Step forward in the industry
BILOELA born and bred agricultural advisor Tim Neale has won this year's prestigious 2018 Rural Consultant of the Year Award, and has attributed his passion for the industry to his work on local farms in the area as a young boy.
Mr Neale, who is now based in Toowoomba and travels Australia as the managing director of DataFarming, said it was "very humbling” to receive the accolade.
"There's the most amazing people working in this space, and almost every farm in Australia now would have an advisor of some description. It's humbling to represent that group.”
Mr Neale's DataFarming software platform has 6000 farms in its system and has processed 3.6 million hectares of data, allowing for a growth in insight, and adding value to complex agricultural systems around the country.
He said that as a child he worked on various farms, cropping places and a vineyard just outside town, "so I was always working around on the different properties”.
At high school, the ag department facilitated his thriving drive to be involved in agriculture, propelling him forwards to university at Gatton.
"There's not many active ag departments left in Queensland, and it's really important to foster that from early on. That was a fundamental part of my journey,” he said.
"I just loved just being outdoors, and there's something about growing produce that's really satisfying.”
Now focussed on the role of technology in the industry, Mr Neale said he was helping producers identify and work with the best technology to deal with even the most basic problems.
"We need to make sure that we've got the basics right first and technology can help identify those issues,” he said.
"Satellite imagery can help your crop and pastures, and help you work out a way forward.”
The technology can help with crop or pasture production, monitoring activities on the property, fixing mistakes, and tracking growth.
DataFarming works with farmers and horticultural agronomists wanting to improve crop yields as well as agribusiness professionals looking for industry insights.
The company is also working on commercial, government, and industry-funded projects, building custom solutions to a wide range of agricultural problems.
"My role is to help people navigate that digital era and that's what I've been about for the last 20 years,” Mr Neale said.
"What we've definitely seen in the past five years is a really high growth in the 25-35-year-old age group of farmers. It's incredible.
"I think they've gone off and done other things and then they've come back, and they're the ones that are really picking up new technology so that's been our target audience.'
He said that previously, the agriculture sector was seen as "all doom and gloom” however he had noticed a real turnaround in modern-day farming in the past five years.
"There's a lot of investment interests in agriculture and a whole fresh approach. It's a really good time to be in agriculture right now - there's young people coming through, lots of technology and it's a good time in the industry.”
Known as a 'thought-leader' in the ag-tech arena, Mr Neale is often able to provide information about emerging technology as well as speak at national and international events.