The federal government has launched its On Farm Connectivity Program in a bid to boost the productivity, growth and sustainability of Australia’s primary industries using smart farming technology.
Equipment suppliers will mediate the delivery of $30 million worth of rebates ranging in value from $3,000 to $30,000. Rebates will cover 50 per cent of the cost of the AgTech equipment.
Through an expression of interest process earlier this year, 79 equipment suppliers signed onto the program. The full list of eligible suppliers is here. Primary producers can only access the program through the equipment suppliers, who apply for the rebates here.
Equipment supplied through the program cover a range of technologies including external antennas, repeaters, boosters, sensors, automated tank systems and pump controllers, animal movement tags and relevant installation and training costs.
Use cases include the optimisation of soil quality and nutrient levels, monitoring livestock, improving efficiency of water use, streamlining farm logistics, and improving customer connections.
The program was an election commitment by the Albanese government, which funded the program in the October 2022-23 budget. The first 2023-24 round of the program will award $15 million worth of rebates with the 2024-25 round allocated the same amount.
The On Farm Connectivity Program is a part of the government’s billion Better Connectivity Plan, which has a budget of $656 million over five years.
Businesses seeking access to the rebates will need to have an annual average gross income from primary production between $40,000 and $2 million. Hobby farmers are also explicitly excluded.
This is unchanged from the draft guidelines released in August, despite calls from the National Farmers Federation to remove the upper limit.
Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry minister Murray Watt said the program will be a significant boost to “agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors by enabling producers to take advantage of new technologies and innovation”.
Communications minister Michelle Rowlands said that the launch of the program recognises the importance of the agriculture sector.
“That’s why we’re launched new $30 million On Farm Connectivity Program to give farmers and producers access to the technology they need to boost productivity, reduce costs, operate more efficiently, sustainably and safely,” Ms Rowlands said.
Internet speeds and geographic location were cited most frequently as barriers to technology uptake by the agriculture industry, according to a report by the Productivity Commission (PC).
Agriculture businesses expressed this was a problem at almost double the rate of the industry with the next-highest industry facing “unsuitable internet speed”.
From this, the 2022 report on Australia’s ‘data and digital dividend’ notes that “this indicates that internet connectivity” in regional and remote Australia is limiting technology uptake.
Infrastructure Australia notes that 23 of the 48 regional areas in Australia have broadband and mobile connectivity infrastructure gaps under the Regional Infrastructure Gap Prioritisation Framework, as flagged in the PC report.
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