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Primary industry sector on verge of technological revolution

Primary industry sector on verge of a technological revolution

21 January 2015

While farmers and other rural industries have always been innovators and pioneers, many city dwellers still think of them as tough, hardworking people who do without ‘modern’ technologies such as smart phones, tablets and big screen TVs.

Times have changed. The reality is something quite different. These and an array of new and innovative technologies are now a vital component of most rural businesses.

City dwellers can use their latest mobile gadget as they make their way into work. Modern farmers would rather use their latest UAV (drone) for a spin around the property or set up their new driverless tractor for the day’s operations - all while tracking everything via their tablets using GPS and wireless networks.

Precision agriculture has been an integral part of the industry for decades. However new technologies like UAVs, robotics and automation are dramatically changing what can be done out on the farm, orchard, forest or on the water. UAVs are monitoring farm conditions in real-time and feed back precise data to improve productivity. They can also access hard to reach areas, cover large distances quickly and be used for any number of special tasks.

Automated harvesters are using GPS and localised sensor monitoring to plot directions and operate without a driver. Robotic milking systems have also been designed to automate the whole process and increase productivity.

A recent report by Research and Markets forecasts the global precision agriculture to become a US$6.34 billion industry by 2022. They state that “the convergence of modern technologies and IT with agriculture is future pushing the demand of precision farming techniques in the market”.

Lux Research estimates that the market for commercial UAVs (drones) will reach US$1.7 billion in 2025. Much of this growth will be driven by the use of UAVs in agricultural and other rural industries. The report notes that “drones as a service” will emerge as a preferred model, where local businesses can use the technology without any expensive investment in systems.

Another report by BI Intelligence goes further and estimates that US$11.7 billion will be spent on commercial UAVs over the next decade.

Just this month the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise released a report that New Zealand's agritechnology exports are already $1.2 billion annually and has room to expand. While New Zealand are leaders in agricultural technology, currently Israel, a small desert country, exports nearly 10 times more agritechnologies than New Zealand.

In Australia, an estimate from the Australian Certified UAV Operators organisation has up to 12,000 people using drones in the country, with more than 1,000 using them for commercial operations. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is reporting close to 200 approved UAV operators in Australia, doubling the amount approved at the start of 2014.

There is a wealth of opportunity for the rural sector to capitalise on the technologies that are coming out right now. In April, MobileTECH 2015, a New Zealand and Australian technology series, will be run showcasing the latest UAVs, robotics and automation technologies for the primary sector. Local and international experts will discuss where the technology is taking us and how to best integrate this to boost productively in our businesses. UAVs being used in rural communities will also be demonstrated at both venues.

MobileTECH 2015 will be held on 21-22 April 2015 on the Gold Coast, Australia and again in Auckland, New Zealand on 29-30 April 2015. Registrations are now open and further information on this event can be found at


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