Agricultural innovation in Australia

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The environmental, economic and technological factors that influence crop yields in Australia and across the world (ACHGK062)

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Learning goals

Students can explore some of the historical and contemporary innovations and farming practices that have made Australian farmers among the best in the world. They can also consider the agricultural use of the land in a variety of locations, highlighting the importance of good farming practice to maintain sustainable production.

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • understanding the historical factors leading to innovations and best practice in Australia
  • identifying and observing some of the environments and agricultural practices used by farmers in Australia
  • examining agricultural production in Australia
  • analysing the need for agriculture in our society
  • describing the initiatives and modern developments that make farming in Australia sustainable.

Geographical understanding and context

Our predominantly urban lifestyle means that we are dependent on commercial agriculture for our daily food needs. Farmers, over generations, have developed methods of extracting the highest yields from Australia's relatively poor soils. Research and innovation have led to Australian farmers being among the best and most efficient producers of food, both for local consumption and for export. 

The focus of this unit is to look at some of the types of agriculture, historical innovations and current practices in various locations in Australia. In our fragile environment, to be profitable, Australian farmers have had to implement sustainable farming techniques that represent some of the world's best practice.

Teaching approaches

The resources provided can be used to introduce and extend the learning experiences of students.

1. Introducing an historical perspective

You will need to use the stimulus article Some historical innovations in agriculture (PDF,1,326 KB) to introduce students to the idea that, in any society dependent on farming, farmers must be skilled at increasing production to provide food for the growing population and to be commercially viable.

Ask students to look at the photographs of farming equipment and discuss the inquiry questions in the stimulus material. This will stimulate their interest in the case studies provided about how innovations have developed over time. The emphasis should be on how farmers have coped with the environmental conditions in Australia, and how they have developed and refined production techniques to ensure food security over time.

2. Examining more recent agriculture

You can use the article Agriculture in Australia (PDF, 690 KB) with your students to examine types of farming, environmental conditions, farming zones and agricultural production. Some of the more recent techniques, improvements and innovations are listed, and a series of statistics about Australian farming is provided.

3. Introducing modern farming techniques

As an introduction to modern farming techniques and initiatives students can read Recent innovations in agriculture (PDF, 461 KB) which outlines no-till farming and the use of polyhouses for horticulture. This highlights just two examples of how recent innovations have revolutionised agriculture. There is no shortage of information on current research and innovation in farming on the Internet which students might access as well. 

It is suggested that students work in pairs or small groups. Ask them to choose one of the new improvements listed in the article above and develop a report on the innovations. This could involve an oral presentation to the rest of the class.

What you need

Access to the Internet.

Some historical innovations in agriculture (PDF,1,326 KB)

Agriculture in Australia (PDF, 690 KB)

Recent innovations in agriculture(PDF, 461 KB).

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum.

English

  • Interpret and compare how representations of people and culture in literary texts are drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1633)
  • Explore and reflect on personal understanding of the world and significant human experience gained from interpreting various representations of life matters in texts (ACELT1635)

Mathematics

  • Investigate reports of surveys in digital media and elsewhere for information on how data were obtained to estimate population means and medians (ACMSP227)

Science 

  • Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (ACSSU176)
  • Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries (ACSHE158)
  • Advances in science and emerging sciences and technologies can significantly affect people's lives, including generating new career opportunities (ACSHE161)
  • Analyse patterns and trends in data, including describing relationships between variables and identifying inconsistencies (ACSIS169)

History

  • The technological innovations that led to the Industrial Revolution, and other conditions that influenced the industrialisation of Britain (the agricultural revolution, access to raw materials, wealthy middle class, cheap labour, transport system, and expanding empire) and of Australia (ACDSEH017)
  • The population movements and changing settlement patterns during this period (ACDSEH080)
  • Changes in the way of life of a group(s) of people who moved to Australia in this period, such as free settlers on the frontier in Australia (ACDSEH084)
  • Living and working conditions in Australia around the turn of the twentieth century (that is 1900) (ACDSEH090)

Source: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Resources


Websites:

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale

Enviro-Stories Education Program. Our farmers, our future. Numerous classroom resources are provided, including e-books that can be read online. Retrieved, September 2012, from: http://www.envirostories.com.au/index.php?page=ebook-farming.

Australian Government. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Research and innovation. Retrieved, September 2012, from: http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/innovation.

AGCO. This company's website shows its innovative machinery, designed for modern practices. Retrieved, April 2013, from: http://www.agcocorp.com/eapac/default.aspx.

Australian Government. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics - Bureau of Rural Sciences. Australian context. This website provides maps of farming areas and rainfall reliability. Retrieved, September 2012, from: http://adl.brs.gov.au/data/warehouse/pe_abarebrs99000001/techInnProdDryAgAustContext.html.

Australian Government. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities: State of the Environment, 2001. Land theme report. A map of agro-ecological regions in Australia is shown with some interesting information on the impact of agriculture on conservation lands. Retrieved, September 2012, from: http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2001/publications/theme-reports/land/land03-3.html.

John Deere. Another company that provides modern farming and agricultural machinery. Retrieved, April 2013, from: http://www.deere.com.au/wps/dcom/en_AU/regional_home.page.

All other required resources are listed in the 'What you need' section above.