Dec 13, 2015

PM announces digital farming initiatives

Farmers will be able to reduce costs and increase productivity through using the national broadband network to access new digital services, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

Mr Turnbull says opportunities have never been greater, with half the world's middle class living in East Asia and all of them customers for all the things produced by Australian farmers.

"The doors to these markets are now flung open wider then ever," he said.

The prime minister was in Menangle, NSW, to announce three new digital initiatives in conjunction with the National Farmers' Federation to "digitally transform" the agriculture sector.

That includes a new online farmers platform, the National Farmers' Digital Agriculture Service and a new incubator for agricultural startups and technology.

"The agenda of innovation is absolutely critical to every industry. It is and always has been innovative and adaptive. They have always been prepared to experiment," he said.

Mr Turnbull said the NFF was leading with its digital plans, using the national broadband network to connect to farmers who historically had poor internet connectivity.

"These technologies will reduce the operating costs of farms. It will enable individual farmers to expand their scope so they don't spend as much time going out long distance to check on a water source."

The online platform - which will also include commentary and blogs and will go live in May next year - will allow farmers around the country to communicate more effectively, the NFF says.

It will also be used as a lobbying tool to help with policy development in the sector.

The National Farmers' Digital Agriculture Service, which will be available in July, will serve as an online tool for data collation.

The federal government will also set up an innovation hub - dubbed Sprout - in partnership with the NFF and Findex to help agricultural startups get off the ground. The first round of applications will open early next year.

Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the NFF was moving to fill the vacuum left by the government's failed and discredited agriculture white paper.

"Our farm sector needs high level strategic guidance, 21st century leadership and a big step up in innovation and technology adoption, all things the government has not provided," he said in a statement.

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