The concept of sustainability seeks to reconcile the paradoxes that exist within the systemic demand for continual economic growth and the vital need for the protection of the environment. Kingfisher Law has extensive experience supporting clients whose businesses have been affected by this difficult and often paradoxical conflict of interests.
Sustainable farming is forward-thinking
The protection of agricultural land and increase of food production are pressing needs in a world where the climate is changing and population is increasing.
Areas of Australia not previously suitable for certain crops due to cooler conditions may become farmable in the future as average temperatures rise, but this may be outweighed as regions previously abundant in crop production decline in productivity due to hotter weather.
The need to protect livestock from heat stress will require more trees to be planted for shade and availability of sources of forage and fodder may decline.
Natural resources such as soil, water and nutrients must be managed sustainably to ensure the future viability of agriculture. Farmers are faced with the need to reconcile the unique landscape of their properties while retaining sufficient biodiversity to avoid repeating past mistakes that contributed to dryland salinity, acid soils, pests and weeds.
An increase in extreme weather events may also compound the other stresses upon agricultural production. It is evident that when cyclones hit Queensland, devastating crops – the impact is felt in food retail outlets of major cities – often for weeks.
Sustainable agriculture is a simple concept that embraces a complex web of scientific and economic issues. It relates to the capacity of an agro-ecosystem to reliably maintain production through time and to be managed on a site-specific basis.
Kingfisher Law believes there is opportunity for sustainable development to design regulation of agriculture in Australia that is resilient and adaptive to challenges on the horizon. We support the work of farmer-focused agricultural organizations in Australia which are working with researchers to develop farming systems that are both sustainable and profitable.
An example is the discovery by Australian scientists that tar bush, a native plant, when used in a sheep’s diet, reduces the amount of methane its digestive system produces. Ruminant animals producing methane gas contribute significantly to global greenhouse gases.
Precision farming on the rise
Sustainability includes the goal of food production, welfare of the food producers, and preservation of non-renewable resources. The benefits of precision farming are not only an increase in productivity but considerable savings on the expense of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
Developments in information technology will play an increasing role in linking these objectives. Already the use of scientific instruments, sensor technology and mobile devices allow farmers and producers to gather data specific to their farms resulting in the capacity to make precise decisions based on the unique land-site.
Rural landscapes are variable with the consequence that productivity is also variable. Without methods for reacting to this variation, farmers have been forced to manage paddocks and farms as though they were uniform.
Precision farming is about managing variations in the field accurately to grow more food using fewer resources and reducing production costs. All aspects of the environment – soil, weather, vegetation and water vary from place to place, and these factors determine crop growth and farming success.
In Australia, precision agriculture is centered on broadacre cropping, dairy, sugar and viticulture.
A number of enabling technologies are critical to precision agriculture. These include the global positioning system (GPS), geographical information systems (GIS), Variable-Rate Technology (VRT), soil sensors and yield monitors which, with GPS, enable geo-referenced records of yield to be collected ‘on-the-go’ during harvest. Remote and proximal crop canopy sensing is also often invaluable whilst digital elevation models are often key to understanding the variation in both crops and soils. With these technologies, growers are better able to observe, understand and manage the variability in their production systems by tailoring inputs to desired outputs.
Further Steps Towards a Sustainable Future
In 1992, the Australian Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment was signed by all member States, thereby recognising the causal connection between environmental subsistence and socio-economic issues, and further demonstrating their commitment to sustainability. In fact, ‘sustainable development’ was then officially recognised as a suitable umbrella term for these issues. It was defined as: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Kingfisher Law recognise that agriculture remains vitally important to Australia’s economy and the wellbeing of its population on a local and national level and provides the knowledge, resources and legal expertise needed by agribusinesses throughout all States.
The Future for Sustainable Agribusiness in Australia
Australia’s marked climate variations and growing conditions offer opportunities for a wide range of agricultural produce to be cultivated, but Kingfisher Law suggest that farmers need to take heed of potential vulnerabilities in certain states, caused by projected climate change. For example, the expected drying out of the south-eastern states, currently a thriving centre for much of Australia’s food production, needs to be planned for by government, to preserve production levels or plan for diversification. Other climate factors, such as the El-Niño Southern Oscillation and Indian Ocean Dipole may further alter the climate landscape and affect the viability of the Australian agricultural industry.
The team at Kingfisher Law believe that understanding climate risk and incorporating it into flexible business structures and sensible Government policy, of the kind that has shown to be successful in the Murray-Darling Basin, are key to the sustainable future of Australian agribusinesses across all states.
Sustainable development has the potential to drive the future success of the Australian agricultural industry, as it transitions into new markets and climate uncertainty. This is because it rejects the notion that economic development and environmental protection are mutually exclusive, and creates a beneficial framework that respects the interdependent relationship between economics and the environment.
Supporting Australian Agribusinesses
Kingfisher Law provides advice and represents agricultural corporations, sole traders and co-operatives seeking to make their businesses financially and environmentally sustainable. Our team boasts decades of combined experience in the field of agribusiness and works hard to keep track of new developments in the industry. They are also expert at tracking global trends in agriculture that may impact Australian farmers.
Another of Kingfisher Law’s key strengths is in our ability to create profitable business models that capitalise on the opportunity of sustainability in an increasingly competitive, agricultural market. We achieve this in several ways, including careful appraisal and integration of state and national policy and their impact on Australian agribusinesses.
To discuss how Kingfisher Law can help your agribusiness prosper and move forward in the current economic and environmental client, simply call us to book a no obligation initial consultation.