The Knowledge Economy Institute’s (KEi) Food Agility consortium received a boost this week in the form of Federal Government funding to the tune of $50 million over the next ten years.

The announcement was made by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, as part of the Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program.

The group has tasked itself with transforming the Australian food and agriculture industry to ensure reliable supply in the future through the use of IoT and other digital technologies.

The KEi – which is based at the University of Technology, Sydney – teamed up with Queensland’s University of Technology and Curtin University to form the successful bid consortium.

Dr Mike Briers AO, UTS Industry Professor and establishment CEO, said in a statement: “The Food Agility CRC, backed by government, will be an independent, trusted intermediary to accelerate research adoption and commercialisation – including agTech start-ups – to improve digital services to the sector.

“Food Agility will use contemporary agile and user-centric design principles, combined with deep engagement with the food sector, to optimise adoption of digital services.”

The consortium is currently looking at a number of different avenues to make an impact, which include:

  • Using IoT to improve the shelf life of bagged lettuce, which is dramatically affected by its water content when harvested
  • Working with Food Innovation Australia Ltd to develop a market insights and information portal which will use real-time information from a number of sources to produce qualitative and quantitative insights to support market entry both locally and abroad
  • Providing viticulturists with better and more timely information to enable benchmarking and to identify improvement opportunities in farming practices

The Food Agility consortium has already raised over $160m in cash and in-kind commitments for the proposal, garnering 54 partners along the way, covering the spectrum of the food value chain.

These partners include 15 technology providers, 11 food production companies, seven service providers, seven research providers, six regional development agencies, five government agencies, and three industry networks.

One of these partners is KPMG Australia, who has been named as a Lead Partner in the consortium, and coincides with the consultancy firm’s efforts in building capability around IoT and AgTech.

Piers Hogarth-Scott, KPMG Australia’s national IoT practice leader said in a statement: “Our investment in the Food Agility CRC supports our strategy of helping clients unlock the substantial economic, environmental and social challenges facing the industry in Australia.”

KPMG Australia’s head of management consulting Ian Hancock added: Today’s Federal Government funding announcement is a strong signal that food is a major manufacturing sector of the future, and that there is commitment to global advancement through a digital technology path.”