Monthly Archives July 2019

Future Farmers Network are recruiting four members to participate in the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) real-time training program. Courses are delivered in Nepal by the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD).

The four placements will be funded by the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. The funding included course fees and in-country costs – airport transfers, accommodation, meals, training materials, personal protective equipment, and disinfectants.

Two positions are available for the course in Kathmandu, Nepal on 25-29 November 2019, and two on 2-6 December 2019. All other expenses, including airfares, travel and medical insurance, and medical vaccinations, are the responsibility of the participant and/or their sponsor. FFN will work with the recruits to find a suitable co-sponsor to reduce the costs after they are selected for the program.

Raising general awareness of FMD is an important objective of this program and the Department expects that participants will share their learning with other stakeholders (eg. farmers, veterinarians, industry bodies) after the course. Activities may include, but are not limited to, print media and radio interviews, presentations and training courses, distribution of the course report, informal discussions with stakeholders, development of posters and other materials.

Entry Requirements

  • Applicants must be financial members of Future Farmers Network
  • Applicants should have experience conducting presentations and/or workshops, radio interviews and other public speaking, social media, and developing printed and/or digital communication material.
  • Applicants must actively work in the farming industry and see large numbers of livestock as part of their work.
  • Applicants must be available for the course dates detailed above
  • Applicants are to record a 2 minute video addressing the following question:

Why does Australia need to invest in Biosecurity and FMD training?

  • Applicants must upload video to content sharing platform of choice and the send the link, plus a 100 word bio on themselves and their involvement in the livestock industry, to FFN via admin@futurefarmers.com.au. The content must be in a format that is shareable by FFN on social media.
  • Applications close 5pm Friday 23 August 2019.

What are you waiting for? Get cracking on that entry, and spend a week in Nepal!  Read More

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Opinion by FFN Board Member and AgThentic founder Sarah Nolet

Aussie farmers, supported by the research and extension system in which they operate, have been driving the creation of new technologies and farming systems since well before “agtech” was a word. 

Examples range from GPS-guided tractors and new varieties, to raised beds and controlled traffic. 

But “agtech” is a new phenomenon, characterized by the entrance of new players (e.g., startups and venture capital investors), new business models (e.g., software-as-a-service), and new technologies (e.g., robotics and machine learning). 

If we can avoid the hype, agtech holds huge potential for Australian agriculture. 

There are three big trends driving the growth of agtech.

First, technology has dropped in cost and increased in performance, meaning that even very complex technologies are accessible. 

You no longer need billions of dollars or many years to bring products to market, so big companies are no longer the only source of innovation. 

Second, shifting consumers preferences are putting new pressures on our food and fibre system. 

In addition to healthy, safe, affordable food, consumers now also want convenience, premium eating experiences, and to feel confident that products are good for their families and the planet.

The traditional big players in food and agriculture are now scrambling to partner with agtech startups to create additional pathways to their traditional R&D activities. 

And finally, agriculture is a massive and growing industry – it contributes over $40B annually to Australia’s economy and is the fastest growing industry. 

Investors love big markets, and entrepreneurs are drawn to the opportunity to build companies that can do good (for the environment, for people) and do well.  

But despite all the agtech activity, and potential, the industry can be frustrating for farmers. Products often seem (or in the worst cases, are) half-baked, and as startups race to be the winner that takes all in any given area, the spread of similar products is confusing. 

This frustration with the “hype” is not to be understated or ignored. 

Farmers are working incredibly hard, facing levels of uncertainty and constraint that most non-farmers would find overwhelming. 

Adopting technologies that are failing to solve problems and add value is not what agtech is about. 

Agtech is about new ways of solving industry problems. Here are three examples where agtech has potential to deliver. 

 

  • Rapid business model evolution. Agtech startups are bringing solutions to market that break down existing barriers, challenge old mental models and processes, and ultimately deliver lasting value to producers. 
  • Rejuvenated regional communities. As farming continues to use more digital technology, new skills and new jobs will be required to support farming systems. And new technologies can help rural and regional communities to stay connected. 
  • Producers as more than agtech customers. Agtech presents new ways for producers to get involved in innovation. Producers can be innovators, advisors and even investors, helping to shape agtech solutions. 

 

Last year the National Farmer’s Federation set to grow agriculture to a $100B industry by 2030. Technology and innovation are critical to achieving this. 

But embracing the agtech revolution may mean we can aim even higher.

