Agribusinesses look to space for growth

By on 21 April, 2021

Space-based geolocation and other satellite services promise to revolutionise the agriculture sector. Image provided by AgriFutures Australia (with elements furnished by NASA).

Improved use of geolocation services in the agriculture sector could add $2.2 billion to the economy over the next 30 years, with satellite connectivity contributing another $15.6 billion.

The forecasts are made in a new report commissioned by AgriFutures Australia and produced by the Australian National University.

The Space-based technologies — opportunities for the rural sector report aims to demonstrate to primary producers the benefits that space technologies can bring.

Many producers are already using satellite imaging, GPS tracking, auto-steering systems and local weather forecasting to improve their decision making processes.

But there’s a lot more to come, says AgriFutures Australia Senior Manager, Rural Futures, Jennifer Medway.

“The farmer of the future will have space technology fully integrated into their everyday production systems and decision making,” said Medway.

“For instance, dashboards will enable farmers to remotely manage manual processes, and interoperable data systems will radically shift the way on-farm decisions are made.”

Many Australian organisations are working on making the future a reality. For instance, AgriFutures’ evokeAG program is bringing together farmers, tech developers, researchers and the Australian Space Agency to boost the application of space technologies for agriculture.

And the SmartSat CRC is investing in a $245 million program in advanced telecommunications, intelligent satellite systems, Earth observation and remote sensing analytics.

“Agriculture’s time is now. To stay competitive and continue to up the ante on increasing productivity and sustainability, we need to look to fixes ‘outside the square’. Space technology is one of those fixes,” said Medway.

Medway would like to see rural industries and tech companies collaborating to make the most of these space-tech-based opportunities.

“Space companies and tech developers are in our sights and we need further discussions to explore how technology can be applied to solve agricultural challenges,” she said.

According to a 2019 report compiled by the Australian Government and APEC, Earth and maritime observation using satellites, drones and sensors, provided an estimated value of $37 billion to the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors in the Asia-Pacific in that year alone.

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