Transcript of "Australia's role in feeding the region"
Rethinking Australia’s rolein feeding the regionANDREW CAMPBELLNational Food Summit, Melbourne 21 March 2013 http://riel.cdu.edu.au
Key Points• Food, water, land and energy are intricately interconnected• Long-term security concerns, amplified by climate change, affect all• Australia has a role to play in improving food security in our region• But more through exporting our know-how than bulk raw commodities — we grow about 1% of the world’s food• Smarter Food System planning, R&D, extension and education are required urgently• Some thoughts on how we could improve the system 2
Global warming is here, and we are causing it 4
Scales for response to climate change • Many of the main drivers of biodiversity loss operate at the landscape-scale e.g. habitat fragmentation, invasive species and changed fire regimes. • It is the scale which lends itsel CSIRO 2010
The world needs 70% more food• The world needs to increase food production by about 70% by 2050, & improve distribution (Queensland aims to double by 2040)• We have done this in the past, mainly through clearing, cultivating and irrigating more land – and intensification, better varieties, more fertiliser, pesticides• Climate change and oil depletion is narrowing those options, with limits to water, land, energy & nutrients. We need to grow food: – Using less land, water & energy and emitting less carbon – Improving nutrition, distribution, animal welfare, pollution – Looking after rural landscapes, biodiversity, amenity & communities 6
Profound technical challenges1. To decouple economic growth from carbon emissions2. To adapt to an increasingly difficult climate3. To increase water productivity — decoupling the 1 litre per calorie relationship4. To increase energy productivity – more food energy out per unit of energy in – while shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy5. To develop more sustainable food systems – In competition for land and water with the resources sector – while conserving biodiversity and – improving landscape amenity, soil health, animal welfare & human health6. TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE SIMULTANEOUSLY! — improving sustainability and resilience
We need a third agricultural revolution• High level goals: e.g. doubling food &fibre production while doubling water productivity, and becoming a net energy producer from farming & pastoral lands• How to get there? – Farming systems that make more efficient use of and conserve water, energy, nutrients, carbon and biodiversity – Smart metering, sensing, telemetry, robotics, guidance, biotech – Better understanding of soil carbon & microbial activity – Radically reducing waste in all parts of the food chain – Farming systems producing renewable (2nd gen) bioenergy • Also producing energy from waste – Urban and peri-urban food production 8 – Attracting talented young people into careers in agriculture
Myth-busting ‘100 Top End Dams’• 60% of Australia’s run off in 55 free-draining catchments ‘going to waste’?NO:• All water is ‘used’• Any additional extraction will have an impact• Connectivity is crucial in these systems – Catchment to coast – Life cycles of biota, e.g. barramundi – Indigenous food webs and cultural uses – Groundwater-surface water interactions• Options for surface water storages very limited – Coastal floodplains already affected by 18cm sea level rise (last 20 years)
The Mary River, NTfloodplains affected by rising sea levelsExtensive melaleuca dieback as the system gets saltier18cm sea level rise over last 20 years
Constraints to irrigated agriculture in the north• Despite popular perceptions, these systems are water-limited – evaporation exceeds rainfall, dry season is long and difficult• Soils are generally ancient, weathered, low nutrient status, poor resilience to impact or disturbance• Given climatic extremes, erosion and soil loss potential can be very high on even gently sloping sites• Pest and disease problems can be very significant• Input and transport costs are much higher than in the south• Labour is more difficult to attract and keep• Processing and marketing infrastructure is limited• Markets are distant, supply chains vulnerable
Opportunities for irrigation in the north• North Australia Land & Water Task Force suggested potential for 20,000 – 40,000 hectares of new irrigation• Probably groundwater-based, distributed in ‘mosaic’ irrigation systems (see CSIRO Northern Irrigation Futures project)• Scope for integration with cattle to increase feed supply & qualityMy take:• OK, but off-farm, industry-level constraints (markets, transport, processing, marketing, labour, energy) equally important as agronomic and environmental challenges• Significant opportunities to expand/intensify existing sites (e.g. Burdekin, Ord, Lockyer, Darling Downs and peri-urban areas)• Major opportunities next door in neighbouring countries
