Agricultural Innovation - A National Approach to Grow Australia’s Future #ST13 [fr]
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources published a report in March 2019 to suggest a vision for the future of Australia’s agricultural innovation system (agriculture, fisheries and forestry).
This report, announced in September 2018 by Minister David Littleproud, was commissioned to the consulting firm EY (Ernst & Young) to carry out a co-construction of the future based on three sources of data: consultation with the local stakeholders, superimposition with future global trends, and comparison with the leading systems already in place in the world.
The stated aim is to make Australia the world leader in agricultural innovation, thus ensuring its image and place in the international economic market, as well as its food and employment security.
Main themes of the report:
Arguments for change
- The current system consists of institutions established over time at the State, Territory and Commonwealth levels. The current configuration is the result of Australia’s history, but also of its geographical and climatic particularities. While it has so far ensured the strength of the Australian agricultural sector, it is no longer adapted to meet the new global challenges.
- Population growth, food security (pests and diseases), climatic hazards (rising temperatures and extreme events), sustainability of resources (water, agricultural land, due to desertification and urbanisation) and new consumer expectations are identified as the main drivers of change.
- The emergence of new forces and strategic positioning are tipping the current economic equilibrium (intensified production capacities in the Netherlands and the United States, a market oriented towards high quality products in New Zealand, an attractive Agri-tech innovation ecosystem in Israel), as well as the global increase in demand and living standards in many countries (Asia-Pacific customers).
- The current system requires operational adaptation to be more productive, resilient and sustainable. The National Federation of Farmers (NFF) has set the goal of achieving a $100 billion profit from the agricultural sector by 2030. Major changes will be essential to achieve this goal.
Vision of the future
The announced changes in the agricultural sector will be more complex and rapid, requiring an agile and interdisciplinary response system. While Australia is known for its excellent research capabilities, multiple barriers to moving from theory to practice have been identified, such as the lack of a collaborative innovation system across the country (isolated initiatives, productivist goals, short-termism, and self-interest focus).
The goal is to build a coherent, cohesive, future-oriented and globally recognized system. This vision has already been elaborated in several other reports of actors of the current system (NFF, CSIRO, R&D departments, Academy of Science, SIA, etc.).
Recommendations and proposed roadmap
The report makes 5 key recommendations, independent of organisation of the current system. The aim is to propose a vision and open the discussion on practical actions to be taken:
- Decide on common objectives at the national level to strengthen the governance and cohesion of the system. Increase information sharing and interaction between individuals, but also between rural areas.
- Redirect and increase public investment towards strategic orientations, for example by creating a fund dedicated to agricultural innovation. Diversify funding sources by stimulating competition and public-private partnerships (co-investment) to attract private (multinational) investment. Develop the culture of risk by using tax incentives or public funds (especially for start-ups). Intensify commercial activities based on intellectual property.
- Require research projects to have a purpose linked to consumer and/or end-user needs and, where appropriate, to address marketing options and adoption strategies. Attract talent and younger generations of entrepreneurs, and expand international collaborations.
- Strengthen existing regions and farm groups as the pillars of the system’s orientations and expertise. Create new inter-regional and even international communities based on common specificities.
- Create relevant physical infrastructures (laboratories, incubators, etc.), integrate new technologies into practices (Big Data, Machine Learning, AI, drones, sensors, AI, etc.). As a first step, continue ongoing improvements, such as inland rail, "NBN" and the "Mobile Black Spot Program" (a federal government initiative to improve and extend mobile phone coverage, particularly in remote areas of Australia).
A roadmap concludes the report, proposing a 3-year roll-out of the new system (2019-2022) to be completed by 2050 (Editor’s note: target announced for 2030 in the official launch speech of the report). This implementation involves establishing a temporary system of governance at the national level, linking the various actors around the construction of common long-term objectives that highlight the recommendations set out.
Currently, research and innovation in the Australian agricultural sector is well recognized, particularly in the area of genetic manipulation (cross-breading).
For example, a CSIRO team (including a Frenchman, Viven Rolland) may have discovered how to grow naturally coloured cotton. As a major cotton producer and exporter, this breakthrough could transform the Australian textile industry. More resistant and more elastic cotton production is also being developed.
Watch the video: Cotton Conquest: Australian scientists discover how to grow coloured cotton (@ABC Landline)