11th January, 2018

Why agriculture is the next big opportunity

As farmers become comfortable running their sprawling businesses from their phone, agriculture is shaping the next big opportunity for tech-savvy accountants – and MYOB is lending a hand.

Tech trends such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and mobility are already having a big impact on the way agricultural operations are being run.

Dairy farmers Simon and Meagan Kerr from Balintore, in South West Victoria, run their 600-head farm from their mobile phones.

“We can access our key milk production and quality information, and receive important business updates, all from our mobile phones,” they said.

“Which is particularly important given the nature of farming means we’re often away from our laptops.

“Having real-time information on the go means we can make decisions faster than we have before, making it easier for us to run our business.”

But this is just a brief glimpse into the potential impact tech could have on agriculture.

According to KPMG, the agtech sector in Australia alone could be worth a whopping $183 billion between 2013 and 2022, with venture capital being poured into agtech reaching more than $1.5 billion.

This growth in technology solutions to increase efficiency and yield have the potential to transform Australia’s agriculture sector into a $100 billion industry.

Meanwhile, Deloitte has labelled the agribusiness sector in NZ as one of the biggest opportunities the country has.

Those are some staggering numbers, and help paint the picture of just how transformative tech could be to the agriculture sector.

“We’re incorporating each of these tech trends into our cloud accounting and practice management software to give farmers and their advisors deeper insights and more control over their operations,” MYOB CEO Tim Reed said.

MYOB is currently in the process of combining relevant parts of its solutions to provide rural customers and partners with a range of easy-to-use and cost-effective online tools to offer farmers better insights into their business.

Already, savvy accountants are changing the way they go about business to attract agriculture operators keen to see what role tech could play in their businesses.

Rural accountants becoming ‘virtual CFOs’

Eddy Missen from Michael Bland in Colac says the firm has consciously tried to design its services to fit farmers’ newfound appetite for tech solutions.

“We’ve changed a lot in the past few years to provide our farming clients all-round business advice rather than just GST compliance and EOFY reporting,” he said.

He said the team had positioned themselves as “virtual CFOs” instead of being ‘just accountants’ by offering in-depth and tailored advice to small and medium-sized enterprises.

“We place ourselves as business advisers rather than just the end-of-year ‘taxman’,” said Missen.

“It’s all about giving our rural clients better insights into their operations and future-proofing our profession.”

Just as tech has freed farmers from the laptop and the spreadsheet, tech such as MYOB Essentials has freed accountants from a lot of basic bookkeeping work.

“Technology doesn’t do everything; you need a human being to provide judgement and analysis. Accountants are now focusing on critical thinking and problem solving,” said Reed.

The nature of cloud-based solutions has also enabled greater collaboration between accountant and farmer, with accountants able to make suggestions in real time.

“Farmers want easy-to-use solutions that capture information quickly and easily,” said Reed.

“They want to collaborate with their teams, suppliers and advisers in real time to help drive profitability.

“These days farming is truly a technology business.”