Stocktake of Megatrends shaping Australian agriculture (2021 update)

Authors: Steve Hatfield-Dodds, Stefan Hajkowicz and Sandra Eady

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Australia’s food and fibre industries will be shaped by multiple interacting changes over the coming decades.

These changes will occur at global, national, and local scales. They will create opportunities and challenges for all food and fibre industries and farm businesses. They will also impact on Australian lifestyles, landscapes, communities, and wider society and economy.

In order to better understand these evolving changes, this article updates previous CSIRO analysis (Hajkowicz 2015, Hajkowicz and Eady 2015), setting out five global megatrends that will shape Australian life and choices, and exploring their implications for Australian food and fibre industries to 2040 and beyond.

A megatrend is defined as a trajectory of change that will have profound implications across many areas of industry and society. Each megatrend occurs at the intersection of multiple more specific trends and patterns of change – including geopolitical, economic, environmental, social or technological trends. For each megatrend we provide a short summary, identify key implications for Australian agriculture, food and fibre industries, and suggest some further readings (with reference details provided below).

The aim of this Insights article is to help individuals, enterprises, sectors, and governments to explore and better prepare for an uncertain future, including through making choices and developing strategies that are tailored to their specific context and objectives, to harness emerging trends and opportunities while managing key uncertainties and risks.

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The authors thank Fred Litchfield, Greg Richardson and David Sibley for their assistance with data, figures, drafting and design of the paper. We also thank the many staff and scientists from ABARES, CSIRO, DAWE and other APS agencies who provided comments on the draft report.


Steve Hatfield-Dodds

Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds joined ABARES as Executive Director in August 2017.
Over the past 30 years, he has worked in government policy agencies, research and private consulting, focusing on natural resource management, global change and sustainable prosperity.
He has published in journals including Nature and Science and is an honorary Professor of Public Policy at the Crawford School, Australian National University.

Stefan Hajkowicz

Dr Stefan Hajkowicz is director of CSIRO’s Data61 Insights team and a senior principal scientist in the field of data-driven strategy and foresight, which seeks to help governments, companies and communities explore plausible futures and make wise choices. His 2015 book on Global Megatrends is one of CSIRO Publishing’s best-sellers in its category.
He is a past member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Foresight Community and current a member of the OECD Government Foresight Community.
Stefan’s current work is focused on artificial intelligence strategy and policy-levers to catalyse the growth of digital industries.

Sandra Eady

Dr Sandra Eady is a CSIRO Post-Retirement Fellow following a 23 year career with CSIRO initially as a livestock geneticist with expertise in developing national breeding programs, a career which expanded into supply chain management, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation in the land sector, environmental impact assessment and the application of life cycle assessment to Australian crops to enable access to EU markets.

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Last reviewed: 25 February 2021
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