Information and communication technology use in Australian agriculture

​​​A survey of broadacre, dairy and vegetable farms

Niki Dufty and Thomas Jackson

Summary

New information and communications technology (ICT) could deliver the next wave of productivity growth in Australian agriculture. ICT includes all digital technologies that facilitate the electronic capture, processing, storage and exchange of information.

To better understand the role of ICT in Australian agriculture and potential barriers to its use, ABARES surveyed over 2,200 farmers in 2016–17. Results from this survey are presented here for broadacre, dairy and vegetable farms.

Replacement value of ICT assets held, average per farm, by industry, 2016-17
ICT as a share of plant and equipment asset value and share of plant and equipment expenditure is presented by industry (grains, beef & sheep, dairy and vegetables)  On grains farms, ICT as a share of plant and equipment assets was the highest for all industries, but the share of plant and equipment expenditure was the smallest in 2016-17. Vegetable farms, followed by dairy, and beef and sheep farms had the greatest share of expenditure on ICT in 2016-17.
a Data reported for vegetables is for 2015–16.

Key findings

  • The overwhelming majority (96 per cent) of Australian farmers owned and used ICT assets, and 95 per cent were connected to the internet.
  • Farmers used ICT for production activities, internet commerce, obtaining information and household purposes.
  • Larger farms were more likely to invest in and use ICT than their smaller counterparts.
  • ICT assets represented a relatively small share of total capital assets on most farms—this technology likely performs an enabling role to make other assets more productive and lift overall business efficiency.
  • ICT applications on farms varied between industries. For example, GPS-enabled technologies are widely used on vegetable and grain farms, and electronic identification and herd management tools are commonly used on dairy farms.
  • Reported obstacles to adoption of ICT included skills, internet access, cost and availability of useful new technologies. The relative importance of these constraints varied with industry and farm size. For example, a lack of skills was most commonly reported as an impediment by the owners of small farms, particularly those in the livestock industry.
  • The availability and quality of internet services influences farmers’ access to and use of ICT. Farmers in relatively remote areas using mobile phone or satellite-based internet connections were more likely to report inadequate internet access as an impediment to their use of ICT and to the operation of their businesses more generally.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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