Home' Forge : Vol 3 No 1 Contents 145
of baby boomer farmers looks to hand
over the business to their children.
Climate change is another threat.
Agricultural technology’s potential
Few sectors will benefit from
technology as much as farming will.
Aerial drones, for example, are helping
farmers monitor and map crops, saving
time and money.
Devices that capture data such as soil
moisture will help farmers detect the best
time to plant and harvest crops. In time,
farmers could ‘grow data’ – that is, create
revenue from data that is sold to firms that
make products based on crop information.
Banks could use real-time data from
farms to assess a customer ’s capital needs.
Insurers could use big data to better
understand farm risks.
Global positioning technology (GPS) will
help farmers to seed, fertilise and spray
crops in one process. And no-till farming
practices will help them grow crops or
pastures without disturbing the soil.
‘The breadth of innovations being applied
to agriculture is incredible,’ says Hannan.
‘Farmers will know more about their
crops or livestock than ever before, and
many labour-intensive processes will
be automated. Technology will unlock
significant value in the sector.’
Hannan says robotics is ‘leading the
charge in Australian agriculture’, and
points to the outstanding work of
companies such as SwarmFarm Robotics.
Westpac partnered with SwarmFarm in
2016 to help develop its technology.
The agricultural robotics company,
based at Gindie near Emerald in Central
Queensland, is commercialising robot use
in crop production, to improve productivity,
lower costs, increase production and reduce
SwarmFarm’s Andrew and Jocie Bate
began developing the robots after hours
spent in the tractor led them to question
whether it would be more effective to have
smaller, slower, highly precise equipment
instead of large, fast equipment – a
‘smarter not bigger ’ solution.
‘Andrew and Jocie have developed a
solution that will revolutionise the future
of farming across Australia,’ says Hannan.
Westpac’s agriculture expertise
Westpac has a proud history in
agriculture. As Australia’s oldest bank,
Westpac has served the farming sector for
200 years, and celebrates its bicentennial
Hannan’s appointment as National
Manager of Agribusiness in 2014 was part
of a bank restructure to form a specialist
agribusiness division. ‘My brief was to
set Westpac up for the next 100 years in
agriculture,’ he says.
Hannan’s team is working with Westpac’s
innovation hub, The Garage, to develop
solutions in farming succession. ‘The
transition of wealth from one farming
generation to the next is a large, looming
problem that nobody has solved. We are
determined to do something unique for
our customers in this area.’
Westpac is also spending more time
facilitating and listening to the national
agribusiness conversation through
its Businesses of Tomorrow program.
SwarmFarms’ Andrew Bate is on the
program’s advisory panel.
Helping customers focus on international
opportunities is another goal, and Westpac
has expanded its study tours, taking
customers to China and New Zealand. A
trip to Inner Mongolia is planned this year.
These and other customer initiatives
reinforce Westpac’s position as the market
leader in agriculture finance. The bank
serves 30,401 farming customers – about
one in four Australian farms – and
thousands of farms in New Zealand.
Hannan says the bank’s leadership position
is built around the quality of its agribusiness
team. About 450 staff members support the
Trans-Tasman agriculture sectors, giving
Westpac one of the largest agribusiness
teams of its kind in the Asia-Pacific.
About 80 per cent of the team works
within 300 kilometres of where they grew
up, and nearly all of them came from the
land. ‘Westpac’s agribusiness staff have a
strong connection with their community,’
says Hannan. ‘They are passionate about
farming and, through Westpac, they are
making a real difference to the sector.’
Few bankers have a better sense of
ground-level trends in agriculture – and
the sector ’s potential – than Hannan. In
his Westpac role, Hannan visits a farm
at least every two weeks to understand
customer needs. Hannan also grew up
spending his childhood around the family
farm, which he still visits. ‘It’s more of a
hobby farm these days, but we still think
of ourselves as a farming family,’ he jokes.
‘Farming is in our blood.’
To learn more about Westpac’s
agribusiness initiatives, visit
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