Current Research

The Institute currently has the following projects underway:

Recent Research

The Institute has recently completed the following projects:

An investigation into land-use conflict and right to farm issues in NSW

The term “right to farm” is one which is widely used to refer to the right of a farmer to utilise farm land for normal agricultural activities without being constrained by complaints or legal actions initiated by neighbours who object to the sights, noises and smells of normal farming operations.

In regions close to urban fringes, conflict between farmers carrying out normal farm operations and non-farm neighbours is a growing source of community disquiet. However, conflict over right to farm issues now extends well beyond peri-urban areas as growing regional centres and rural areas attract downsizers and tree-changers. This research project will investigate planning frameworks and regulations that impact on farming practices. It will aim to identify best practice legislative and non-legislative frameworks to resolve right to farm issues that will enable farmers to operate modern, competitive and sustainable farm businesses while maintaining harmonious and vibrant regional communities.

Threats and opportunities for Australian agriculture from alternative animal proteins

The Institute is undertaking a research project, funded by AgriFutures, which will investigate the implications of the growth in alternative proteins to Australian agriculture and assess the opportunities and challenges inherent in the changing protein market landscape. Whilst the continued rise of middle-income global population implies a stable demand for traditional protein sources, questions have been asked about whether the simultaneous growth trend of the vegetarian and flexitarian consumer segment could offset these gains.

Preliminary findings of this research demonstrate that alternative protein demand will result in additional opportunity for Australian agriculture and will not detract from traditional animal protein production. Due to projected population growth coupled with changes in socio-economic factors such as rising incomes, increased urbanisation, and ageing populations, the demand for protein will be strong enough to accommodate both the traditional and alternative protein sources.

Defining and quantifying the components of trust in agricultural supply chains

New digital platforms (including blockchain) are being applied to agricultural value chains (AVCs) specifically to address and improve trust between AVC participants. Trust is a critical factor in AVCs ensuring coordinated supply and demand management of safe and legitimate food and fibre as well as financial transaction confidence and security.

This project will examine the various ways by which trust is developed and valued in AVCs. It is important to recognise however that while trust is critical for all AVCs, the components of supply chains for which trust is a critical issue will vary. This project will provide a thorough examination of where opportunities for technology platforms that address trust exist in AVCs and how those opportunities may differ between various sectors. It will also develop a framework for quantitatively assessing the value proposition associated with resolving AVC trust issues with technology platforms.

Change in the air: Defining the need for an Australian agricultural climate change strategy

Climate change is a ‘wicked problem’ representing not only a threat to the Australian agricultural sector’s profitability and international competitiveness but also to our long-term food security and the viability of some regional communities. The agriculture sector is both vulnerable to and partially responsible for the heightened challenges brought about by climate change. To minimise the severity of projected impacts of the warming trend caused by increased greenhouse gas levels, the sector has an imperative to continue efforts in emissions mitigation and to accelerate cross-industry progress.

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Reinventing Australian agricultural statistics

There has been a progressive degradation of the Australian agricultural statistics system over recent decades as the resources made available to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have diminished in real terms, and the focus of ABS activities has been directed towards the maintenance of statistical collections required as part of the national accounts. In the absence of a robust statistics system, Australian agriculture faces a very real risk that government policy decisions will be made that have an adverse impact on the sector, due to a lack of understanding of how the sector is structured and operates. This is a particular risk for the agriculture sector, given its dispersed nature and relatively small number of persons directly involved, and the difficulty participants face in seeking to influence policymakers.

The rapid growth in the amount of digital information generated within the agriculture sector that can be economically collected and stored potentially creates the opportunity to either supplement or substitute current ABS statistical data with existing industry data, reducing costs and compliance requirements on industry participants. The research project outlined here aims to fully investigate the potential to improve Australia’s current agricultural statistics system through the use of existing industry datasets, and to identify potential issues that may arise in response to proposals to use the datasets in this way. The research will predominantly consist of desktop research, supplemented by discussions with industry and government personnel as necessary. This project is supported by Australian Wool Innovation, Cotton RDC, GrainGrowers and Meat and Livestock Australia.

