National Agriculture Day from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

BRIGHT FUTURE: There’s no doubt Australia’s agricultural sector is productive, adaptive says Professor Michael Friend. Picture: Contributed
BRIGHT FUTURE: There’s no doubt Australia’s agricultural sector is productive, adaptive says Professor Michael Friend. Picture: Contributed

AS WE celebrate Australian agriculture on November 21, Director of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Professor Michael Friend, writes about the value of the sector beyond the farm gate and the important role of research across the value chain.

Much of the attention of the first National Agriculture Day (#AgDay) is focused on primary producers and rightly so.

There are more than 85,500 farm businesses in Australia and the gross value of Australia’s agricultural production in 2015/2016 was $56 billion (ABS).

For those of us who work in the farm sector and live in regional Australia, the value of agriculture and its related industries is close to home and easy to see.

The challenge is raising awareness outside the regional footprint, in cities and dare I say it, among policy makers and politicians.

In 2017, more than 323,000 people were employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing but if you consider those employed in the farm input and output sectors, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) says agriculture supports more than 1.6 million jobs in areas like transport and logistics, retail and processing.

That means roughly 80 per cent of agricultural jobs are beyond the farm gate and the opportunities are wide and varied.

Research by Charles Sturt University (CSU) Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley in 2016 showed that for those studying agriculture at university there’s more than five jobs per graduate.

In the same way that agriculture stretches beyond the farm gate so too does the challenge for innovation.

The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, a research alliance between CSU and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), recognises this challenge and we’re working with industry to identify and realise opportunities to ensure the whole value chain is profitable and sustainable.

There’s no doubt Australia’s agricultural sector is productive, adaptive and over the years has developed new technology and management practices.

While National Agriculture Day #AgDay is an opportunity to reflect on these achievements, it’s also an opportunity to consider how we can put our expertise to work in developing nations and tackle the global food security challenge.