Victoria announces AU$15m agtech fund for on-farm IoT

Internet of Things sensors and devices will be installed to monitor and control farm operations in regions surrounding Maffra, Birchip, Serpentine, and Tatura in Victoria.

The Victorian government has announced a AU$15 million investment to enhance agricultural technology (agtech) for the state's farmers.

A trial will begin in regions surrounding Maffra, Birchip, Serpentine, and Tatura from July 1, during which Internet of Things (IoT) networks will be installed for farmer and public access, the state government said. The funding will also be used for on-farm robotics, wireless technology, biotechnology adoption, and virtual fencing.

Hundreds of farms will have sensors and devices installed to monitor and control farm operations. Data will then be uploaded through nodes, gateways, and servers for analysis which will allow farmers to view the results in real time.

The government expects benefits will be seen in the dairy, grains, sheep, and horticulture sectors. It will also hope to improve productivity, sustainability, profitability, as well as reduce the "adoption barriers" it said are brought about by a lack of connectivity, skills, and capital. The government said it will consult with industry on the delivery of the funds.

Read this: Transforming the agriculture industry using IoT and predictive analytics

"Victoria is the agtech hub of Australia, and with this investment we are looking at being a world-leader," said Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford at this week's inaugural AgTech Summit in Melbourne. "Our farmers deserve the very best tools to get the job done and digital innovation is at the heart of this."

It brings the state government's investment in digital agriculture to AU$27 million, following AU$12 million for an on-farm demonstration of IoT as allocated in the state's 2016-17 Budget.

The state government said it is also ensuring regional communities are digitally connected with the AU$45 million Connecting Regional Communities program, which will allow better broadband, mobile coverage around the state. It has previously pledged AU$25 million as part of the 2017-18 Budget for better broadband and Wi-Fi coverage.

Last year, the state invested AU$1 million into SproutX, Australia's largest agtech innovation hub. SproutX closed its AU$10 million agtech venture capital fund this time last year, with backing from Artesian Venture Partners and superannuation fund Hostplus.

The hub, established in 2016 and opened in Mildura last month, offers a co-working space to support agricultural startups in the region. Each agtech team accepted into the program will receive AU$40,000 in exchange for 8 percent equity.

The federal government was last year offering AU$60 million in grants to support "smart farming partnerships" under the AU$1 billion National Landcare Program. It has also pumped AU$50 million in Food Agility to help Australian agriculture accelerate food production and help prepare for a rapidly accelerating global population.


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