Our nearest neighbours have major food security issues: e.g. Timor Leste• Food security is a very high priority for Timor-Leste – ~40% of people malnourished (WFP VAM 2005) – many people hungry for some months each year – food production varies widely with seasonal conditions, but rarely exceeds consumption, so imports are crucial – many key elements of a productive and sustainable system are not yet in place — economic scarcity – there appear to be many ‘quick fixes’ to irrigation infrastructure that would be relatively easy to implement 13
Food Security in Timor Leste (2)• Longer term progress will depend on: – Agricultural education and extension to develop a skilled workforce (professionals and practitioners [farmers & food processors]) – The social, economic and legal context of agriculture, fisheries and forestry to get a sound framework in place, that meets social goals – Agricultural and environmental research to develop & refine locally useful knowledge and to develop new solutions – Catchment management to identify and look after the most valuable soils and to protect water resources – Water management to improve water productivity and protect water quality (surface water and groundwater) – Renewable energy systems to become independent from imported oil14
So what is our role in feeding the region?• We currently feed directly about 60 million people out of 7,000 million − About 1% of world food supply• We indirectly help food supply for 400-500m people through international agricultural development programs (NFP Green Paper)• High $AUD squeezes our margins, and poor people can’t afford to buy our stuff anyway• Don’t conflate export income in market niches with feeding the world• Our most prospective export is between our ears − Know how for climate variability & improving water productivity − Social innovations like Landcare and water governance lessons − Risk, resilience & response planning around disasters & extreme events 15
We have hard planning challenges at home• How can this all ‘fit’ at a landscape and regional scale?• The landscape needs to be re-plumbed and re-wired• We need new planning approaches that: – are robust under a range of climate change & demographic scenarios – treat all land uses equitably – e.g. unconventional gas – build in resilience thinking (e.g. improve flood performance & recovery, ensure habitat connectivity & buffering, protect refugia, don’t crowd coastlines) – reduce greenhouse gas emissions (energy, transport, food) – rethink transport networks (greener, tougher, smarter) – safeguard productive soil and allow for increased food production – facilitate recycling of water, nutrients and energy into food production Leading, educating and bringing the community on board
Our R&D system is so last Century…• Big challenges for Australian agriculture: climate, water, food, energy, land use planning, biosecurity (pests, weeds, disease), social license• All cross-sectoral, with strong public dimensions• Yet our R&D architecture is overwhelmingly commodity-based, production-focused, with modest incentives for public good − Exacerbated by 2009 abolition of Land & Water Australia & RIRDC cuts• Productivity Commission 2010 Review of Rural RDCs got it mostly right − especially on re-establishing a bigger version of LWA 17
Research & Development (2)We need a bigger share of R&D spend on:• blue sky work: e.g. energy, ICT, web-based extension• cross-sectoral: e.g. − agriculture/health system links (e.g. obesity) − urban and peri-urban agriculture & food production & distribution − waste to energy and waste to food − regional land use planning − social acceptance of agriculture• risk and resilience: e.g. − extreme events (planning, risk management and response) − biosecurity (serious scenario planning) − mass movement of large numbers of peopleBUT: an intelligent research investor & broker is not obvious 18
Agricultures need to make a better case• Mike Stephens identifies several agricultures: − the ~ 3000 very large businesses − the productive and profitable middle − the unprofitable − the peri-urban, and lifestyle or hobby farmers• ‘One size fits all’ approaches won’t work: Ag is multicultural• Connect to consumers & invest in understanding them − animal welfare and concerns about industrial food won’t go away• Engage with social media – e.g. #AgChatOz#Food• Landcare and Regional NRM should be seen as crucial to the sustainability, social license and social capital of Australian Ag. 19
Australia’s role in feeding the region• Our most prospective export is between our ears• Climate-smart technologies, products & services to help improve land, water and energy productivity in food systems• We have a big job to practice what we preach here first• Our food system(s), and our rural landscapes, need re- skilling, re-wiring and re-plumbing• New alliances are needed across the health, food and farming systems, and along the food value chain• Requiring better food system coordination and cross-sectoral leadership GO FOR IT! 20
For more information e.g. Managing Australian SoilsManaging Australian Landscapes in a Changing Climate Powerful Choices The Getting of Knowledge Paddock to Plate (2009) http://riel.cdu.edu.au
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