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The imminent Big Bang in the food sector

Value creation and innovation through data exchanges

A decade ago, Deloitte’s “Short Fuse/Big Bang” report predicted that digital disruption would create a profound shift of between 15% and 50% in key business metrics for various Australian industries. This transformative change, referred to as a ’big bang’ situation, included disruption factors like a change of revenue channels, operational digitisation or cost structures. The Agriculture sector was recognised as having a considerable capacity for digital transformation and disruption that could reshape the industry.

Yet within the report, agriculture was categorised as having a ‘long fuse’ before we would see this disruption. It was noted that heavy regulation, high government involvement and low digital literacy were common reasons for the lag in digital enablement.

Flash forward to current times and the sector is building foundations to grow upwards to $100 billion by 2030. To achieve this, the Australia Federal Government, via its Ag2030 Strategy, is focussed on increasing productivity, profitability, and sustainability – enabled through investments in digital agriculture and technology adoption. 1

What forces are propelling disruptive change?

Several new technology catalysts, disruptive forces and new operating conditions are at play. These include the advancement of AI, cloud, and Internet-of-things (IoT) platforms together with capabilities offered in the market; the growing volume and value of data; the expanding of trade and industry networks; the emergence of value webs expanding supply chains and evolving ecosystems; and the widening lens of key sector stakeholders to achieve ESG (environmental, social, and governance) metrics. These drivers have increased with momentum in recent years, leading to a deeply digital and data-transformed sector2.

These environmental changes point to data exchanges as a key enabler for value creation and innovation. By bringing together an ecosystem of stakeholders, data that is shared and exchanged can support a wide range of benefits to the whole supply chain for industries and indeed, the entire economy. From improving crop yields and reducing waste, to enhancing food safety and traceability, there are endless benefits for the agriculture sector.

Successful data exchange use-cases in the UK & Ireland

There are many lessons to be learnt from other Agrifood data exchange initiatives overseas. For example, Agrimetrics, a UK based Agri-tech company, has developed an Agrifood data exchange marketplace that provides essential data-sharing infrastructure both within the UK, and across global supply-chains. Various data assets built on natural capital, earth observation, weather and field data are supporting farmers, researchers, industry providers and the government to align to United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) policy. As the data steward for the marketplace, Agrimetrics is providing a compelling platform and access to rich datasets – all housed on cloud-hosted, modern digital infrastructure3.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine have implemented a data exchange system that supports the recording, processing and transmission of fishing activity data to comply with European (EU) regulations regarding fishing quotas allocated to member states. The same department has also deployed a data exchange system related to animal identification and movement. The primary objective of the system is to trace the journey of livestock to ensure food safety at all levels of the supply chain. Various data points on livestock movements are captured and exchanged within different divisions of the department, with breed and food authorities and for import and export within and outside of Europe. Deloitte is the implementation provider for these systems with the Department.

We can learn from the successes of these implementations, as well as the common dilemmas around growing data sharing participation across the sector, when implementing broader use-cases.

Critical success factors

Several common themes continue to dominate data exchange initiatives in the agriculture industry, including:

  • Trust and transparency: Building trust is critical on how data will be used, repurposed and how it’ll benefit data originators, and the industry as a whole, for value creation, without violating privacy.
  • Privacy, security and data sovereignty: Strong data governance frameworks, data sharing policies and data sovereignty with robust security controls is required in the collection and use of sensitive data related to crops, livestock and food production.
  • Data interoperability and quality: A collaborative approach to engage key stakeholders in developing common standards and protocols for data collection and sharing will help maximise the value of data exchange initiatives. Data quality is also critical for ensuring that both decisions and conclusions are not erroneous due to data integrity.
  • Human centricity: Collaboration with industry stakeholders in the design can ensure solutions are user-friendly and accessible with intuitive interfaces that are easy for stakeholders to share and access.
  • Ownership and control: The government plays a large role in developing policies and frameworks that support data sharing and exchange, as well as incentivising the sector to participate. Protocols on managing data ownership and intellectual priority rights help to build the trust and adoption needed for participation.

In summary, there is great momentum across the globe in driving impactful data exchange initiatives in the Agrifood sector. The Australian agrifood sector is experiencing its own digital overhaul. Key insights from the initiatives in the UK and Ireland suggest that building trust, transparency, and human-centricity into the design and implementation of data exchange initiatives are critical to success. These themes are expected to continue to dominate the digital transformation of the Australian Agrifood sector as the industry moves forward.

To achieve the foreshadowed ‘big bang’ digital disruption sooner rather than later, we must collectively take action to drive positive data exchange initiatives for agriculture in Australia. Together with our industry stakeholders, technology providers, and the government, we have the opportunity and capabilities to make change for the common good of all.

This blog post was inspired by the recent ‘Industry Exchange Webinar’ hosted by Deloitte Australia. In this write up, I summarised the insights and real-world use-cases presented by Deloitte representatives from Australia, UK and Ireland, along with a guest speaker from Agrimetrics in the UK.

[1] Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Delivering Ag2030, 2022, https://www.agriculture.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/delivering-ag2030-april-2022.pdf
[2] Based on Deloitte’s analysis of consumer company executives on accountable sustainability, Apr 2022.
[3] Agrimetrics, https://www.agrimetrics.co.uk/company/about

Amanda Har - Director, Consulting (Deloitte Australia)

Mason Davies - Partner, Digital and Data Transformation (Deloitte Australia)

Heather Reed - Partner, Data & AI (Deloitte Australia)

Brian Callaghan - Director, Cloud and Engineering (Deloitte Ireland)

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