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Will human input be superfluous in the digital farming era – lessons from aviation disasters.

Richard Heath - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The promise of large productivity gains through digital agriculture are detailed in research to be released by the Australian Farm Institute on the 23rd of May. Productivity gains will be achieved through automation, more efficient use of inputs, and better decision making as a result of big data analytics. A romantic view of agriculture this is not, and many people raise concerns over what will happen to the “art” of farming. So how important will human input into farming be in the future? Can recent air disasters give us some clues? View the rest of the post here

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What do local and natural mean when it comes to food?

- Monday, May 09, 2016

Anyone who has dined out at an even moderately fashionable restaurant in Australia recently would have observed the rush to include providence and credence information as a feature of the menu. Favoured words include "local", "natural" and "sustainable", along with the name of the district where the food was produced. The question of what these words actually mean came into sharp focus recently at a Sydney restaurant that proudly claimed that it only sourced product from sustainable, local farmers, but then proceeded to list steak on its menu that was sourced from a large feedlot located more than 1,000 kilometres away!  View the rest of the post here

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A budget entrée, but what will the main course look like?

Richard Heath - Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The 2016 Federal Budget seems more like an entrée than the main course voters have traditionally expected to be served up at this time each year. The big issues – such as the measures that will be needed to reduce the long-term budget deficit now running at an estimated $37 billion per year – have been left for a future date, as have decisions on issues such as university funding, the tax system, and the major infrastructure investment that will be required to lift national productivity. View the rest of the post here

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Commonwealth vegetation trigger may open up new possibilities for farmers

- Thursday, April 28, 2016

Over the last few days, the federal Opposition has announced new greenhouse emission reduction policies, which includes a Commonwealth Government 'trigger' mechanism which would enable the Commonwealth to over-ride decisions by State Governments in relation to native vegetation management. In particular, if implemented this would mean that in the event the Commonwealth considered that state legislation was too lenient, it could override that legislation and impose stricter controls. While the proposal might fill landholders with horror, it might also trigger a long-awaited move to implement mandatory compensation payments to farmers for the public good carbon sequestration services associated with the retention of trees on farms. View the rest of the post here

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Ukraine grain challenge a wakeup for Australian growers

- Tuesday, April 26, 2016
If ever there was a classic example of the challenge facing Australian agriculture - and the Australian grain sector in particular - it is the challenge that Ukraine is posing to Australian grain exporters in international markets. Despite the political uncertainty and economic turmoil that persists in the Ukraine, the nation is a growing competitor in international grain markets, and in particular in markets Australians might have previously considered 'ours' in Asia and the Middle East. View the rest of the post here
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What happened to enquiring minds?

Richard Heath - Thursday, April 14, 2016

If you are looking for a new way to waste time on the Internet, dive into the rabbit hole that is Google trends. Simply input a search item or two and it will show you how often that search has been performed compared to all other searches, which countries the searches have been originating from and what other terms have been used alongside that search. View the rest of the post here

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Will ageing farmers limit future farm productivity?

- Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Accepted wisdom is often a dangerous thing, as it provides an easy path for those wishing to advance a particular argument but who can't be bothered to first build the evidence. An example may well be the accepted wisdom that farmers as a general group are progressively ageing, and that this will result in reduced rates of productivity growth and a loss of competitiveness for the sector in the future.  View the rest of the post here

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To fix agricultural innovation, shut down G8 university agriculture faculties

- Sunday, March 20, 2016

There is widespread recognition that all is not well with the agricultural innovation system in Australia, with agricultural productivity growth essentially stalling since 1997, and agricultural research and development funding in free-fall as state governments in particular use any excuse to shut down facilities and remove resources. It might seem illogical, but one way to improve the performance of the Australian agricultural innovation system may actually be to shut down agricultural faculties and schools in Australia's major universities. View the rest of the post here

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Thank big farms and chemicals for cheap food

- Tuesday, March 08, 2016
The renewed interest in farming and how food is produced - stimulated by endless gourmet traveler and cooking shows on TV - is a positive development for the agriculture sector in Australia, bringing with it tourists, new customers, regional growth, investment, and even increased undergraduate enrollments in agriculture courses. But it also brings with it new risks for agriculture, that if not managed carefully could result in major disruptions and ultimately drive up the price of food. View the rest of the post here
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The farm commodity ABARES forgot

- Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The forecast of annual farm production for 2015-16 released by ABARES at its annual Agricultural Outlook conference being held in Canberra this week was quite positive, indicating that the gross value of farm production will increase by around 5% compared to 2014-15 and equal almost $59 billion dollars. However, a farm commodity that is very quickly growing in value was completely overlooked in ABARES estimates. View the rest of the post here

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