The glass ceiling of the future agriculture technologies

Use of technologies in agriculture is increasing, but perhaps expanding faster than the consumer's capacity to understand the opportunities, according to one report.

AgriFutures Australia managing director John Harvey insists Australian agriculture needs to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the potential regulatory impact of technologies, and possible negative perceptions that might prevent technology use.

Drone are perceived as a low-risk technology, potentially high-risk technologies include genetic editing and AI. Photo: Peter Fazekas.

Drone are perceived as a low-risk technology, potentially high-risk technologies include genetic editing and AI. Photo: Peter Fazekas.

"If we don't address these actions, the sector may be locked out of emerging technologies or be unable to capitalise on opportunities that our international competitors have access to," he said.

According to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, self-steering, GPS-guided tractors and other high-tech farming equipment have already become a normal part of farming in Australia, helping farmers be more efficient, save on chemicals and other high-cost inputs.

However, research conducted by ACIL Allen Consulting, 'Emerging Technologies in Agriculture: Regulatory and other Changes', shows that farmers need guidance to help demystify common concerns accompanying the use of robotics, such as insurance, ethics, standards and data ownership and protection.

Blockchain, IoT, 3D printing, satellites and drones were perceived to be low risk.

Artificial intelligence, 'big data', genetic editing, nano materials robotics and synthetic biology all were deemed to be medium or potentially high-risk. The reasons included: perceived uncertainty on environmental impact; price impacts; quality of product and production; animal welfare; and industrialisation and corporate consolidation.

The report shows that future consumers, Millennial and Gen Z, are more likely to accept new technology. "Gen Z only know a digital world, and their impact will now be felt as they start to vote and make financial decisions."

While, some of these systems may not be economically viable now, they may become viable with emerging technologies.