31 Aug

Internet of Things Bound for Country Victoria

The Victorian Government is undertaking a global search for agtech solutions for the State’s agriculture and food industries.

As part of the Internet of Things trial, the government has been investigating the barriers to digital technologies in agriculture, including connectivity and the use of on-farm applications.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network connecting a number of physical devices, facilitated by an Internet connection. Devices include common computers such as tablets and smart phones, but also machinery, sensors and chips. Devices connected by the IoT are capable of sharing information and decision-making, based on remotely gathered data.

In agriculture, IoT offers the possibility to accelerate the outcomes of precision agriculture technologies by improving device connectivity and process automation. IoT technology could also be used in supply chain management, health and safety and to demonstrate provenance to food consumers.

The Victorian Government’s latest announcement includes calls for companies capable of building the IoT network for a trial across four major Victorian agricultural regions.

A second call will be made to invite tenders to supply applications and devices specific to the sectors included in the trial – dairy, cropping, meat production and horticulture. Farmers will be invited to participate in this part of the trial, with the cost of joining the IoT to be covered by the Victorian Government.

IoT in the Fight Against Climate Change

Amongst the potential for IoT agtech, is the use of technologies in the fight against climate change as well as assisting farmers in developing countries.

Vietnamese prawn farmers have suffered in recent years with exceptionally dry seasons making ponds too saline for optimal breeding conditions. One trial successfully reversed salinity by adding fresh water to the pond, but this process could be further streamlined and automated with the use of IoT.

In such situations, sensors could be used to monitor water salinity, temperature and even the appetite of the prawns, while a central management system would control system components such as pumps, feeders and aerators.

As changes in conditions occur, the farmer would receive a notification on a smart device, prompting him to action the required task, and with a smart device and adequate internet connection, these tasks can be done remotely.

In all circumstances, the benefits of IoT agtech are two-fold. Production costs are reduced through more precise use of inputs as well as the increase to yields through more informed decision-making.

Although cost may be a barrier to entry for small-scale farmers in developing countries, some organisation have already posed solutions based on a sharing economy model. In Vietnam, Mimosa Technology has leases hardware to farmer cooperatives, which reduces the financial requirement of individual farmers.

In Nigeria, Hello Tractor rents tractors to small-scale farmers via a text message request. The IoT is used to scheduled tractors with jobs and track each machine as its being used.

Sources: Worldbank, Forbes, Business Insider, Fast Company, Premier of Victoria

30 Aug

China Trade Tariffs Spell Opportunity for Australian Almonds

Securing skilled and unskilled labour continues to hamper production for Australian almond growers. Image: Almonds by Daniel Schwen available under a CC3.0 license.

China’s 25 per cent trade tariff on American almonds could provide a lucrative opportunity for Australian growers.

American almonds make up 80% of the global market, while less than 1% of Australia’s crop makes it to China.

While the opportunity exists, it is unlikely that the industry will be able to capitalise until this season’s crop is harvested.

“It is extremely positive for the almond industry in Australia but our ability to respond to it is limited at this point in time,” said Paul Thompson, managing director of Select Harvests.

“The real opportunity is next year for this season’s crop. The industry is planting more trees but it takes three years before they yield any crop and five years before they become cash-generating.”

Australia is the second largest producer of almonds, producing 79,461 tonnes in 2018, and exporting more than 53,000 tonnes at an estimated $429 million. The 2018 harvest was the smallest since 2014, and most of this has already been sold.

Australian farmers have been actively planting almond orchards in recent years in an effort to capitalize on increasing prices and high demand. Of concern however, is the increasing price of water and a shortage of land for future plantings.

Employee Crisis on the Horizon

Another major issue for the industry is a shortage of skilled labour with one major grower warning that a ‘big crisis’ is looming. The almond industry’s rapid growth has snapped up employees faster than they can be trained, forcing growers to use temporary labour to fill seasonal gaps.

“Just in general, workers – from driving a tractor to checking irrigation, planting trees that sort of thing – we are having a real problem,” said Peter Cavallaro from Walker Flat Almonds.

“So basically were looking for backpackers or anybody that’s looking for a job but the problem with that is that they tend to camp down at the river. So there’s no facilities there for them obviously for showers and toilets and those sort of things, so they don’t tend to stay too long.”

The almond boom has also lead to shortages in higher-level positions.

