The future of Australian agriculture will be driven by new technologies and innovations that could revolutionize the ways we produce food and fibre. In particular, advances in synthetic biology and cellular agriculture are set to change the landscape of food production, making it more efficient and sustainable. Additionally, the increasing digitization of the food system will allow for better tracing and tracking of food products, ensuring safety and quality.
This report offers a perspective on the agri-food system’s emerging landscape over the next decade. It describes five social, environmental, and technological forces that might shape the future of Australian agriculture. These forces represent some of the most pressing disruptions across a broad category of social, technological, environmental, and economic domains.
These five future forces are: (1) Viral disinformation in the food system: Food issues become increasingly susceptible to disinformation campaigns; (2) Interconnected digital infrastructure: An interconnected system of digital capabilities unleashes new opportunities in agricultural supply chains; (3) Rewiring the grid: Distributed energy production is made possible by advancements in renewable technologies; (4) Domesticating the cell: New products, experiences, and concerns will arise from our ability to design biology; and (5) New geographies of climate change: Movement of people, climate regions, and crops define an era of uncertainty.
These forces combine with emerging trends to shape seven potential futures for Australian agriculture: (1) The war for the consumer relationship: New stakeholders emerging in the agricultural system will seek to influence consumer interest as the food system becomes completely digitized; (2) Regional redesign: Production systems and regions will be redesigned, as everything from irrigation to layout of farm operations will be optimised for automation; (3) Outside solutions to climate problems: New technologies such as synthetic biology will help mitigate climate change volatility; (4) Divorcing flavour, nutrition, and form: Synthetic biology technologies such as cellular agriculture and molecular engineering will drive development of new foods; (5) Supporting full-spectrum producers: Resource conversion—grass converted into meat, sunlight into solar power, soil to carbon sequestration services—will generate a wide mix of income streams; (6) The searchable food web: Managing trust in food systems becomes more important, as food products will be tracked through tools such as molecular tags and the internet of things; and (7) Biology goes digital: Genetic therapies will become democratized through commercially available products, and biological manipulation will be possible for new organisations and producers.
While it is impossible to know exactly which future will come to pass, it is important to consider the implications of each potential future. This report offers a starting point for conversation and action on the opportunities and risks that might arise from the forces shaping the future of Australian agriculture.