The Australian government has granted A$50m over ten years to the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre to improve Australia’s global agricultural competitiveness through digital transformation.
Driven by the need to feed a growing global population, tipped to reach 9.6bn by 2050, Food Agility aims to ‘digitally transform’ Australia’s food industry by sharing data to build brands, markets, jobs and exports. The end result would mean an industry better able to respond to consumer preferences, with better food safety records, and reduced risks to improve incentives for investment.
On top of the A$50m government grant, Food Agility has also raised A$160m from its 54 partner companies and government bodies from across the value chain, including HiveXchange, Houston Farms and Mulgowie Farming Company, as well as the National Australia Bank and KPMG.
The A$210m project will be led by the Knowledge Economy Institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), as well as Queensland University of Technology and Curtin University.
UTS industry professor and Food Agility CEO Mike Briers said the centre would empower Australia’s food industry and work as “an independent trusted intermediary to accelerate research adoption and commercialisation - including agTech start-ups - to improve digital services to the sector”.
“Global food production needs to double by 2050 and the opportunity that presents to the Australian food industry is enormous,” he said. “Yet we are lagging our international competitors in preparing for a digital future.
“Our unique combination of partners across the value chain will fast-track the digital transformation of Australia’s food and agricultural sector.
“Food Agility will use contemporary agile and user-centric design principles, combined with deep engagement with the food sector, to optimise adoption of digital services.”
Food Agility’s projects will include improving the shelf-life of bagged salad by collating on-farm data with data from processors and retailers to reduce its water content and optimise harvesting decisions. The centre is also working with Monash University’s Food Innovation Australia centre to develop market insights to improve export opportunities.