How do we support the agribusiness industry in Wanneroo through transformation? This is the fourth part of a feature on the Wanneroo Jobs Summit 2018. The City of Wanneroo welcomes your feedback and comments.
AS Perth’s population edges ever closer to 3.5 million, the sustainability of its food arc will be an increasing priority.
According to the 2015-2016 ABS Agricultural Census, the City of Wanneroo supplies significant percentages of agricultural produce for the Perth region.
For example, our local farmers are producing:
- 100% of its sweetcorn;
- 89% of its tomatoes;
- 86% of its avocadoes; and
- 51% of its strawberries.
The City’s access to agricultural land, niche growing conditions and biosecurity (that is, protections from diseases or pests in crops and livestock) – along with its connection to regional centres and proximity to markets – sets it apart from other Perth outer metro councils.
Certainly, agribusiness in Wanneroo is on a firm footing to embrace future-facing opportunities in the sector.
This said, it is also no secret that digital transformation is disrupting the agricultural industry globally.
These days farming is synonymous with technology at every turn.
Farmers are using drones, driverless tractors, tracking livestock with wearable technology, and adopting big data analytics for real-time decision making.
Tech trends such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics are already having a big impact on the way agricultural operations are being run.
AgTech solutions increase efficiency and yield, and as such are replacing traditionally held farming practices.
KPMG reports indicate that Australia’s emerging AgTech sector could be worth a whopping $183 billion between 2013 and 2022.
What’s more, AgTech innovations nationally are attracting venture capital tipped to exceed $1.5 billion.
These developments bring with them a relative urgency to understand the various challenges and opportunities which inevitably accompany this shift.
Getting a clear and timely handle on these will empower the City of Wanneroo to proactively and strategically support local agribusiness as the future unfolds.
With the City’s commitment to creating 100,000 new jobs, it could be reasonable to expect that growth in the agribusiness sector carries with it growth in employment numbers.
Innovations in agriculture are however also catalysts for change in the nature and scope of farming related jobs.
Whilst many existing roles may change or disappear, new supporting industries will emerge bringing with them new job categories which require fresh skill sets.
The City’s recent Job Summit highlighted areas such as this, where the agribusiness industry can be supported through transformation, and included:
- Water security
Water is a major limiting factor for agricultural production. In a drying climate its sustainable use is a priority. Industry leaders present at the Summit agreed that adequate allocation of this resource for farming into the future lies in innovation, conservation and collaboration among all stakeholders.
- Land use zoning
Zoning protections for agricultural land are needed. Designated agri-precincts will keep precious farming land from being lost to urban encroachment as the City’s population continues to grow.
- North of Perth “Food Bowl”
As Perth’s population grows, so does our need for a secure food supply. With adequate planning and careful strategy, Wanneroo has the potential to firmly establish itself as Perth’s “Food Bowl”. Capitalising further through exports to other growing populations nationally and internationally could present additional opportunity.
- Smart agribusiness
Risks in innovation can be mitigated by exploring successes in AgriTech application (and related upskilling) which have been rolled out in other global locations. Drawing lessons from these to apply to our own context can assist in managing the shift from traditional farming jobs to developing relevant expertise in technology and robotics locally. With the City’s close proximity to research institutions and the Perth metropolitan, there is potential for Wanneroo to become a ‘test bed’ for agriculture technology.
- Connection, Collaboration, and Cooperation
Continuing to build a strong connection with indigenous corporations, and aligning with the longstanding approach of “caring for country, caring for people” will help move the City towards its vision for the local agriculture industry.
Engaging with the community is also central. Linking residents and stakeholders under a shared vision of what the City’s “food future” can potentially look like, will translate to shared values and helpful momentum towards reaching desired goals.
Finally, inviting agribusiness stakeholders to collaborate, along with encouraging the creation of successful co-ops to address recognised challenges will be a major element in achieving the best possible future for agriculture in the City of Wanneroo.
As we delve into this new brave world of 21st century agribusiness, it’s important to note the strong advantages to innovative developments in the sector, where we all benefit.
In meeting the aforementioned challenges, these digital advancements give us tools to help us prepare for the future – from water and viable land scarcity, to efficiencies and quality control in fresh food production.
With the City of Wanneroo, industry stakeholders, government partners and the community working together to support local agribusiness in taking its best next steps, we are all set to reap the benefits in the years ahead.
To comment or for enquiries email ConnectWanneroo@wanneroo.wa.gov.au