“In agronomical roles as in managerial, irrigation and technical-type roles … as an almond industry, we are struggling,”

The Almond Board of Australia CEO, Ross Skinner said that employee shortages were experienced by growers across the Murray Darling Basin.

“In some areas, it has reached a critical stage where they’re finding it very difficult to have casual labour located near to the orchards and also there’s a difficulty finding sufficient labour.”

Mr Skinner said that solutions need to be driven by the industry at every level, including input by the Almond Board.

“The producers themselves are looking to address the problem but overall the industry is looking to promote itself as a career for agricultural students,” Mr Skinner said.

Sources: ABC, AFR

30 Aug

Cracked: Sequenced Wheat Genome Provides Road Map for Future Yield Gains

Newly available DNA information will make it easier for wheat breeders to isolate desirable traits. Image Wheat by David Monniaux licensed under a CC3.0 agreement.


In a world-first, a ground-breaking, thirteen-year global research project has recently culminated, producing a full reference sequence for the wheat variety Chinese Spring.

Developing a complete and accurate road map of genes and molecular markers is a significant step for breeders to develop more resilient and productive varieties.

Wheat is the staple food for more than a third of the world, and with the global population expected to be 9 billion by 2050, gains in production are required to meet the increases in demand.

In addition to the requirement to produce more food, wheat needs to become more resilient to climate change conditions, such as changes in weather patterns. Global wheat production actually declined by 5.5% between 2000 and 2008, largely due to the effects of climate change.

The sequence provides wheat breeders with information about the location of specific genes within the genome, allowing them to isolate the genes responsible for desired attributes. This allows breeders to manipulate wheat genetics to ‘switch on’ the desired traits including yield, resistance to pests and diseases, and resistance to environmental factors such as drought and salinity.

“Genome data makes genetic research quicker and broadens its scope,” said Dr James Edwards, a wheat breeder at Australian Grain Technologies.

“If we find a variety with resistance to a particular disease, we can isolate the gene responsible for it. It replaces a very hit and miss approach to identifying specific genetic traits.”

While the availability of the genome data doesn’t change the focus for wheat breeders, it could open the door for the identification of additional beneficial traits.

“Our research will continue to work on everything that’s important to Australian growers – grain yield, end-use quality, disease resistance and abiotic stress tolerance, but it also opens opportunities for niche traits that we haven’t thought of until now.”

Mapping the genome was an exceptionally complex task as wheat has five times as many genes as humans. The project took a global team of 73 organisations 13 years to complete, under the leadership of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC). Mapping included the identification and location of more than 107,891 genes and more than 47 million molecular markers across 21 chromosomes.

The Green Revolution

The completion of the wheat genome mapping project potentially represents the biggest advance for wheat performance since the work of Agronomist Norman Borlaug in the 1940s. Borlaug lead a team of researchers to develop short, high yielding and disease resistant wheat varieties that lead to the most significant gains in wheat production to date.

Subsequently, Mexico, where the research was based, became a net exporter of wheat by 1963, and yields almost doubled in India and Pakistan between 1965 and 1970. Some estimates suggest that these advances in wheat production saved up to 600 million lives, others place the figure as high as one billion.

Borlaug went on to apply his method of agronomic trials to improve the performance of wheat and rice crops in Asian countries. For his contributions, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

Sources: Harry Potter and the Gigantic Genome, Wheat Genome, Two (Totally Opposite) Ways to Save the Planet, Norman Borlaug

29 Aug

African Swine Fever Threatens China’s Appetite for Pork

Australia’s reputation for producing safe meat products may help exporters get a foot in the door of China’s lucrative import market. Image by Fanifrank, from Wikimedia under a CC4.0 license.

The world’s largest pig herd is under threat after it was reported that African Swine Fever has been detected in China.

The disease was discovered on several farms near the city of Shenyang, prompting the Chinese Government to order a ban on transporting hogs from the city. The death of 47 pigs from African Swine Fever was followed by a cull of a further 1,000 hogs.

The discovery of African Swine Fever in China comes amid the efforts of Russia and European countries to control the disease which has plagued their pork industry in recent years. Russia has culled 800,000 pigs in an effort to control the disease.

African Swine Fever is the most deadly disease to affect pigs. Once infected, pigs develop a fever and experience haemorrhaging of their internal organs. Mortality rates are up to 100% and there are no known treatments for the disease. The disease is spread by contact between pigs, via animal feed and human contact, but does not pose a threat to human health.

