Whole sector future
In core production, mechanisation may replace some human labour or help workers with physical tasks, but weather conditions and plant, animal and terrain variability will limit its use. Core processing could benefit more from labour-saving technologies, but some processing is already highly automated.
By collecting, precisely analysing and sharing more data with suppliers and customers, the sectors may increase production quantity or value, or reduce costs.
The food and fibre sectors could adopt technologies such as:
- Mechanisation: Replacing manual or human tasks with machinery, like motorised orchard harvest platforms.
- Automation: More extensive change of whole processes.
- Digitisation: Computerising information to make it easier to analyse, search and communicate. For example, businesses could use irrigation, fertiliser and yield data to improve productivity. Websites and digital platforms can give distributors and consumers more information on food production and processing.
These technologies usually impact land productivity by increasing output per unit but may also help farmers identify areas that would work better as environmental set-asides.
On-farm and in processing, technology would save labour, increasing productivity.
New technology needs investment, which requires return. Whether the lift in productivity is greater than investment needed depends on the industry and technology. In this future, we assume investment improves capital productivity.
Impacts will be sector and industry specific, based on nuances within their particular problems, opportunities and markets.
Each sector in a future with more technology
- The sector expects more automation and information technology use in the near future.
- Growers will use more precision agriculture techniques and equipment as these become widely available.
- Core production land and labour productivity gains could be significant. Gains in core processing are less clear.
- The sector invests $160 million annually in research and development, partly on digitisation for increased productivity.
- Increased farming scale may mean improved labour productivity: Workers may be able to handle more animals and use more automation and information technologies.
- The sector sees potential benefits in more data connectivity and decision-making support.
- Processing has limited scope for increased productivity because it is already highly automated.
- Dairy processing is moving towards lower carbon energy sources for process heat and electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Forestry and wood
- Forestry and wood production and processing envisage using technology to enhance productivity and create more value.
- Automation, robotics, sensors and data analysis could let the sector produce considerably more with a smaller workforce.
- There is interest in making more processed products, like biofuels and bioplastics.
- Horticultural industries all have scope for increased technology. Mechanised and automated harvesting, and new growing approaches may increase on-orchard production.
- Core processing industries are investing significantly in technology to improve cleaning, sorting and packing.
- Sector focus is on using digital technologies for greater supply chain efficiency to help assure quality and safety, and verify origin, in overseas markets.
- The biggest impact of mechanisation will be in the packhouse.
- Pipfruit will keep focussing on high-value trademarked cultivars produced in environmentally sensitive ways. Technology will enable production, processing and distribution.
- The subsector expects technology will mean higher production per hectare and improved labour productivity.
Viticulture and wine subsector
This subsector is focused on environmental issues and quality rather than quantity, making the impact of more technology unclear.
Red meat and wool
- Core processing is working on innovation for safer and more productive workplaces.
- They may use digital technology for traceability and informing consumers about meat production.
- The wool sector is developing technologies to lift strong wool's value, open new uses for wool and raise productivity.
- Increased processing and product development could increase value-add and so lift productivity.
- Fishing and aquaculture have potential to increase technology. Production constraints (quotas and water space) make return on investment less certain.
- Aquaculture's main technological challenges are improving the use of spat, successful blue water or open water farms, and land-based aquaculture.