​Media Release

Helping our producers move into the digital age

28 October 2015

Australian sheep producers will have new tools to improve genetics, on-farm management and farmgate returns from a new research project supported by the Coalition Government.  

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Coalition Government would provide $490,000 to the University of New England (UNE) as part of an almost $1 million project to develop a new sheep data management system in partnership with the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).

“The Data-to-Decision-to-Dollars project, which aims to develop a cloud-based data management platform, will vastly improve the collection and use of sheep-related data,” Minister Joyce said.

“Good information is critical to making good decisions on the farm—and this project will give sheep producers better data on each member of their flock. 

“This will facilitate better on-farm decision-making and contribute to better care of the flock, improved productivity and faster genetic gain which will drive better profits back to the farmgate.

“While this trial will focus on sheep, benefits should also flow through to other livestock industries, particularly for cattle.”

Professor Iain Young, Head of the School of Environmental & Rural Science stated that, “UNE is at the forefront of developing the best technologies for agribusiness. This new money will allow us to develop state-of-the-art on-farm and in-Cloud technology for the nation’s sheep farmers.”

Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said an automated system that integrates data capture, storage, sharing and analysis would underpin more efficient production systems, improved animal wellbeing and smarter marketing.

“There are a number of technologies already available, such as semi-automated measurement systems and eID, that are limited in their uptake due to the lack of integration with other operating systems and the difficulty in getting the most value out of the data,” Prof. Rowe said. 

“This project aims to facilitate machine-to-machine transfer and smart analysis of large amounts of data, so that we can effectively use information and apply it in productive and practical ways.”

Minister Joyce said the advanced facilities at UNE meant it was well-placed to deliver results.

“UNE has world class agri-research facilities, including the Kirby SMART Farm, and the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre will also lend their expertise as a project partner,” Minister Joyce said.

“This project will build on the success of the National Information Nucleus Program and Meat and Livestock Australia’s Genomic Resource Flock, both based at the UNE Kirby farm.”

“We know that farmers generate a $12 return within 10 years for each dollar the government invests in agricultural research and development (R&D)—so it’s a solid return on investment for both government and industry.”

Minister Joyce emphasised the importance of investment in R&D to the ongoing profitability of agriculture.

“It’s vitally important Australian producers remain at the cutting edge of agricultural practices, and investing in digital technologies will make sure we stay ahead of the game, and drive increased profits to producers’ bottom lines,” Minister Joyce said.

“This investment is in addition to the $200 million this government has committed to the Rural R&D for Profit Programme up to 2021–22, as well as the almost $50 million in matching funds we provided to industry for meat R&D in 2014–15.

“We already provide about $700 million each year for rural R&D activities and this is another clear signal of the government’s commitment to delivering stronger profits at the farmgate.” ​