As game-changing technology transforms agribusiness, BON Managing Director Kaela Bonomi says it’s important not to let the hype get in the way of business outcomes
Investing in technologically-advanced solutions is helping WA agribusinesses boost productivity, increase yields and compete more effectively in the highly competitive domestic and export markets.
From robots that can pick and pack to climate-controlled environments with fertigation and irrigation systems, ag-tech is delivering a new level of insight, precision and sustainability to a diverse range of agricultural activities.
Our growing hunger for ag-tech is being driven in part by an influx of new players and investors in the sector who are embracing innovation and in turn, creating unique opportunities.
But while there might be a buzz around the technology, the transformative power of big data and automation lies in tailoring ag-tech to each business’ specific operations and needs.
BON Managing Director Kaela Bonomi says it is important not to get caught up in the excitement of the technology. You have to stay focused on how the technology is going to deliver a business outcome.
“You need to understand how each product is grown and the nuances of how it will react and respond to the technology,” she says.
“That means you can’t just be a tech expert; you also have to understand agriculture inside and out to achieve optimum outcomes.”
BON should know. It’s a leader in delivering holistic end-to-end ag-tech solutions across WA with a growing national footprint.
Established 32 years ago, the company operates across horticulture, protected cropping, medicinal cannabis, wholesale nurseries, poultry, pork and livestock.
BON was fundamental in the delivery of the first controlled propagation glass house in Western Australia in 2012.
In 2017 it was part of a project which established a 6,300sqm facility using state-of-the-art technology to automatically pack 20,000 tonnes of citrus.
Kaela says it’s having a big-picture perspective on what’s working in the ag-tech space and what’s not that enables them to deliver tailored local solutions.
“Having experience in the primary production sector means we bring awareness of the technology already available in the market and assist with preparedness for future adoption,” Ms Bonomi says.
“This can mitigate against the risk of over engineering.”
If it’s true that the technology capability doubles every three years and halves in cost, then we’re set for exciting times ahead.
However Kaela believes the agricultural sector can only truly benefit from implementing new technology with cohesive government support for growers.
“Traditionally many of WA’s growers have been family businesses and small-to-medium enterprises who don’t have the capacity to take on the risk that comes with research and development,” she says.
“While government has endeavoured to invest in agri-tech, we need a clear strategic path to the farm gate to give growers the confidence to take the leap into new technology.”
Kaela recognises there has been a gradual shift in Australia’s approach to ag-tech over the last 12 months and says corporate interest in the ag sector will only further enhance this.
“One of the most exciting things about the new players and corporate investors looking more closely at the agriculture sector is that they can bring the financial capability to invest in the research and development.
“By bringing the growers to the table with the investors, we can better match the investment to the need,” she says.
If BON’s list of agribusiness clients is any indication, interest in technology is coming from a diverse range of primary producers.
It is currently partnering with one of Australia and New Zealand’s largest integrated protein producers, and major fruit and vegetable growers operating in both domestic and export markets.
BON recently installed a weighing system capable of determining the optimal dosage of water and fertiliser to Australia’s largest private berry producer whilst setting crops on tables at waist height to create a consistent environment in expectation of future robotic picking technology.
“If tomorrow’s technology is not available yet, we’re creating the infrastructure in expectation that it will come,” says Kaela.
“It’s about having the foresight and depth of understanding to help take the business to the next level.”
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