Testing has revealed that the outbreak in China was likely caused by pork products imported from Russia. As China struggles to keep up with consumer demand, it has supplemented domestic production with imported pork products. In the wake of the USA’s recently imposed trade tariffs, China upped the amount of pork bought from Russia, increasing the risk of transmission of African Swine Fever.

Sweet and Sour Pork

China is the largest consumer of pork in the world and it’s industry represents 50% of global production, with a national herd of 400 million pigs. It has significant cultural value for the Chinese who are the world highest per capita consumer of the meat, eating around 40kgs pork each annually.

This has grown significantly since the 1970s when pork consumption averaged around 10kgs per person per year, on the back of the liberalisation of agriculture and increasing wealth among the middle class.

The mass consumption of pork means that the industry significantly affects China’s economy and the government’s policy decision making. Not only is the market price of pork considered in China’s consumer price index, but it also affects inflation.

The Chinese Government has developed the world’s only pork reserve, buying up quantities of the meat when the price falls and releasing it as the price rises.

Potential for Australian Exporters

Despite China’s appetite for pork, Australia has struggled to get a foot in the door as an export partner. Spain, Germany, Canada and the USA have been the main players in the market, largely due to their low cost of production.

Australian pork is viewed by the Chinese as being high quality and free from disease, with one survey of Chinese pork importers suggesting that it is considered to be of better quality than Chinese-bred pork. While Australia is unlikely to produce pork as cheaply as other countries, improvements to the free trade agreement may facilitate future market opportunities.

Sources: Agriculture Wire, Sydney Morning Herald, The Pig Site, Reuters, The Economist, SCMP

31 Jul

Lease Fund Launches $100 Million Farmland Investment Scheme

Investment company Growth Farms has announced a $100 million venture to lease land to Australian farmers.

As the cost of agricultural land increases, leasing farmland is becoming an increasingly popular option for farmers who want to expand holdings and capitalise on enterprise scale.

Growth Farm’s ten-year investment fund will acquire mid-sized properties in high rainfall areas across northorn Queensland and northern New South Wales, the southern Murray Darling Basin region, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, with the first purchases expected to be made later in 2018.

The Australian Agricultural Lease Fund will target properties up to the value of $8 million, with the aim of leasing the land to nearby family farmers. Growth Farms expects to generate a return of around 10% per annum for investors through a combination of rental returns and capital gains.

“The leasing model gives farmers more opportunities to expand their businesses without having to find the capital to buy more land,” said David Sackett from Growth Farms.

“Many existing farmers are sub scale and capital constrained. Leasing overcomes this.”

Farmers leasing land through the fund will be required by Growth Farm to use the land sustainably, employ and train local workers and actively engage with the local community. At the end of the fund’s ten year period, the lessee would be given the opportunity to buy the land.

“From an investor’s point of view, leasing provides a stable cash flow based on rental yields and avoids much of the volatility that comes with direct exposure to agricultural markets,” he said.

While the fund has a ten-year life span, investor support and earnings will be calculated at the five-year mark. Investment is being sought from wholesale contributors with a minimum $100,000 investment.

Growth Farms has managed agricultural land for investors for nearly 20 years with properties across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. With a portfolio of 20 properties – valued with assets at $440 million – the company has made pre-tax internal rates of return of 10.4% for the last ten years.

The company currently leases around 10% of the land it manages, with strong demand for additional leased land. According to Mr Sackett, farms purchased by the fund could include sugar cane, irrigated grain and dairy properties, although favourable market trends and seasonal conditions would also influence purchasing decisions.

Growth Farm expects farmland prices to improve by 2-3% above CPI over the long term, while returns in high rainfall zones have averaged 6% over the last 40 years.

“[Farmland values were] driven by strong demand for quality broadacre and permanent cropping properties, with avocado, citrus, nut and table grape properties experiencing particularly strong demand.”

While agricultural lease models have traditionally been popular in the US and Europe, there are an increasing number of agricultural investment groups operating in Australia.

The US global asset manager Westchester has made bold moves in Australia, including the $50 million acquisition of Milton Downs – a 10,000-hectare parcel of land bought from Australia’s largest wheat grower in 2016.

Sources: Stock Journal, AFR

31 Jul

Pressure Mounts for Plastic-Free Food Value Chain

More consumers are opting to purchase foods free of single-plastic packaging. Image by mcstudio79 from pixabay under a CC0 license.

