AFI 2023 research priorities

Published 22 Mar 2023

AFI 2023 research priorities


AFI’s purpose is to lead farm policy discussions for Australian agriculture by conducting evidence-based research and producing publications exploring policy topics which impact the industry’s sustainability and the economic and social wellbeing of our farmers. Late in 2022, AFI’s staff, Board, Research Advisory Committee and Research Fellows held a workshop to identify the Institute’s top priorities for 2023 (listed below). Some topics will be the subject of Farm Policy Journal or Insights editions, while others will be developed into research projects and discussion papers.

If you are interested funding projects or contributing research / articles / papers on any of these topics, please get in touch with AFI General Manager Katie McRobert.

Where are the agricultural supply chain vulnerabilities to cyberattacks?

Cyberattacks such as ransomware, data breaches, phishing, and malware can cause severe economic and reputational impacts for businesses, organisations and individuals. A more informed understanding of cyber vulnerabilities throughout Australian agricultural value chains will enable prioritisation of investment and resources to protect the industry from this unseen but ever-present threat.

  • This topic is being scoped as a cross-commodity research project. Contact us for more information.
Enabling markets (beyond carbon) which incentivise holistic sustainability co-benefits /

Defining an insetting approach to low emissions agriculture

A climate change mitigation pathway towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions is practically impossible without environmental offsets of some kind. Offsets markets have been touted as a ‘win-win’ for farmers (who can sequester additional carbon and sell the credits) and polluters (who cannot, or chose not to, reduce source emissions) – yet these markets are problematic. Biodiversity offset policies can sometimes produce behaviours which worsen the decline of biodiversity, by failing to recognise or account for unintended consequences. Perverse outcomes from offset policies are a real and present threat to the natural capital which is agriculture’s primary resource.

Australian agriculture contributes both positively (by sequestering carbon) and negatively (by emitting carbon) to climate change. Farmers and landholders who sell credits could potentially find themselves on the wrong side of the carbon accounting ledger in future. With sustainability reporting becoming mainstream, farmers must evaluate insetting opportunities – i.e., keeping carbon credits to balance your own emissions – against the financial gain of trading credits.

  • NB: These topics could be addressed together or separately.

Inclusion of First Nations voices in agricultural policy and R&D

Australia’s First Nations people are rich in knowledge and insights into sustainably producing food and fibre in Australia’s unique landscape and caring for country, yet only 1% of the agricultural workforce identify as Indigenous and few agribusinesses or representative organisations have developed Reconciliation Action Plans. How do we ensure First Nations voices are heard and amplified in the development of policy and research?

  • This topic will be addressed in a discussion paper and also a Farm Policy Journal edition.
Who pays, who profits from consumer to farmer as ESG hits the bank?

How does the family farm prepare for their bank, insurer or supply chain partner measuring emissions? From industry frameworks to commodity certification, Government pledges and local initiatives, a wide array of sustainability activities are being undertaken in Australian agriculture, largely framed around the growing requirement to demonstrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials. With financial institutions moving to mandatory ESG reporting, whose responsibility is it to audit these systems? Who bears the costs of measurement? And who ultimately gains? How can the wider agricultural industry support primary producers to capture the opportunity?

  • This topic will be addressed at the July mid-year conference on ESG Goals and Target-setting.
Is Australian food, fuel and fertiliser secure in an unstable world?

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Evergiven Suez Canal obstruction fiasco and the invasion of Ukraine have highlighted the impacts (actual and potential) of supply chain disruptions to Australian agriculture. How secure is access to key inputs such as fertiliser and fuel? What are the opportunities for sovereign capability?

  • This topic will potentially be scoped as a cross-commodity research project. Contact us for more information.
Is regional Australia becoming uninsurable?

Climate change is exacerbating the severity and frequency of extreme weather events and biosecurity incursions, increasing the cost of covering risks. These escalating risks have pushed some fire or flood-prone areas of regional Australia into the expanding insurance “red zone”, where policies are either prohibitively expensive or not available. While incentives for adapting to climate change risks could help to reduce premiums, what happens when the price of the risk becomes too high? What does this mean for agricultural risk management?

  • This topic will be addressed in the next Farm Policy Journal edition.
What are the best prospects for wealth creation for the family farm in the next 10 years?

Opportunities to underpin wealth generation face continually evolving challenges related to economic, environmental, and policy megatrends such as climate change impact, consumer preferences, and industry productivity. Given the continually changing circumstances (and increasing temptation to pass on the stress to a corporate buyer), how should small to medium primary producers make decisions which will not only keep the farm afloat, but also ensure a sustainable and profitable family business?

  • This topic will be addressed in a Farm Policy Journal edition.

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