AI brings opportunities and challenges for agriculture

Speaker Nina Schick told an agrifood tech conference in Perth that AI may be key to meeting food production needs.

Speaker Nina Schick told an agrifood tech conference in Perth that AI may be key to meeting food production needs. Photo: AAP

Producers must take advantage of artificial intelligence to feed a growing global population.

Addressing a major agrifood tech conference, AI expert Nina Schick said the world is at a unique turning point because of the pace at which exponential technologies are being developed.

“Food production and efficiency needs to go up at the same time when the limits of our planet are being reached,” said Schick, who delivered a keynote speech at the evokeAg event.

“The biggest opportunity is can we leverage AI and other associated technologies to be able to deliver better on that promise for sustainable and productive food.”

The audience was told embracing ag tech and innovation is key to dealing with sustainability in the agriculture sector.

“Australia’s always been a world leader when it comes to agricultural technology,” federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said on the opening day of the evokeAg conference.

“It’s one of the reasons why our sector’s become so much more productive and profitable,” he said.

More than 1000 delegates from 19 countries have descended on Perth for the two-day conference.

Delivering one of the keynote speeches, Senator Watt also announced the opening of a $45 million partnerships and innovation grant opportunity.

The grants are designed to help innovators build their knowledge in responding to the impacts of climate change.

“We’re delivering on immediate needs and we’re planning ahead to take the sector forward, with technology and innovation at the core,” Senator Watt told the conference.

The audience was also told how exponential technologies are coming faster and faster, with the need for producers and those in the ag sector to adapt.

“There are huge challenges ahead, but also huge opportunities, and I think that AI is going to be an integral part of ensuring you can make that transition,” Schick said in her keynote speech.

Start-ups, investors, producers and innovators are among those at the conference.

Matthew Pryor from Tenacious Ventures, which helps raise capital for companies in the food supply chain, said evokeAg was an important tool for start-ups to gain traction.

“It’s an opportunity for Australian early-stage companies to really shine and get national attention,” Pryor said.

“AI is just scratching the surface of what will become a really important tool.”

John Pattinson, from former agricultural start-up Goanna Ag, said the company had expanded into the United States since gaining exposure at the event.

“We have had commercial partnerships that are as a direct result of evokeAg,” Pattinson told AAP.

While in Western Australia, Senator Watt met with sheep producers who are furious about the Albanese government’s planned phasing out of live exports.

Farmers have also been unhappy about the handling of the livestock export ship MV Bahijah, which was forced to return to port in the state this month after five-and-a-half weeks at sea.

“It was a respectful meeting that gave me a chance to set the record straight on the department’s handling of the MV Bahijah issue,” Watt said.

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