I want you to imagine for a moment that you are standing in the main street of a regional town. The year is 2050.
Our global population is 9.8 billion, and in Australia it’s just under 36 million.
Back in 2020, it was going to take two planets to grow enough food to feed this many people, but science has stepped in to help, and we’re sustainably producing enough food for everyone.
There’s a small queue at a fast-food outlet.
Zero emissions beef burgers are on the menu, thanks to Australian companies like FutureFeed who are leading the world in emissions-free meat and livestock.
Fish burgers are available, sourced from a sustainable Australian white fish industry which is fed on commercial food waste and insects.
Or you can buy a plant-based protein burger, made here in Australia as part of a more than $4 billion industry turning legumes into nutritious products that have complemented – not competed – with our traditional animal protein industries.
If you’d like a drink, they’re selling range of shakes. Some are made using Australian zero emissions milk, and some are made with dairy that hasn’t come from an animal but was made using advanced biomanufacturing – a new industrial strength for Australia.
We’re in drought here, and well past ‘Day Zero’, but you can still fill your bottle with clean water at the tap. Regional towns like this one have water security from stormwater, recycling, and water stored in underground aquifers. They can’t remember the last time they had to truck in water.
It’s hot and it’s dry as you walk down to the end of the street. Earlier this year Australia achieved net-zero emissions, but we are still experiencing more extreme temperatures, more extreme weather and fire events, less rainfall, and more droughts.
But as you look out over the landscape, nearby crops and pastures are thriving.
Farmers are experiencing up to 30 per cent less winter rainfall, but they have adapted with long-range weather forecasting to plan their seasons, and they can choose from a variety of drought-resistant seeds to plant crops that best suit conditions.
Agriculture exports this year exceeded $120 billion, helped by innovative farmers investing in technology, by new Australian manufacturing capabilities, and by access to new markets.
A large truck passes silently by – a hybrid powered by hydrogen made in Australia. It’s taking Australian produce off to be exported to a wide variety of countries – produce that has automatically met compliance requirements thanks to our smart factories and digital supply chains.
More Australian businesses are exporting than ever before, and Australia’s reputation for quality and safety is protected by unique science that can verify the origins of our food products, just from a small sample.
This is our vision for the future of Australian agriculture, but we won’t have to wait until 2050 to get there.
Together with our partners across government, research, and industry, CSIRO has launched three national missions – backed by $156 million of co-investment – to help Australia realise much of this vision within this decade.
The missions look into the future to address the threats we see coming at Australia – like a changing climate, the resilience of our economy, and changing consumer trends – and use science to turn threat into opportunity.
A Drought Resilience Mission will reduce the impact of drought on regional communities by 30 per cent, and help us adapt our approach from dealing with drought as a crisis to being prepared.
A Trusted Agrifood Exports Mission will boost the value of Australia’s agricultural exports by $10 billion, using science-based tools to help our meat, grains and horticultural products reach new markets while protecting their competitive advantage.
And a Future Protein Mission will help to produce an additional $10 billion of protein products to sustainably feed a growing global population, at the same time creating new industries for Australia and new skills in value-added food processing.
Australia can’t lead at everything, but we can play to our strengths, and we already have a terrific strength in agriculture based on a long history of leadership and adaptability.
To build on this strength, rejuvenate our regions and fortify our economy, we have the opportunity now to leverage science to create a new generation of wealth and sustainability in our agricultural sector, and a more resilient future for our regional towns.
We have the vision, and we have the science. To make it reality, we need to invest today to sow the seeds of Australia’s future prosperity.
It’s up to all of us to help those seeds grow – future generations are depending on it.