The Bega AgTech Days will be the first of their kind in the region, tapping into the technological revolution taking place on farms across the globe.
AgTech, as the name suggests, is the space where new digital technologies meet agriculture and on-farm practices.
It encompasses data collection, business modeling, genetics, transport and productivity in the agriculture industry, to name a few examples.
On March 28 and 29, industry leaders and startups will meet with farmers and tech designers in Bega to discuss the possibilities of this global movement on a local level.
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Event organiser and IntoIT Sapphire Coast founder Liam O’Duibhir said the Bega AgTech Days is an attempt to shift the AgTech industry from metropolitan to regional areas.
“Most AgTech comes out of metro areas, but we’re lucky in Bega because we’ve already got a thriving IT community to draw upon,” he said.
“A lot of people in software are increasingly aware of the challenge and opportunity of agriculture, and here we are in proximity to the farms where this technology is being tested and applied.”
Jess Pearce of the Far South Coast Development Group and Young Dairy Network supervisor Greg Duncan are excited about the potential the Bega AgTech Days can offer the next generation of farmers.
“Our work is all about attracting and retaining people to the dairy industry,” Mr Duncan explained.
“So often we are catergorised as ‘just farmers’, but a multitude of skills are needed on farm, and digital technology is the next one.”
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Ms Pearce said there was a lot for farmers to learn from the tech industry, and vice versa.
“Collecting farm data can be really labour intensive, so I want to know how technology can help me increase productivity and make more informed decisions,” she said.
“But we’re also here to share our knowledge with the tech types who don’t have farm experience, for example, most probably don’t realise that cows get easily spooked by drones.”
AgTech consultant and Agthentic founder Sarah Nolet said hosting the AgTech Days in Bega would overcome some of the challenges she had faced at her AgTech workshops in Sydney.
“It’s the tyranny of distance, while we get a good turnout at each event, there is only ever two or three farmers in the audience,” she said.
“It makes sense that there are not a lot of farmers in our audience, it’s unlikely they would be in Sydney in the first place, but it means we miss out on that potential to collaborate.”
Ms Nolet said developments in AgTech are about up-skilling the agriculture industry.
“We’re exploring what the skill set of the future farmer may be, and how humans and technology can compliment each other,” she said.
“But obviously there is a huge onus on the tech designers to make their products accessible, you need to be able to use them with dirty hands, or with low or no internet, they need to be tailored to their environment.”
Mr O’Duibhir hopes that the Bega Valley can earn a name for itself as a regional AgTech hub.
“We’ve already got some really great projects on the go and some very bright minds in both software and agriculture, so I’m excited to see what comes from the event,” he said.
“I’d like our area to be pioneers of regional AgTech, there is already national and international attention on us from the recent success of Bega Cheese, so I think people will take notice.”
The Bega AgTech Days will include a range of seminars and speakers, including Bega Cheese CEO Barry Irvin. For the full schedule of events and locations, visit the Bega AgTech Days website.