Ag Tech

What producers should check before investing in agtech

Andrew Coppin, September 2, 2021

Farmbot managing director and founding director of the Australian Agtech Association, Andrew Coppin

AS the value of adopting on-farm agricultural technology continues to be realised, a range of government incentives are being rolled-out to encourage primary producers to invest in agtech.

In South Australia, The Livestock AgTech Adoption Rebate provides funding to South Australian livestock producers to help them adopt technology, to enable productivity and efficiency gains. The rebate can be used for anything from electronic identification, data management software and water and soil telemetry.

And over in Western Australia, agriculture minister Alannah MacTiernan announced a $15 million boost for carbon farming projects which help farmers enter the carbon market and drive farm profitability.

At the Federal Government level,  there has been an extension of the instant asset write-off scheme to 30 June 2023, also providing opportunity for agribusinesses to make on-farm investments.

As opportunities for producers to invest in agtech have continued to expand, so too has the industry itself.

Producers are now faced with a burgeoning field of providers offering a vast array of solutions to choose from and many compelling use cases.

To find the solution that’s right for individual needs, producers should approach buying agtech in the same way as buying any piece of equipment or infrastructure, including undertaking due diligence.

When choosing an agtech provider, ask to talk to a customer who is already using the technology you’re considering.

Other key questions to ask include:

  • How many devices they have deployed, and do they have any operating in your region?
  • When considering the actual agtech product or service, check with the provider to see if it is a complete solution, or just a piece of hardware that will require other elements to actually work and fulfil its purpose.
  • Can the device work with a computer as soon as it’s connected – known in the tech industry as ‘plug and play’ – or is a technician required to visit on-farm to install the agtech? If a technician is required, this can involve additional hidden set up costs
  • Is there a set-up fee involved, and will there be ongoing costs and maintenance?
  • Is after-sales support available if needed and where are they located?

Further to these questions, check if the agtech is fit for purpose. For example, is a device robust enough to withstand being installed out in the elements in a paddock with livestock? Or if you’re wanting to capture data in real-time, does the technology have the ability to fulfil this requirement?

This leads to another critical consideration – the reliability of connectivity. As many producers are acutely aware, connectivity can be a challenge in rural areas where it is unreliable, slow or unavailable.

If you want a device to constantly be collecting data, then reliable, connection is obviously vital – ask the provider whether satellite options are available. If the product has been produced with rural connectivity restraints in mind, they will offer satellite which works all across Australia.

By asking some key questions, your investment in agtech will enable your business to innovate and become more productive, sustainable and ultimately, profitable.

 

* Andrew Coppin is a founding director of The Australian Agtech Association (www.ausagtech.org) and managing director of Farmbot.

 

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