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Australian agriculture: an increasingly risky business

Risk is a fundamental feature of Australian farming and agribusiness, yet in many respects risk management systems in Australian agriculture are much less developed than is the case in other nations. This project aims to firstly develop a better understanding of the nature of risk in subsectors of Australian agriculture using available data. The research will then involve an analysis of the range of different options that are available to agricultural risk management. These will include the adoption of different business models (for example forward selling, contract supply arrangements, supply chain collaboration), and/or the use of either domestic or internationally traded soft commodity derivatives. The advantages and disadvantages of each will be identified and analysed, based on a combination of objective measures (where available) and insights gained from industry interviews.

The final part of the research will involve the development of an assessment framework that will be used to compare different risk management strategies, and identify potential initiatives that may be needed to facilitate improved risk management options for Australian agricultural businesses. This project is supported by AgriFutures, Dairy Australia, Cotton RDC, Grains RDC, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Rural Bank.

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The impacts of energy costs on the Australian agricultural sector

As businesses involved in Australian agriculture intensify production systems and utilise additional digital technology, their dependence on energy inputs is likely to increase. This is already the case for irrigation farm businesses which have changed from gravity-fed to pressurised systems, and for the intensive livestock and horticulture sectors. The potential for energy users in Australia to face significant increases in energy costs over the short to medium term therefore has important implications for the future competitiveness of Australian agriculture, and the sector needs to engage in the debates associated with this issue to optimise outcomes. However, data on energy use in agriculture is patchy and haphazard, which will limit the ability of the sector to engage meaningfully with policymakers unless this is rectified. This project addresses this issue by compiling a comprehensive audit of energy use in Australian agriculture, and developing an Energy Cost Calculator tool to assess the potential impact of changes in energy prices on the sector as a whole and sub-sectors. This project is supported by Energy Consumers Australia.

Go to the Energy Cost Calculator & report webpage

Enhancing Private Sector Agricultural RD&E Investment in Australia

Private RD&E is a key component of innovation and productivity in the agriculture sector. A crucial feature of RD&E is that benefits are not wholly appropriated by the investing firms. ‘Knowledge spillovers’ accrue to rival firms and consumers benefit from cheaper and better quality products. For a domestic agricultural sector, a thriving private research hub can also mean more jobs, investment, and more competitive local agriculture industry. All OECD governments intervene in the market by providing additional incentives for private R&D plus many more, including China.

This project aims to establish the type of policy measures and resources Australian agriculture needs to boost private RD&E. The project includes a review of available private RD&E data and measures currently employed here and overseas. The main part of the project will include a series of 20 interviews with heads of agribusiness operating throughout the industry including chemical, seed and machinery suppliers, and processes. The project is being supported by the GRDC, Dairy Australia, Cotton CRC and Meat and Livestock Australia.

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Determining the Right Level of Research, Development & Extension Investment for the Australian Agriculture Sector

R,D&E investment has long been recognised as a primary driver of productivity increase and in turn, the national competitiveness of the agriculture sector. However, determining the return on investment and the optimal level of expenditure has proven difficult. Current funding levels from levy payers and governments involve significant uncertainty and deference to wider opinion. The objective of this project is to develop a decision-making framework that can be utilised by industry to make decisions on appropriate levels of investment in agricultural research and development.

Precision-2-Decision digital agriculture project

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme. The P2D project involves all Rural Research and Development Corporations, and is focused on three main aims:

  • Facilitating the development of digital technology in Australian agriculture.
  • Fostering the establishment of appropriate legal frameworks, data systems and access to critical datasets.
  • Identifying the data communications systems required to deliver the benefits of digital agriculture to the Australia farm and agribusiness sectors.
Go to the P2D project webpage

Review of Australia’s Agricultural Trade Performance

This project has involved the compilation of a database on Australian and world agricultural trade statistics, and the compilation of a review of the annual trade performance of Australian agriculture. The second review has now been completed and published, and the database updated.

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