ABHR investigates some of the latest trends in the agricultural sector and how farmers are reacting to a changing climate and a need for increased storage.
Research from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has found Australian agriculture is getting bigger.
In the Snapshot of Australian Agriculture 2021 report, ABARES notes that this in part due to new technologies and management practices that have boosted cropping volume. It also found that the largest and most productive farms are driving industry-level trends in performance.
ABARES also found that as the number of farms decreased, farm sizes had increased in terms of both total receipts and land area.
“Increased farm size has also supported improved productivity through several channels: access to better technology, better and more flexible labour management (which supports higher labour productivity), better knowledge management, diffusion of better farm management practices, and access to positive economies of scale,” the report found.
“All these changes have been enabled by the deregulation of most agricultural markets and economy-wide microeconomic reforms.”
It also says that maintaining productivity growth and continued innovation is required if Australia remains internationally competitive.
However, in recent years, agricultural productivity growth has slowed. While ABARES found that farmers are adapting to changing climate conditions, and in so doing, have partly restored productivity growth, this has not been enough.
Ag Growth International (AGI) thoroughly involved with these consumer trends as an international manufacturer of agricultural equipment.
Paul Brisebois, Senior Vice President – AGI Canada says increasing size has been a key priority for farmers around the world.
“In farm and commercial applications, we’re seeing the market continues to move toward larger storage options,” he says.
“The main drivers for adding storage are; increases in production, value of the crop, ability to the market the crop and simplifying operations on the farm.
“Farms are usually located in rural areas, where it’s getting harder to find labour. Everything we do, whether its silos, portable handling or adding technology to our equipment, is about simplifying as much of the process as possible.”
Peter Forster, AGI’s Business Manager for Australia, says climate change has made the growing seasons more irregular, adding more stress to harvests.
“The defined weather patterns are no longer there, and harvests can come earlier, putting more strain on farmers,” he says.
“Being able to store, dry, cool and rehydrate grain in a bin helps mitigate risks and allows farmers to capture higher margins during the season.”
AGI employs hundreds of engineers located across the globe who are responsible for designing bigger and better silos. At the heart of the design is the silo structure. AGI’s engineers use the codes established for calculating grain loads, snow, wind, and seismic loads and pair them with the required steel strengths, calculated by corresponding steel codes. Finite element analysis can help direct the design and how the silo sheets, stiffeners, wind rings, roof sheets and reinforcements will interact.
Keaton Friesen, Engineering Manager at AGI’s MFS division, says larger silos reduce the price per tonne and removes multiple foundations’ requirements.
“As silos have gotten larger, AGI has invested in equipment to manufacture heavy wall sheets and gauges. That has allowed us to grow the size of the bins, and use the steel more effectively and efficiently,” he says.
“AGI can also coordinate between its divisions with the large portfolio of products they have. We can add accessories to help move the grain, for aeration, or monitoring.”
Brisebois says another trend that has grown in popularity is smarter storage. By adding temperature and moisture detection cables, farmers can wirelessly and remotely monitor what is happening in their silos at any time. It’s even possible to automate fans and other equipment to respond to the internal environment of the silo.
“AGI is investing heavily in the SureTrack platform, which enables farmers to make the most of the resources they have and assists producers to manage inventories effectively,” he says.
“This trend of increasing technology is going to be a pervasive trend. Our end customers on the food side of the business are constantly asking questions about where the food comes from. Traceability of food from field to plate will become more important, and having the data throughout the supply chain will be critical for the future.”
Monitoring technology is a significant part of AGI’s Australian offering, particularly for keeping materials cool, nutritious, and properly fumigated.
Forster says the new technology getting developed will help take the market to the next level, particularly when it comes to supply chain management.
“The Australian market is going through a period of reinvestment. Consumer confidence and food security are becoming an important trend to focus on, especially within periods of drought,” he says.
“AGI expects the Australian market to continue to be a growth opportunity in the future, and we aim to continue expanding our portfolio of turnkey solutions.”