Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Re-emergence of agriculture

Australia has long been known around the world as a leading agricultural nation. Our climate (though often volatile), vast pastoral lands and mineral rich soils all contribute to the country’s high production of commodities like fruit and vegetables, grains, meat and wool to name a few.

In the last few years, however, farming has taken a backseat to mining. The nation that “grew off the sheep’s back” is now growing off of its coal seams and iron ore deposits. With the growing demand for coal and steel in developing nations, the resulting skills drain of farmers to the lucrative mining industry, severe drought and most recently devastating floods, there has been a ‘perfect storm’ of factors contributing to the downturn in agricultural production.

It is always a shame to see once very strong industries suffering due to external influences, particularly when these industries have previously kept the nation afloat for so long. It’s also a shame to see once vibrant regional communities suffer as families leave and businesses are forced to close.

Recently I have been reading and seeing a lot in the media about new and sustainable practices in agriculture that are paving the way for a ‘renaissance’ of sorts in the industry. Based on research and science these new practices are uncovering smarter ways to improve crop and livestock yields and deliver better returns for farmers.

Growing interest in the environment and the food we eat is also driving an increased demand for higher education programs in agricultural studies and food science.

Breathing new life into this industry through research and education can only be a good thing - not just for farmers but for the communities they belong to and the natural environment as well.

This trend really excites me. Through adopting and employing sophisticated research methods the agriculture industry will be better equipped in years to come to meet future challenges – both environmental and financial. Educating new workers will also help to reduce the impact of future skills shortages – in my mind a smart industry is always going to be a successful industry.

It is also absolutely essential for Australia to invest in new and existing industries going forward, because a diverse mix of strong industry sectors will obviously improve the nation’s long-term economic and social prospects – and encouraging research and education is always a great first step.

I am pleased to say that CQUniversity is already well placed to support the future of the agriculture industry, through our extensive agriculture-related research efforts, which include studies into pasture quality, precision livestock management and rural economics. We also deliver undergraduate programs in Agricultural and Food Science which equip graduates with the knowledge and expertise to employ innovative techniques to farming and operate in this always evolving industry. I for one am really looking forward to seeing what farming of the future will look like. 

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