Irrigation increases farming productivity throughout the world

HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE: Farm landscape with windmill from above in The Netherlands. Picture: Shutterstock/Gigra
HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE: Farm landscape with windmill from above in The Netherlands. Picture: Shutterstock/Gigra

Tasmania’s state government has set itself the target of the agricultural industry reaching $10 billion value by 2050 – and Dutch farmers can help with the blueprint.

As the second largest exporter of agricultural goods in the world, Tasmania could benefit from Dutch insights and masters student Mees Arkesteijn shared the beginnings of his research at the Water for Profit 2018 Statewide Irrigation Event at Longford on Tuesday.

Specialising in irrigation and water management, Mr Arkesteijn has been conducting part of his thesis research at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, looking at the role of irrigation water in increasing agricultural value in Tasmania and comparing that with farming in The Netherlands.

“Tasmania has a goal to increase agricultural value to around $10 billion by 2050, whereas in 2016 it was around $1.48 billion so it has drastic implications for the value of agriculture,” Mr Arkesteijn said.

“First of all we need to ask is this possible, and then how we get there? I was particularly interested in the role irrigation will play in this, and what stakeholders think of this,” he said.

Looking closer at the figures, he found Tasmania now derived $1017 of value per hectare of agricultural land, but would need to bring this figure up to $6800 by 2050.

In comparison, farmers in The Netherlands have smaller farms but the land is more productive, generating $8072 of value per hectare.

“Of course there are huge differences between different farm practices, but in general the average needs to go up from around $1017 to over $6000, which is quite an increase,” Mr Arkesteijn said.

While he said there were many differences between agricultural industries in The Netherlands and Tasmania, Mr Arkesteijn said there were some comparisons to be made.

“The Netherlands generates around $8000 per hectare, which is quite a lot, but one of the ways Tasmania is trying to increase the value is by investing a lot in irrigation.”

“Even when you double the amount of water available for irrigation you’re still able to increase the value you get,” he said.

Over the next month Mr Arkesteijn will interview agricultural stakeholders at state, industry and farm level to find out the best pathways to take to increase the state’s industry value to $10 billion by 2050.

“We will try to imagine the end goal and think back to the steps we must take to find new and different insights,” he said.

“It’s an ambitious long-term goal, but I am very curious to see what different stakeholders perceive as the steps forward.”