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Suppliers wanted to drive agtech adoption on NSW farms

Farms of the Future participant, Optiweigh in-paddock walk-over weighing solution.
Words by Michelle Meehan. Image: Farms of the Future participant, Optiweigh in-paddock walk-over weighing solution.

Improving access to the internet in rural and regional areas is the key to increasing the implementation of innovative agtech solutions on NSW farms.

This is the premise driving the NSW Government’s expanded Farms of the Future program, which combines an education program with co-funded grants to incentivise farmers to adopt the digital solutions needed to boost productivity, increase their market competitiveness and improve resource management including water efficiency and drought preparedness.

  • Submit Expressions of Interest here and use the ‘Visit website’ link, before Friday, 12 August 2022.

Facilitated by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Farms of the Future kicked off in 2000 with a pilot program implemented across three farms in Narromine, Coonamble and Blayney, representing different agricultural sectors.

The pilot put a range of connectivity solutions and internet of things (IoT) field sensor technology to the test in commercial farming environments.

Farms of the Future Project Leader Scott McKinnon said the pilot helped them assess the producer experience in engaging the suppliers and technology while allowing farmers to experience the high-level benefits of agtech adoption.

“It's not all return on investment and financial returns, although the productivity benefits for some of the agtech is phenomenal,” explained Scott.

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“There were also a lot of non-financial benefits in saving time and peace of mind, or being able to check that everything's running on their phone and ‘be confident that they could sleep well’, which is actually one of the quotes from a producer.”

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Farms of the Future participant, Farmo and its portable water monitoring sensor, the Water Rat
Farms of the Future participant, Farmo and its portable water monitoring sensor, the Water Rat

Expanding the program 

The NSW Government has committed $48 million to the expanded Farms of the Future program, which is part of the Regional Digital Connectivity program, and funded by the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund.

The program is targeted at primary producers in four identified agricultural sectors: cotton; livestock, specifically, beef and sheep; grains; and horticultural tree crops and vines, across the local government areas of Griffith, Leeton, Carrathool, Moree Plains, Armidale, Narrabri, Orange, Cabonne, Ballina, Byron and Lismore.

Scott said the program has two main components, beginning with a comprehensive one-day face-to-face or online connectivity and agtech training program for farmers, developed in partnership with Tocal College.

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“The key to the training program is taking farmers through their enterprise, their geography, their layout and then identify what pain points they have, which technology can alleviate them and what technology there is to support that through enhanced connectivity,” said Scott.

Once farmers have completed the training program and created an agtech monitoring plan for their operations, they will be able to choose the connectivity solutions and IoT devices from a list of pre-approved suppliers and apply for co-funded grants of up to $35,000 to purchase the technology.

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Weather station, soil moisture probe and pasture sensors on LoRaWAN at Coonamble pilot farm

Expressions of interest

The NSW DPI’s Expression of Interest opportunity has opened for existing commercial providers who are keen to become a panel supplier for the Farms of the Future Agtech Catalogue. Apply here before Friday, 12 August 2022.

“We're really looking at commercial suppliers of connectivity and IoT devices such as sensors and monitors, who understand the ag market and have an existing footprint in the market. We're not looking at any sort of new research and development devices, just commercially available technology that is already in the market,” said Scott.

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The agtech solutions are focussed on supporting adoption of on farm connectivity, IoT devices and dashboards for device integration, to support the target enterprise sectors.

Scott said being selected for inclusion in the catalogue offers a huge benefit for eligible suppliers by connecting them to customers being incentivised to invest in the technology through the grant program.

For farmers, the catalogue helps streamline what can be an overwhelming process.

“It's very daunting for farmers with the large availability of different types of technology and different types of connectivity, quite often they don't really know where to start,” said Scott.

“Through the Farms of the Future Agtech Catalogue, farmers have a pre-approved list of suppliers they can choose from, which makes it a lot easier for them to narrow down who they need to talk to.”

Submit Expressions of Interest by Friday, 12 August 2022, here and use the ‘Visit website’ option. Interested suppliers can learn more about the Farms of the Future Agtech Catalogue here.