The world’s first plastic-free aisle has opened in a supermarket in the Netherlands. Retail chain Ekoplaza has included the plastic-free area amid the growing trend against single-use plastic items and in response to consumer demand. Instead of plastic, products are wrapped in biomaterials that compost within twelve weeks, according to Chief Executive Erik Does. Ekoplaza has absorbed the additional cost involved with eco-friendly packaging in order to maintain sales momentum.

The introduction of Ekoplaza’s plastic-free shopping is just one example of a growing trend against single-use plastic. Around the globe, an increasing number of independent retailers are offering a completely single-use plastic-free shopping experience, putting pressure on the bigger retailers to follow suit.

In the UK, retail chain Iceland has responded by promising to be completely plastic free by 2023, saying it is actively working with its suppliers to develop packaging alternatives. Most major UK supermarket chains have agreed to a pledge that will require all plastic to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, by 2025, although there is some scepticism about how committed they really are.

Closer to home, Australian supermarkets have also failed to commit to a complete eradication of single-use plastic. Both Woolworths and Coles have announced measures to reduce plastic and food waste, but neither has committed to a total ban of single-use plastic including items such as disposable straws.

“While we’ve made progress in reducing the amount of plastic in our stores, supported recycling labelling initiatives, and made improvements in energy efficiency, sustainable sourcing and reducing food waste, we know that more needs to be done to meet our customers’ expectations,” said Woolworths Chief Executive officer Brad Banducci.

Coles and Woolworths both phased out single-use plastic bags in the middle of 2018, instead offering customers reusable bags for a small charge, but many customers continue to be frustrated by big retailers’ lack of action when it comes to plastic packaging. Woolworths has been criticized for excessive packaging, especially on fresh food items, and more recently Coles has been under fire for its ‘Little Shop’ campaign, which rewards customer spending with miniature, collectable grocery items.

While the retail sector has a big part to play in reducing plastic use, some farmers and producers are also responding to the challenge.

In Gippsland, beef producer Paul Crock is investigating plastic alternatives for meat in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic involved in the meat value chain.

“Without putting too fine a point on it, meat uses a lot of plastic,” he said.

“It kind of has to use a lot of plastic. That’s the dilemma we’re in at the moment.”

Single-use plastic packaging is particularly significant in the meat industry, due to hygiene requirements.

Mr Crock has turned to European manufacturers to see if any suitable alternatives are available and he has even considered a product similar to sausage casings.

But Melbourne butcher Tony Montesano thinks the ideal solution may be hard to come by.

“Unfortunately you’ve got to use some [plastic]. You can’t exactly have just a flesh of meat. Where do you put it? You can’t exactly put it in your pockets,” he said.

Sources: The New Daily, Business Insider, The Herald, BBCSMH, ABC

31 Jul

NSW Government Pledges Extra $500 Million to Drought Affected Farmers

98% of New South Wales and more than 57% of Queensland are in a state of declared drought. Image by Jussarian available on Flikr on a CC2.0 license.

The New South Wales Government has announced an additional $500 million in funding to help farmers facing drought, tipping the total contribution to more than $1 billion.

The extension of the drought assistance package includes several new measures hoped to alleviate the stress on the State’s farmers. Almost half of the new funding will be used to provide farmers with subsidies to cover the cost of carting feed and water, backdated to include costs incurred since January this year.

$150 million will be added to the New South Wales Farm Innovation Fund, which helps farmers to develop resilience to climate fluctuations by improving farm infrastructure.

The New South Wales Government has also announced that it will waive Local Land Services rates, fixed water charges, agricultural vehicle registration costs as well as interest on existing Farm Innovation Loans.

As part of the boost to funding, provisions have also been made to provide farmers with access to mental health services, road upgrades and animal welfare services.

98% of NSW is in drought, or drought affected and some parts of the State have suffered dry times for up to seven years in a row.

More than 57% of Queensland is in drought, and with dry conditions facing many parts of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, there are calls for more intervention and assistance from state and federal governments.

Poor Uptake of the Farm Household Allowance

Figures released last week showed that up to 15,000 farmers eligible for the Federal Government’s drought assistance payment have not applied for it.

Farmers in drought can apply for the Farm Household Allowance (FHA), which provides a regular payment at a similar rate to the unemployment benefit. Around 8,000 people have accessed the support since 2014.

