Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford visited Longerenong College today to announce the Government is delivering $2.5 million in funding for the AgTech Innovation, Development and Extension (AgTIDE) Demonstration of Agricultural Technology Applications (DATA) Farm project, which will be based at Longerenong College.

Co-funded by industry, the AgTIDE DATA Farm Project will establish a $3.6 million digitally-enabled 1000-hectare demonstration farm at the college – testing and analysing the latest digital agricultural technology in the grains industry, driving research and development and on-farm adoption.

The project has been developed in partnership with the Wimmera Development Association, Longerenong College, Skillinvest Ltd, Birchip Cropping Group and Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water and was a key priority of the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership.

This very exciting announcement will see the Longerenong farm set up with the latest cutting-edge technology in agriculture.

Since Skillinvest took over the operation of Longerenong College in 2006 there have been some significant announcements and improvements to the college. These include the Trade Training Centre refurbishment in 2010, the construction of the Bayer now BASF $14m wheat and canola breeding facility in 2014, the $4.4m refurbishment of the student accommodation in 2016 and we will see the first international students to the college in 2019. However, this announcement for the funding of the data farm in conjunction with the $578k Education and Training component confirmed by Minister Pulford here in May earlier this year, has the potential to be the project that has the most significant impact on the college’s future direction and its contribution to the future of agriculture in this state.

The importance of technology in agriculture has been understood for many years and the advances in the Agtech space in recent years are very exciting. There has been a significant amount of research into Ag Technology that has led to these innovations. Research and Development in agriculture is moving at a rapid rate, however the uptake of Ag technology by farmers is moving at a much slower rate. Most farmers utilize GPS to some extent and many have had yield map data for years but most rarely use it. In general, the farming community’s uptake to digital agriculture has been well behind its development.

There are many reasons for this slow uptake however one of the main contributors is that many farmers are shrewd investors. They want to understand what the benefit is to them before purchasing something. They often want to “look and feel” before investing and this can be very difficult to do with Ag Technology and can be quite confronting for the older generations. However, Minister Pulford’s announcement today to set up a data farm at Longerenong College will allow them to do just that. To see how the technology works, understand and quantify what the benefits maybe to them which will in turn hopefully make the decision to invest in digital agriculture much easier.

Longy students will now be exposed to digital agriculture as part of their curriculum. They will be able to look at, train on, learn and understand the benefits of technology in agriculture and how important it is to the future of the industry. Longy graduates will leave the campus understanding and promoting leading edge technologies ensuring the future generations of those involved in agriculture adapt, utilize and develop Ag technology in the future.

Watch Skillinvest CEO Darren Webster's speech here


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