Perhaps most importantly, the health of each nation’s farming sector provides the foundation to their food security policies. Whether as a standalone policy or as part of a broader framework, each ASEAN nation has its own criteria for providing their population with the certainty of a sufficient stream of food.
With this in mind, developments in agtech have the potential to provide the ASEAN farming sector with immense opportunities, including in areas of sustainability, marketing and financing, production, and food quality and safety, as well as in national and regional planning.
Both regionally and globally, Australia is a world leader in the development and use of agtech. This reaches across the spectrum of new technologies, including sensors, drones, robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as the growing use of detailed data analysis; an agri-robot with infra-red cameras can calculate the growth potential of a horticultural crop many times faster than the human eye.
Australia’s non-subsidised agricultural sector has long been forced to seek new efficiencies to remain profitable. As a result, our farmers are innovative and the sector overall has been ready and willing to embrace and enhance the latest developments in agtech.
Across ASEAN, the widespread arrival of agtech has the potential to significantly improve efficiencies across the entire supply chain, from farm production to processing and packaging. In particular, it could transform the speed and structure of cross-border trade flows, where imports have too often been held up in ports.
Australia is in a prime position to play a role in this, by working closely with the ASEAN members to structure and drive a program to share and extend the benefits of agtech throughout the region.
This could be viewed as an agtech version of the Colombo Plan — driven through a centralised strategy and timeframe. With Australia’s renowned agricultural higher education sector increasingly focusing on agtech research, the program could include training ASEAN’s agri-leaders.