FMC hosts third National Ag Day event

Dec. 16, 2022 | 5 Min read
FMC's hosted its third annual National Ag Day lunch, bringing together agribusiness, peak industry organisations, a major supermarket chain, and agtech companies – all supporting the theme of sustaining innovation in agriculture.

FMC's hosted its third annual National Ag Day lunch, bringing together agribusiness, peak industry organisations, a major supermarket chain, and agtech companies – all supporting the theme of sustaining innovation in agriculture.

National Ag Day is an opportunity to celebrate Australia's farm sector and the world-class food and fibre grown in Australia. It also underscores the ag sector’s goal to achieve $100b in agricultural production by 2030.

The setting was La Botanique restaurant in Botany near Sydney airport, and was catered for by celebrity chef, Manu Fieldel – who was himself a guest at the event.

FMC’s ANZ, ASEAN and APAC sustainability communications lead, Georgia Greaves, said FMC was thrilled with how the annual event went and the feedback received from participants had been extremely positive.

The gathering of ag industry leaders – and potential future leaders – included participants in FMC’s LEAD (Learn Evolve Apply Develop) scholarship program, designed to encourage aspiring female leaders in the agriculture industry, aged between 18–35 to network and develop their skills through a formal program.

The group engaged in some interesting discussion on innovations they have been involved with during their agricultural careers as suppliers, advisors, industry groups, technology developers, or while farming.

FMC’s head of marketing Chris van der Hoven probably best summed up the event with the observation: “What struck me about the group conversion is how interchangeable the terms: ‘innovation’ and ‘sustainability’ have become.

“We are at an interesting junction in our journey, poised to observe whether sustainability becomes the driver for innovation, or innovation delivers greater sustainability. Either way, there is no turning back.”

This was especially poignant given the challenges posed by climate change, threats to Australia’s biosecurity, and external forces on agriculture imposed by consumers.

NFF vice president and farmer, David Jochinke emphasised farmers’ need to have continued access to innovative and affordable products such as new crop protection chemicals and the need to be assisted in their implementation to help manage risks.

It was also impossible to ignore the connections between rapidly developing agtech innovations and greater productivity and sustainability of the agricultural sector.

Guests included agtech participants, Andrea Koch – principal of Agtech Ideation; Sarah Nolet – founder and CEO of Agthentic; Steve Scheding – cofounder of Green Atlas; Jason Chaffey – CEO of Growave; and Nancy Schellhorn – CEO of the CSIRO-developed RapidAIM digital insect sensing technology – all whom spoke of how agtech and innovation was changing farming.

Another aspect of innovation was addressed by Richard Heath of the Australian Farm Institute who said it was important not to be insular and to have an outward-looking perspective to learn from agricultural producers in other countries.

When Mr Heath was farming, he participated in a Nuffield Scholarship program on fertiliser use efficiency which changed the way fertilisers were used throughout the growing season instead of only being applied up-front at planting.

He is now involved in a global forum for farm policy and innovation which gathers ideas from around the world to share evidence-based farming innovations.

Cotton Australia’s CEO, Adam Kay, said similar lessons had been learned in India about how to manage white fly in cotton, while CSIRO-developed gene technology had revolutionised the cotton industry, leading to a 90% reduction in pesticide use.

The human aspect of innovation and sustainability was also canvassed, with Savannah Coddington – LEAD scholar and HR and WHS Advisor at Delta Ag speaking on the need to attract, incentivise and retain labour and talent in the ag sector.

Another important aspect of sustainability was the mental well-being of farmers in the face of droughts, floods, and the uncertainty of farming, including the disruptions of COVID.

Colin Bettles of Grain Producers Australia said it was important for agribusiness organisations to give back to the ag sector and referred to a successful partnership with cricketer Brad Hogg as an ambassador for Lifeline to raise awareness of mental health issues, as well as other initiatives such as Rural Aid to support the sustainability farming communities during difficult times.

Peter Arkle from NSW Farmers also spoke of the ‘profound’ effect of reaching out to those in need in relation to mental health which was appreciated by their farmer members.

Nick Goddard from the Australian Oilseeds Federation referred to the increasing use of data and data sharing to bring growers and traders closer together in grain pools and provide transparency to reassure consumers that growers were implementing sustainable farming practices in a measurable way.

Zach Whale, general manager policy and advocacy at Grain Growers said innovation and digitisation of data was moving at a rapid pace. This meant the governance of data was becoming increasingly important, including the rights of farmers to control the data gathered and stored about their farms by others.

This was being encapsulated by contractual relationships with farmers to ensure transparency, fairness, control, portability, security, and compliance with a code of conduct to avoid another ‘Optus or Medibank-style’ data breach.

Meanwhile, chef Manu Feildel spoke about his passion for Australian farm produce which he heroes in his dishes, and which he said needed minimal embellishment when using quality, fresh ingredients.

Categories Rural Business

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