In July 2019, following the success of the 2018 Business and Technology Forum, Rice Extension again partnered with the Western Murray Land Improvement Group to launch the Breaking New Ground forum. This event was designed to give growers the tools to become more resilient to drought and begin farming for the future by providing access to information on business management, the latest technology, dealing with drought, mental health and wellbeing. "We found that agtech and farming practices are changing so rapidly, the potential is endless, but often growers weren't exactly sure what might be appropriate for them and where to go first. We designed the forums to bring the information to growers and give them the tools to pioneer new practices and technology in their own businesses to improve productivity" - Rice Extension Officer, Charleton Glenn. Presenters were selected to provide information and tools to improve existing, or pioneer new practices and technology in their own businesses. The forum was well attended with 46 farmers and industry members participating. There was an encouraging inter-generational mix of age groups, with 42% of attendees between 52-65 years, 31% under 35 years of age. The range of topics presented included precision agriculture, farm benchmarking, managing livestock during drought, the availability of drought funding and services, off-farm investment and using electronic identification to collect and utilise flock performance data.
As a result of the workshops, participants suggested they would make changes to their business by:
Implementing soil testing zones in their paddocks, use satellites or drones to collect in-crop information and apply fertiliser using variable rate technology.
Engage a farm benchmarking consultant to get more information about their business performance.
Start using electronic identification for their livestock to improve enterprise performance.
There was also time for participants to network over morning tea and lunch, to ask any extra questions of presenters or simply take the time to socialise with like-minded people.