Posted October 12, 2018 07:02:50 In the world of agriculture, innovation in the industry is a growing trend, but it is hard to pin down just what that is, says Professor Kevin Smith, professor of agriculture and agri-food research at the University of Melbourne.
“There are so many new technologies out there, and it’s so hard to pinpoint what’s being done and what the impact is,” he said.
Smith said that while there was an emphasis on agri science and research in agriculture research, it was still the case that the biggest winners in the sector were the big food manufacturers.
“The big agri companies are the biggest beneficiaries,” he told AM.
As a result, Smith said he was concerned that, in the absence of strong government support for research, innovation could suffer.
For example, in 2016 the National Farmers Union (NFU) urged the Federal Government to provide more funding for research in the food industry.
Professor Smith said it was important that government and industry supported research in areas such as crop breeding, genetics, agronomic systems and water management, as well as research in biotechnology and agroecology.
But he said research in those areas was still hampered by a lack of funding and support.
The agri food sector was already a “polarised industry”, he said, and while a lot of research is being done in the agri industry, the research is largely focused on the big players.
He said the Government had done little to support agri foods research and the “big players” were getting a “free ride”.
“What we need is a stronger federal role in the research, and that includes supporting innovation and the agro-tech sector,” Smith said.
“And we need to be a little more supportive of the small farmers.”
Smith also called for the Federal government to invest more in agri agriculture.
While it was clear that Australia’s agri crops were growing, he said it should be funded more efficiently, as this sector had a long way to go.
“If we are going to get the biggest returns from the biggest agricultural inputs, then we have to be supporting the smaller farmers,” he added.
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