If we are able to export our knowledge, innovations, and know-how in the form of agtech solutions that avoid the hype and deliver real value, maybe we can leave $100B in the dust. 

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James Hegarty with Rabobank NZ CEO Todd Charteris

Mixed farm operator James Hegarty has taken out the 2019 Rabobank Business Development Prize from a field of some of Australia and New Zealand’s leading young farmers.

Mr Hegarty, who manages Ben Nevis Station near Skipton in south-west Victoria, was recognised with the award for the strategic business plan he developed for the operation, after completing the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, a specialist course designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of emerging farmers.

The plan – which 33-year-old Mr Hegarty developed as a management project after undertaking the FMP last year – is already delivering tangible benefits to farm profitability and sustainability just 12 months after implementation.

The Rabobank Farm Managers Program is an annually-held course developed for younger Australian and New Zealand farmers looking to enhance their management capabilities. The program covers topics including global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership and succession planning.

Taking the learnings from the FMP and implementing them into the farm business he manages since graduating from the program 12 months ago, Mr Hegarty has been able to achieve improvements in Ben Nevis Station’s business productivity and efficiency, technology adoption and farm infrastructure.

The business plan Mr Hegarty created as his management project for the program also helped him transition from being involved in his family’s merino sheep operation near Longreach, Queensland, to taking on the farm managers’ position at ‘Ben Nevis’ Station.

Now responsible for the day-to-day running of the prime lamb enterprise, which sees the business turn off 3500 lambs a year, he also oversees a 670-hectare cropping program of wheat, canola and barley.

Mr Hegarty said the FMP – through the business planning sessions – not only allowed him to document and then implement goals for ‘Ben Nevis’ Station, but also articulate his personal goal of purchasing a small farm within the next five years.

“I hadn’t really thought of doing a business plan prior to attending the FMP, but after completing the course I drew up a pretty detailed business plan of where I thought the business could improve and then set goals of where I wanted to go,” he said

“I sent it to my boss straight away, because I wanted him to see what I had done at the course and also where I thought the business needed to go. And I also wanted him to see my personal goals, so he is prepared for us to do that, because I want to buy a small place and still work for him.”

One of the first changes Mr Hegarty implemented from the business plan was to increase sheep numbers.

“In the business plan I had goals like increase our ewe numbers,” he said. “So this year we have already done that by joining an extra 800 ewes.”

Increasing the weight gain of prime lambs was also a goal, with lambs sold directly to Coles at 45 to 55 kilograms liveweight. And this process, he said, was aided by investing in new technology in the form of an auto-drafter.

“So at weaning, for the first time ever, we weighed every lamb and then set targets for those lambs,” he said. “It has helped us monitor our weights better and also monitor weight gains, and we were able to offload our lambs two months earlier than normal.”

This has not only benefited the bottom line of the business, Mr Hegarty said, but also given pastures a longer rejuvenation period. “It has allowed us to spell our pastures, whereas before our lambs were eating out our pastures ahead of our pregnant ewes,” he said. “So by getting the lambs off earlier, it has allowed our pastures to be ready for when we lamb.”

The business plan also identified ways to improve farm business infrastructure – with five kilometres of fencing, two kilometres of new drains for water runoff and 140 hectares of raised beds completed in the past 12 months on an adjoining lease block – as well as, pasture improvement through targeted application rates of fertiliser.

“This year I developed a fertiliser schedule and set targets for when we apply fertiliser on our paddocks,” he said. “We also did some soil mapping, which I hadn’t done before, for some variable rate fertiliser.”

Mr Hegarty said the mapping identified that lime could be applied at 1.7 tonnes to the hectare, almost 0.7 tonnes to the hectare lower than previous application rates – a considerable cost saving to the business.

Since completing the FMP, Mr Hegarty said, he had also worked on improving communication channels with key people in the business, setting up weekly meetings. And he had also begun communicating earlier with contractors.

“Because we use a lot of contractors, I learned that it was important to keep in touch with them more,” he said. “So I have on-farm meetings with them twice a year to outline what is to be done and we set dates for when I need them here for sowing, harvesting or fertiliser spreading.”

This process, he said, had ensured the business is able to get contractors when it needed them. “If you don’t give them enough notice or be organised when they get there, it doesn’t really work,” he said.

Now in its fifteenth year, more than 500 Australian and New Zealand farmers have graduated from the FMP.

This year, the The Rabobank Client Council Southern Queensland/Northern NSW and Future Farmers Network sent one member to the FMP in Christchurch, New Zealand, on a fully funded placement.

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