Many farmers have expressed their frustration about the red tape surrounding Farm Household Allowance, citing the paperwork as a major barrier. Some applicants have applied for the funding, only to have to wait for weeks and months before being approved for the payments.

Federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, has instigated a review of the Farm Household Allowance with the aim of simplifying the application process.

He urges farmers to persist with the application process in the interim.

“I’ve called again and again for farmers not to self-assess whether they qualify for the FHA,” he said.

“Farmers need to use the free help we provide – Rural Financial Counsellors – and talk it through with them.”

“Government can’t make it rain, and heartbreakingly we cannot save every farmer, but we can and do provide free expert advice through Rural Financial Counsellors and I urge farmers to use it.”

While rain is forecast for much of southern Australia over the next week, it is unlikely to make any significant headway in terms of rectifying the deficit.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 9.24.39 am

Image courtesy of the BOM. Rainfall forecasts for the week 31st July – 7th August. (Accessed 31st July.)

Sources: ABC, ABC

31 Jul

Fresh Opportunities for the Fruit and Veg Retail Sector

Consumer trends set to drive fresh produce growth includes an increasing need for convenient, healthy options. Image by igorovsyannkov, available at pixabay under a CC0 license.

Australia’s fresh produce sector offers great potential for future sales growth, according to a report released by Neilsen this month.

The analysis, which was originally published in Produce magazine, noted that although Australian households are spending more money on healthier packaged grocery items, sales of fruit and vegetables have remained relatively flat.

Despite the overall lack of growth, some products did perform exceptionally well, suggesting that there are opportunities yet to be realised. The dollar value of packaged salads and salad mixes, blueberries, mandarins and mangoes has increased in recent years, reflecting developing consumer trends.

Demand for these particular items gives some indication of what factors will drive growth in fresh produce sales over the next few years:

  • Premiumisation refers to items or formats that provide a better consumer experience such as eating quality or convenience. To date, Australian shoppers have indicated that they are willing to pay a higher price for these items, as evidenced in increasing sales of snacking tomatoes and ready to eat formats such as salad bowls.


  • Availability is also a significant driver for sales growth, especially when it comes to produce limited by seasonality. Sales of blueberries increased by 20% in 2018*, driven by oversupply, which caused the price to weaken – attracting a new set of consumers. Availability will also be driven by innovation in production – such as varieties that last longer on the supermarket shelf.


  • Even with the recent price increase of bananas, consumers continued to stick with Australia’s favourite fruit. The trend shows that the role and understanding of price is a significant factor when it comes to maximising industry sales and profits. Despite a price increase of 17% in the last 12 months to May 2018, dollar sales of bananas increased by 4.6%.


  • Keeping Australian consumers informed is a key strategy in influencing shopper decision-making. Australians are increasingly interested in choosing healthy options but are also influenced by food trends. A great example of this is the increase in popularity of avocados, in part due to the smashed avocado trend.


As the focus on health and well being increases – both in terms of consumer wants and marketers’ strategies – the fresh produce sector has a natural advantage. The challenge for the industry is to remain relevant and to connect with their target audience in an increasingly busy marketplace.

Sources: Nielsen

28 Jun

Crystal Gazing: The Future of Australian Supply Chains and Logistics

Mail delivered by drone could soon be a reality, as the logistics industry catches up with advances in technology. Image: The Interspect by Bako Gaboravailable at Wikimedia under a Creative Commons 1.0 license.

The Deakin Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics has recently completed a scenario planning study on behalf of the Australian Government with the aim of identifying national freight and supply chain priorities.

The study involved considering the potential for autonomous processes in place of traditional models, such as mobile driverless grocery stores as an alternative to supermarkets. Mail delivered by drone was another identified trend, with ‘RoboPost’ units capable of using public footpaths and bike lanes to make deliveries.

The study considered how the sharing economy model – developed by brands like Uber and Airbnb – could be used in supply chain management, with ideas including shared truckloads and leased warehouse space.

Other suggestions from the report included:

  • Freight-only airports and rail networks, separating passenger transport from freight
  • Decentralised farming and manufacturing, reducing the distance between producers and consumers
  • An increase in government terms and a reduction in government tiers – to facilitate better bipartisan support of infrastructure projects
  • The use of smartphone apps by consumers to track food provenance from the farm to their plate, increasing trust amongst shoppers
  • Automated, carbon neutral supply chains between Australia and China
  • Highly automated systems, and the impact upon human labour

Findings from the study will be used to inform a new national freight and supply chain strategy identified by the Government as essential to maintain competitiveness and respond to challenges such as automation, climate change and population growth.

