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Artificial intelligence, automation and data need to be ‘part of the everyday’ for WA farmers

Artificial intelligence, automation and data need to be “part of the everyday” for WA farmers, according to an industry leader.

Primary producers, agribusinesses and government departments were connected with innovators and investors last month as part of a series of events aimed at opening up agritech to innovative farmers across WA.

Hosted by agricultural innovation provider Beanstalk with support from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the popular Meetups program has been brought back after a three-year hiatus.

The first, held in Perth on October 28, brought together 100 people from businesses, grower groups and farms across WA.

Beanstalk co-founder and director Cal Archibald said the turnout “surpassed expectations”.

“We were very happy with the turnout,” he said. “We had about 70 people in person and 30 online.”

Mr Archibald said the events were about bringing people together to “cross-pollinate ideas, brainstorm solutions to challenges and present the collaborative agtech solutions the sector needs”.

“The meet-ups are all about networking, connections and the sharing of ideas to create a ‘centre of gravity’ for WA’s agtech and start-up ecosystem,” he said.

“We want to provide networking opportunities for start-ups, investors, agribusiness representatives and grower groups.”

Mr Archibald said Meetups involved some of those attending sharing their challenges through a “reverse pitch”.

He said hopefully at the end of the Meetup business cards would be exchanged between those pitching and investors or innovators who believed they could address the challenges.

CBH principal, innovation and partnerships manager Sean Webb spoke about the need for new technology to support residue limits on grains and improve traceability in the supply chain.

“We’ve pulled together a great organising crew that have stepped forward to guide and champion the WA AgTech ecosystem, including people from agri corporates like Rabobank and CBH, agtech start-ups and companies like AgWorld, and AgriStart’s Tash Teakle, who was behind the original iteration of the meetings in 2017-2018, which attracted 900 members,” he said.

The October event was the first of four Meetups the company, which has offices in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore, have committed to, with another in Perth and two more next year.

“We’d love to see as many farmers as possible but we understand for those that don’t live that close to the city it’s a big ask to attend in person,” Mr Archibald said.

“They can dial in online and we’re looking to have at least two regional events next year.”

AgriStart managing director and co-founder, Natasha Tealke said the Meetups would be critical to opening up agritech to WA’s farmers who are keen to try new technology but need to see and talk about it.

“In WA in particular we need to recognise agtech as a separate industry because Australia is under-investing in this space,” she said.

“AI (artificial intelligence), automation and data need to be part of the everyday for a farmer.”

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