National Agricultural Innovation Agenda

Innovation drives productivity growth, sustainability and resilience across Australia’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries. Australia needs a world-class agricultural innovation system that can quickly respond and adapt to the emerging risks and opportunities of the 21st century.

Australian agriculture increasingly faces big, complex challenges and opportunities, driven by changing global markets, increasing international competition, technological disruption, climate and water-related risk and global economic shocks—such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Australian Government is committed to supporting the long-term ambition of industry to achieve $100 billion by 2030.  The National Agricultural Innovation Agenda is a key part of how government is helping industry deliver on this ambition.

We need to position Australian agriculture, forestry and fisheries to continue its success story. Where farmers can easily adopt innovation and technologies on farm, delivering value to the Australian community now and into the future.

Accountability and transparency are important components of the Australian Government’s agricultural innovation agenda. We’re making sure that farmers receive a clear return on their investment from their industry levies and that they reap the benefits of innovation.

Case for change

The Agricultural Innovation – A National Approach to Grow Australia’s Future report made the case for improved leadership and cohesion.

We asked you how to improve the rural research and development corporation (RDC) system. You told us that a one-size fits all approach to reform isn’t appropriate and that there is scope to prioritise important cross-sectoral research on big national challenges such as climate resilience and water resource management. You also confirmed the need for greater focus on improving the uptake of innovation in Australian agriculture.

The COVID-19 pandemic reinforces that innovation is critical for long-term prosperity and growth, and that improvements must start with national leadership –leading the way for a more coordinated and cohesive approach to agricultural innovation.

Pillars of Reform

Through the National Agricultural Innovation Agenda, the Australian Government is providing national leadership and driving improvements across the agricultural innovation system by targeting 5 Pillars of Reform:

  • strengthening ecosystem leadership, cohesion and culture through clear strategic direction and increased collaboration
  • improving the balance of funding and investment to deliver both incremental and transformational innovation, and growing private sector and international investment
  • embedding world-class innovation practices through greater transparency and entrepreneurship
  • strengthening our regions to achieve greater uptake of innovation
  • creating the next generation innovation platform by improving the foundations of agricultural innovation, including data and regulatory settings.

Outcomes and actions

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National Agricultural Innovation Policy Statement

Action: We will release a policy statement on how we will deliver on the Pillars of Reform.

In the first half of 2021, the government will release a National Agricultural Innovation Policy Statement. It will position the agricultural innovation system to deliver maximum benefits to industry and the broader economy.

The Policy Statement will:

  • provide a narrative for Australia’s agricultural innovation system, including the importance of supporting the uptake of innovation
  • help new entrants navigate the system through its many players, organisations and structures
  • outline new National Agricultural Innovation Priorities to drive collaboration and focus investment.

National Agricultural Innovation Priorities

Action: Develop mission-oriented priorities to guide investment and action.

The Policy Statement will establish new mission-oriented National Agricultural Innovation Priorities to focus efforts and investments across Australia’s agricultural innovation system. This will help to achieve greater returns for agriculture on-farm and along the supply chain over the long term.

Targeted missions will help align efforts to address shared national challenges and help Australian agriculture take advantage of strategic opportunities. They will help Australia’s agricultural innovation system increase its focus on transformational, cross-sectoral activities and research for the public good.

Significant stakeholder consultation in recent years has made clear that digital agriculture and agtech should be one of the priority areas. Developing a mission to advance agtech in Australia will boost existing initiatives such as those occurring through CSIRO’s Data61 and work by the newly established Australian AgriTech Association that aims to build a world-class Australian agtech sector.

We will announce the full set of missions and the associated implementation framework in 2021. There is also significant work underway by the RDCs, CSIRO and state and territory jurisdictions on shared challenges for the agricultural sector, such as climate and drought resilience. This initiative will build upon those existing efforts to support targeted investment for the sector. 

Targeted investment

Action: Provide $1.3 Million to Agricultural Innovation Australia to drive a new cross-industry approach to agricultural innovation.

RDCs are the cornerstone of the agricultural innovation system and have been instrumental in underpinning the productivity of Australia’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries for 4 decades.

RDCs are responsible for investing around $800 million each year, with almost $300 million of this from Australian Government funding and around $500 million from industry levies.

In partnership with the RDCs, the government is continuing to drive improvements in the RDC system. The Government is providing $1.3 million in funding to support Agricultural Innovation Australia, a new cross-industry approach to address the big, national challenges facing the agricultural sector. We are working together to deliver a new nationally focused, whole-of-sector approach to agricultural innovation that that will increase impact on-farm and along the supply chain and deliver value for the Australian community.

All 15 rural RDCs have come together to drive cross-sectoral research, leverage private sector investment and to target translation and uptake of innovation. Work is already underway across the RDCs to progress collaborative projects that tackle climate resilience.

