploit
miniaturisation technology into something like an
ear-tag that can not only be rolled out in cattle but
also other livestock industries such as sheep.
John Dawson, Section Leader, Positioning, National
Positioning, Infrastructure Branch Positioning and
Community Safety Division at Geoscience Australia.
Australia’s supportive ecosystem of agtech investors,
researchers, entrepreneurs and farmers provides international
investors and agtech firms with the ideal environment to
research, develop, test and commercialise agricultural
Watch a video on why Australia is a compelling destination for agtech and foodtech innovation.
Visit www.austrade.gov.au/agriculture40 for more information on Australia’s agtech and foodtech sector and discover how Austrade can help you and your business connect with Australia.
For more information conatact Austrade.
1 The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Australian agtech:Opportunities and challenges as seen from a US venture capital perspective,
2 Wheatsheaf Group, Wheatsheaf Group invests in Australian company AgriWebbto transform the future of digital agriculture, August 2018