Duxton’s Agri Bits and Pieces – Vol. 375
Posted on: April 10th, 2018


This week’s quote is from Kym Anderson, a professor of economics at the University of Adelaide and the executive director of the university’s Wine Economics Research Centre. In response to a statement released on 1 April China expanded its list of agricultural products to be tariffed, he had the following to say:

“If U.S. wines are subjected to higher tariffs when imported into China, that would have a direct benefit to other suppliers into that rapidly growing market, especially France and Australia — the two largest suppliers of premium wines to China.”

The tariffs form part of a retaliation by China against the USA’s implementation of tariffs that appear to be directly targeting China given that Mexico, Canada and the EU (among others) were exempted. If China does implement the proposed 15% tariff, Chinese consumers would have to pay almost 68% tax on US wine.


“Having switched from horseback to a motorbike years ago, cattleman Ashley Kirk is set to take what he sees as the next inevitable step.

He wants to turn his drone into a drover.

He’s far from alone. Australian farmers have been quick to ­appreciate the potential of drones to take some of the guess work out of when to plant or how to raise crops. In what’s called data-­driven decision-making, infra-red and video images from a drone are used to make high-resolution computer maps that detail everything from the likely moisture content of soil to individual plants in need of a shot of fertiliser.

Mr Kirk is part of a push in ­central Queensland by beef ­producers pioneering mustering with drones. Until now, this has been the preserve of helicopters, which are expensive and carry the risk to human life and limb of a crash. The question is, how to get cattle to take notice of a ­mosquito-like drone over the ­imposing presence of a chopper?

Mr Kirk stumbled across part of the answer after his prize herd of red brahman cattle was ­destroyed by Bovine Johnes, a wasting disease. He employed IVF technology to genetically ­engineer the replacement stock with “elite” breeding attributes, including a more docile temperament. To introduce the cattle to his drone — an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom — he starts with ­weaners newly separately from their mothers. The idea is to get them used to the little machine buzzing above them. Given that cattle can be taught to respond to whistles and dog barks, he sees no reason why they won’t take notice of his $1200 mechanical helper.

“I think it’s quite exciting,” the third-generation grazier said. “There are big advantages for us in using a drone in all kinds of roles. For a start, it’s hard to get staff and there’s an element of risk involved with helicopters.

“There is plenty of opportunity to save both time and money.”

Bryce Camm, the boss of a multi-million-dollar beef business spanning nine properties and 45,000 stock, puts up drones to help configure cattle yards. The main impediment to their wider use is the limited endurance — just 20-minutes of flying time for most models, he said.

Mr Kirk’s experience will be detailed at the annual Beef ­Australia symposium in Rockhampton in May, which will focus on how producers are turning otherwise disruptive technologies to their advantage.”

Source: Walker, Jamie. The Australian. 3 April 2018.


“France’s top food body has unveiled a “revolutionary” laboratory process to create a range of cheeses that look and smell like the real thing in “days rather than months”. But purists warn the move could spell “the death of true cheese”. Researchers at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, INRA, say they have cracked a way of massively accelerating the ripening process normally so essential to creating a cheese with the required texture and smelliness.

“What nature takes three weeks, three months or three years to do we can do in two to three days using a process that is far faster and less costly,” INRA cheese expert Romain Jeantet told the Telegraph.

Brie and Camembert take roughly a month to ripen, while a mature Comté can take up to three years.
The secret to the process, which researchers have coined From’Innov, is to split the production of the cheese and its aroma in the laboratory and mix them later to create the desired product “à la carte”.

“With the same material, we can thus make a cream cheese on Monday, a Camembert on Tuesday and a hard cheese on Wednesday,” said colleague Gilles Garric, who said INRA was in talks with three dairy giants over the technique.

The result was very similar to traditionally-made cheese, the researchers insisted. To make the end product more nutritious, experts can mix in probiotics – live bacteria and yeasts.

But purists are appalled at what they see as the latest attempt to kill of a great French exception – smelly cheese lovingly made with raw milk and on a human scale.

“This isn’t cheese at all, it’s totally synthetic,” sniffed Véronique Richez-Lerouge, who runs the traditional cheese defence group Association Fromages de Terroirs and recently wrote a book called La Vache Qui Pleure (Crying Cow).

She added: “This is yet another step towards creating dead food rather than letting nature run its course. Cheese is alive and needs to be ripened and matured over a long period, preferably with live raw milk. You cannot create this natural complexity in the laboratory.

“Humans are made to eat live food with diverse bacteria, not dead food, which causes all sorts of problems such as allergies.”

French chef Arnaud Daguin said: “As a cook for 40 years and someone who is carefully about food quality there is one thing that we cannot do without: transcendence. There is no point trying to play God and outdo the natural world when we haven’t even understood a tenth of its potential.”
Mr Jeantot hit back that he was a “cheese lover” with no desire to “kill off traditional cheese” but said that times had changed.

“Traditional cheese has its place as a dish in its own right, generally at the end of a meal. But that use has dropped from 70 per cent in the 1970s to 50 per cent today,” he said.

The new technique was the best way to offer cheese tailor-made to “local tastes and requirements” in countries like China, where demand for dairy products is exploding.

The technique will be on display at the world Cheese Symposium, which will take place in Rennes starting on Sunday. INRA will also show off a special anti-mould bacteria for fresh cream and an experimental Emmental with anti-inflammatory properties.”

Source: Samuel, Henry. Telegraph. 30 March 2018.


This chart for this week shows the rapidly increasing investment in agricultural technology between 2013 and 2017 – investment doubled by value between 2016 and 2017 with increased interest by Silicon Valley venture capitalists and conventional “Big Ag” companies like Monsanto. The result is likely to be increased incorporation of technologies like blockchain in the supply line which will streamline costs to farmers. Further the increasing convergence and integration of traditional agricultural machinery and high-tech innovation will inevitably lead to greater efficiencies.