“This strategy will inform the development of infrastructure that will take several years to implement and then needs to last decades,” said Dr Roberto Perez-Franco, a Senior Research Fellow at the Deakin Centre.

“So it’s critical we look deep into the future,” he said.

Dr Perez-Franco interviewed supply chain industry experts as part of the study, identifying a list of 200 drivers of change.

The information was then overlapped with four different scenarios for supply chain management in 2037, using a novel scenario methodology developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010, including work by Dr Perez-Franco.

According to the researcher, Australia’s city-centric population and congested rail and road networks were the biggest barriers to future supply chain performance.

“Urban congestion is a problem that will only get worse in the future unless urban planners include provisions for freight and supply chains into their plans for cities,” he said.

“Freight is expected to double over the next 20 years, so industry and all levels of government need to work together to ensure that happens smoothly and with a positive impact on the nation’s prosperity.”

“There is also a lot of anxiety about new automation technologies, like artificial intelligence and robotics, which promise to displace thousands of people in their jobs.”

“Companies and governments have the responsibility to ensure the displaced workers are retrained so that they can play meaningful roles in this brave new world.”

He believes that developing strong brand integrity is crucial in promoting Australia’s commercial advantage.

“‘Brand Australia’ could become even more important for the country’s exports,” he said.

“We can really set ourselves apart as a clean, green and ethical source of agricultural products if we make our supply chain a priority.”

Sources: Stock Journal

28 Jun

SA Riverland Attracts Sustainable Horticulture Development

Image: The development of a large scale horticulture enterprise at Monash offers a welcome boost to the southern Murray-Darling Basin economy.

A bold new agricultural development will see almost $210 million invested in the Riverland region of South Australia over the next five years, targeting the creation of more than 400 jobs.

The development of Coolamon Farms will include the planting of around 3,000 hectares to mixed horticulture, including almonds, citrus, and avocados. The project is located on Monash Station, a 10,000-hectare property currently owned and operated as a broad acre enterprise by local orchardist and businessman Mr John Gallard.

According to the project’s website, the operators aim to produce 30,000 tonnes of premium horticulture annually for both domestic and international markets, valued in wholesale terms at approximately $75 million AUD.

As well as implementing regenerative and sustainable farming methods, the operation of Coolamon Farms will involve the generation of solar energy to power the site’s irrigation requirements. Local council documents reveal that the project will involve the installation of a 26.4MW solar farm and diesel power plant for back up electricity generation.

Australian investment manager and project developer Kilara Capital, is aiming to raise the required capital over the course of 2018, with construction set to start in 2019. Initial crop yields are expected by 2022 with full production capacity achieved by 2026.

Kilara Capital’s Managing Director Ben Krasnostein confirmed that the majority of approvals required have been granted and the site is effectively shovel ready.

In terms of the irrigation, Mr Krasnostein is confident that the project partners will be able to secure the volume of water required for a development of this scale.

“The project developers and equity partners are working to formulate a comprehensive, flexible and sustainable water acquisition strategy,” he said. “It’s likely to be a mix of leased, owned and spot market entitlements.”

“The quantum of water is directly related to the final composition of horticulture crops and will ramp up over the 5 years of development.”

An additional income stream could come from the commercialisation of renewable energy infrastructure.

“The generation of renewable energy, beyond that which is required for on-farm operations is certainly an option. We are in the initial feasibility stage to see whether a larger, utility-scale Solar PV plant will stack up commercially.”

“We will use renewable energy sources behind-the-meter, to power the pumping and irrigation needs of the farm. This will assist in delivering a de-carbonised solution for the growing and production of all the off-take from the project.”

The Right Time for Job Creation

Publicity surrounding the Coolamon Farm development comes at a welcome time after The Murray-Darling Basin Authority confirmed that there was a downward trend in employment between 2000 and 2016.

The report showed that there has been a 37% decline in on-farm employment and a 16% decline in employment across all sectors, in the southern Murray-Darling Basin region.

While some job losses could be apportioned to on-farm efficiency gains and improvements in technology and automation, the report shows that up to 7% of on-farm job losses were a direct result of the Basin Plan.

Sources: Berri Barmera Council, ABC, Coolamon Farms, pp Solar

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