The Future Drought Fund shows how we can target investment in an area of national importance and deliver more transformative outcomes for the public good.

In addressing complex and cross-sectoral challenges, accountability and transparency to industry and the broader community must remain key to RDC activities. As co-funders of the system, innovation investments must continue to demonstrate value and returns for levy payers and taxpayers.

Agtech and digital foundations

Action: Develop a strategy to set the digital foundations for agtech

Digital technologies will be the foundation of the next major wave of agricultural productivity. The Australian Farm Institute estimates that full adoption of digital tools by the agriculture sector could boost productivity by around $20.3 billion each year. Digital agriculture will deliver growth and employment opportunities across the sector and into the heart of our regional economies.

In the first half of 2021 the government will release a Digital Foundations for Agriculture Strategy that will set the foundations for widespread uptake of digital technologies across our agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries.

We will continue to work with industry, state and territory governments and participants from across the agricultural innovation system to:

  • improve the sector’s readiness to adopt new technologies
  • build a digitally capable and equipped agriculture workforce
  • improve the use of data for decision making.

We will investigate barriers to greater use and uptake of digital agriculture and agtech and the role of government in supporting the agriculture industry to digitalise.

We will also draw on the recently released Australian Council of Learned Academies’ The Future of Agricultural technologies report in developing the Digital Foundations for Agriculture Strategy.

Action: Work with the RDCs to deliver digital platforms that support uptake of innovation and commercialisation outcomes.

There are opportunities to get better value from our investments in agricultural research by sharing our research, building opportunities for collaboration, and showcasing our innovations to international investors.

We are working with RDCs to deliver:

  • A digital platform for sharing research and development (R&D) outcomes from RDC investments. This will improve transparency and access to information, driving increased adoption of innovation throughout the agricultural sector. It will also increase opportunities for further investment and commercialisation.
  • The internationally focused growAG platform will allow RDCs and others across the system to showcase their technologies to the world. This will accelerate commercialisation through private sector investment, encourage new collaborations and leverage global expertise.
  • Options for a data hub platform to improve how valuable data collected through RDC investments can be shared and new research efforts can more easily leverage off this data. This will ensure data can be used for multiple purposes, with appropriate privacy protection, and increase efficiency in how data is used to underpin decisions.

World-class innovation and strengthened regions

Action: Work with RDCs and industry to strengthen extension, adoption and commercialisation across the sector.

Extension and adoption of innovation by farmers, making sure investments meet on-farm and supply chain needs, will be critical if we are to realise the benefits of our investments in the National Agricultural Innovation Agenda. To deliver the growth benefits we know innovation will bring, we must ensure it can be easily adopted at the grass-roots level.

RDCs can demonstrate leadership to drive improved uptake of innovation. We will work with RDCs to strengthen extension, adoption and commercialisation of innovation by supporting a focus on co-design for innovation where the insights and needs of farmers and other end users guide action and investment.

We will also strengthen extension, adoption and commercialisation by supporting grass-roots activities, such as Farmers2Founders, which aim to unlock the potential of producers and equip them to act as frontline innovators and skilled entrepreneurs.

Action: Opportunities to scale up agricultural innovation hubs and precincts.

We will leverage existing tools and initiatives across government and industry to scale up agricultural innovation hubs and precincts, such as those that will be established through the Future Drought Fund. This will ensure the sector realises the benefits that come from world-class innovation practices that hubs and precincts deliver, such as strong collaboration and a focus on regional outcomes.

The Future Drought Fund is driving improved collaboration and connectivity through Drought Resilience Innovation and Adoption hubs, under the Fund’s Drought Resilience Research and Adoption Program.

There are 5 pillars of reform. These are ‘Strengthening ecosystem leadership, cohesion and culture’; ‘Funding and investment’, ‘World-class innovation practices’; ‘Strengthening regions’; and ‘Next generation innovation platforms’.

There are 6 Streams of work that will deliver on some or all of the 5 Pillars of Reform. Stream 1, National Agricultural Policy Statement, will help deliver: Strengthening ecosystem leadership, cohesion and culture; Funding and Investment; World-class innovation practices; Strengthening regions; and Next generation innovation platform. Stream 2, National Agricultural Innovation Priorities, will help deliver: Strengthening ecosystem leadership, cohesion and culture; and Funding and Investment. Stream 3, RDC Joint investment action, will help deliver: Strengthening ecosystem leadership, cohesion and culture; Funding and Investment; and World-class innovation practices. Stream 4, Agtech and Digital foundations, will help deliver: Funding and Investment; and World-class innovation practices. Stream 5, Scale-up agricultural innovation hubs and precincts, will help deliver: World-class innovation practices; and Strengthening regions. Stream 6, Strengthen the role of regions in the innovation system, will help deliver: Strengthening region

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