Outside the food on your plate, what is the most common way the public engage Australia’s agricultural industry?
It’s agricultural shows and ‘field days’.
And how do we portray our sector through these events that pull in millions of Australians per year? Well, if we were good at it, rural industries wouldn’t be perceived by city dwellers as old, broken or ‘battling.’
Don’t be deceived by the recent surge in admissions to agricultural tertiary education. The reality is mums, dads and career councillors from outside the industry have been discouraging kids from entering into agriculture for decades.
While we know the reality is very different, we are missing the biggest opportunities in the industry calendar to communicate this to the public. That ‘Ag’ is a fun, dynamic and fast-growing sector, especially at a time when there is a groundswell of technology advancing the industry.
Agricultural shows happen across the country, but it’s the big Royal Shows in the state capitals that pull in millions of Australians. Up to now, aside from the rides, the draws have been Ethel and her jams, Iris and her crochet, and a Noah’s ark of farm animals there for their looks. Most of the attendees are indeed mums and kids, but what better audience is there to engage and attract the future ‘best and brightest’ to our industry?
This year, agtech did creep into both Sydney and Melbourne Royal Shows, through virtual farm tours, demos of cool hardware and the latest farm products. In Melbourne, there was a national pitch competition for agtech startups driving change in the sector. These are new and powerful narratives to engage and inspire future generations.
On the field days front, Fieldays in New Zealand lead the way by a country mile, but on our home soil it’s been a piecemeal start to profiling an innovative future alongside agtech at these events, where most attendees come from local towns and cities and are not farmers by occupation.
Whilst some innovative and agtech businesses can afford to display at field days, and have done for years, it’s not enough to communicate the dynamic and cutting-edge ‘hook’ we need to help reframe our entire industry as a progressive one in the public’s mind.
There are often sections for horse-drawn antiques and agricultural machinery circa WW1 and, but there still no coordinated effort to profile, display and encourage the new technologies that will keep our industry sustainable, productive and vital for the next 100 years.
When we start grasping the opportunity to get people excited about agriculture and all the new things on the horizon, then we’ll start moving the brand of agriculture to that of a modern one.
As our premier industry showcases to the public, both ‘field days’ and city based agricultural shows shouldn’t just be about where we’ve come from – but also show the exciting future we’re heading to.