Norton Rose Fulbright conducted an online survey in April / May 2018, in collaboration with Agri Investor, of 94 agribusiness participants from across Australia.
We explored five core themes – the changing market, risk, investment and strategy, finance and technology and innovation to gather insight and share the best-informed views of the trends, risks and opportunities of Australian agribusiness today. This survey takes a closer look at the Australian agribusiness sector following on from our previous global survey conducted between December 2013 and March 2014.
In comparing the 2018 survey results with our 2014 survey, we have found a number of parallels between global and domestic views as well as look at some notable new trends, particularly in the area of technology and innovation. In the following sections, we highlight the responses from our survey respondents and draw attention to some of the relevant legal trends, issues and risks.
We hope that you will find the results of our research informative.
The Australian agribusiness sector in the spotlight
Growing populations, increasing urbanisation, unpredictable geo-politics and evolving consumer appetites, are trends that cannot be ignored and continue to drive the demand faced by the agribusiness sector globally.
Consumer interest in food has grown substantially in the past few years. There is demand for organic products and locally farmed produce, growing public interest in sustainable and ecological practices, and businesses re-evaluating their behaviours to ensure robust environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) programs are applied effectively and consistently.
Add to this new business models driven by disruption, and the supply side response continues to face increasing pressure. Agricultural companies are seeking more innovative ways to solve these problems for a more productive and sustainable agribusiness sector.
Investment in innovation – a catalyst for change
The story of Australia’s agribusiness sector mirrors that of many other developed nations. Agricultural innovation is centuries old from mechanical aids and fertilization, through to more recent developments in biological and technological innovation. One thing is clear - current agricultural methods are not sufficient to meet the demand. However, in an industry that has seen a number of revolutions, all parts of the agribusiness value and supply chain will be reshaped by the next wave of innovation.
Significant investment and innovation is required if the food and agribusiness industry is to meet the growing supply demand. This statement was one of the key findings from our 2014 survey and remains valid today.
Disruption is occurring in every industry, including agribusiness, and technology is the force for change behind this. Agriculture has always embraced new technologies and the opportunity for significant value creation is high.
In our 2018 survey, all respondents confirmed their commitment to investing in technology and innovation as part of their business strategy. In agriculture, innovation drives efficiencies in land cultivation, agricultural practices, resource management, inclusive development and local value add.
The pace of change is rapidly increasing as robots, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, data analytics, precision agriculture and blockchain technology is increasingly taken up across the sector. Specifically, agribusiness and investor respondents see sensor technology, automation / artificial intelligence and big data analytics as the leading disruptive innovations to the sector. Advisory / service providers favour biotechnology and gene technology. Regardless of the innovation, the majority of respondents identified innovation and disruption as the biggest change catalyst to the sector.
In a sector that has traditionally been affected by price and weather volatility, an ageing farming population and a lack of upskilling educational programs, innovation is all the more critical for agriculture.
The Australian agribusiness sector outlook is positive for those striving to innovate, not only in their business models but also in the way they contribute to the sustained growth of the sector.