Australian growers have always been innovators, which has led in part to Australia becoming an agricultural powerhouse. The nation produces enough food for 75 million people, according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council, and it exports around 70% of the food produced.
Still, more innovation will be necessary to cope with the changing climate – which will make water supplies more uncertain and add heat stress to livestock – as well as other environmental issues such as nutrient runoff from too much fertilizer.
In the future, farmers will certainly go high-tech, relying more on drones to optimize fertilizer and water use, on harvest robots to tackle challenges with labor shortages, and on sensors to measure the health of the soil.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of agricultural innovation. For instance, some estimates show that close to half of the world’s population owes its existence to the Haber-Bosch process, which pulls nitrogen from the air to produce fertilizer. The famous mid-20th-century Green Revolution that introduced high-yield varieties of crops also paved the way for major boosts in food security – and population.
Australians will need ways of optimizing how they farm and making the most of their farmland, if they are to make farming more resilient to climate shocks, more efficient users of water, fertilizers and chemicals, and keep food affordable.