WA farmers lead way in Net usage

WESTERN Australia has the highest proportion of tech-savvy farmers in the nation, according to the latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In a recent ABS study, WA’s farmers reported the highest proportion of farms using a computer for business operations (63 per cent) and the highest proportion using the Internet for business operations (54 per cent).

But WA Farmers Federation spokesperson Ross Hardwick said that, while the study’s confirmed a general under-standing of computer use by the farming industry, it did not tell the full story about technology use on the State’s farms.

Mr Hardwick said the State’s farmers had traditionally been quick to adopt new technologies that improved farming productivity.

“That has been the status quo for the past 20 years,” he said. “However, technology needs to be seen in the context of farming systems.

“It has only been through the use of technology and production improvements that the WA farmer [has been able] to remain in front of the cost-price squeeze and remain viable in business.”

In the study, WA and South Australia showed the most significant growth of farms with Internet access in the period June 2000 to June 2002, both increasing 17 percentage points, from 40 per cent to 57 per cent.

The report surveyed 135,377 Australian farms between June 2000 and June 2002 and discovered that, at June 2002, 62 per cent of farms with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 or more had access to a computer. That result is a four-percentage point increase since June 2000, when the survey was last undertaken.

Of farms with access to a computer, more than four in five use one as part of their business operations.

Of those farms that used computers as part of their business operations, more than four in five also used the Internet. The report showed there was a 14-percentage point increase in farms across the country with Internet access.

The most common Internet activities undertaken by farms were email and obtaining weather information, at 37 per cent and 31 per cent of all farms respectively.

Farm computers were used for managing farm finances, with 40 per cent of all farms reporting their PCs were used for that activity.

From an industry perspective, within broad industry groups, computer usage showed the greatest variation across States in the ‘Other Livestock Farming’ category, with a difference of 24 per cent between WA (73 per cent) and Tasmania (49 per cent).

With regards to Internet usage within broad industry groups, the ‘Other Livestock Farming’ category also showed the greatest variation across States, with a difference of 32 per cent between WA (68 per cent) and Tasmania (36 per cent).

This category included pig farming, horse farming, deer farming and livestock farming.

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