AGRICULTURAL investments into Australia's north are set to be encouraged through a new project with the Co-operative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA).
With research locations in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, the project engages professional services firm PwC to deliver the research.
The project 'Northern Australia agriculture investor identification and analysis' is co-designed by the CRCNA and the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).
It is valued at a total of $215,000, with $175,000 funded by the CRCNA.
With the aim of encouraging investment into the regions, the research will identify investment opportunities, investor targets and policies to de-risk the investment pathways for the establishment of new agricultural developments, including identifying prospective agriculture regions, an investor market analysis and the development of a classification model to determine the investor typology and investor target list.
This will be used by Austrade and State and Territory governments to drive investment outcomes in northern Australia.
"PwC will bring together key investors and stakeholders in investment promotion, attraction and facilitation to develop a comprehensive analysis of those with interest in investing in the northern agricultural sector," said Federal Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan.
"The team will look at the risks associated with new agricultural development in the north and the types of investors who are best suited to manage the risks and encourage economic growth and development..
"The work complements the work we are already doing to develop the north's economic and social potential, such as funding research into the water resources, building water infrastructure, investing in better roads and supporting new industries through the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility."
A report will be released in early 2020 with key actionable recommendations to enable greenfield agriculture investments in northern Australia and inform an overarching strategic framework for identifying and attracting investors to the regions.
CRCNA chairwoman Sheridan Morris said the research would develop a clear pathway for investors.
"At the end of this project, the CRCNA, Austrade and key stakeholders will know the investor types who have the appetite to manage the risks and uncertainty of new agricultural development in the north.
"We want these investors to know northern Australia is open for business and they can invest here with confidence."
Austrade senior investment specialist Anne Maree Weston added that the project was based on feedback from international and domestic clients and investors.
"We know there is significant interest in unlocking new agricultural development across the north, but some prospective investors are wary about real and perceived challenges," Ms Weston said.
The project will take seven months and is due to be completed by January 2020.
In December 2018 CSIRO published how research on how the intensification of agricultural production could provide some of the best opportunities for further development.
CSIRO wrote that water is crucial for the success of northern Australia's development.
"We have completed the first and only account of water availability for northern Australia and found that every year, out of two million gigalitres of water arriving there, around 15,000gL - enough to irrigate almost 1.5 million hectares - could be made available for irrigation," the CSIRO said.
The organisation constructed the first soil maps that cover all of northern Australia.
The maps assessed the suitability of more than 70 crops showed at least 16mha of soil is suitable for intensive agriculture.
CSIRO identified three areas in Australia's north with water infrastructure that have greater potential with further investment include:
- The Fitzroy River catchment water harvesting (water pumped into ringtanks) could potentially support 160,000 hectares growing one dry-season crop a year in 85 per cent of years and independent of surface water, groundwater could potentially support up to 30,000ha of hay production in all years.
- In the Darwin catchments, a combination of major dams, farm-scale off-stream storages and groundwater could support up to 90,000ha of dry-season horticulture and mango trees.
- The Mitchell catchment has large in-stream dams that could support 140,000ha of year-round irrigation.
Alternatively, water harvesting could potentially enable up to 200,000ha and growing one dry-season crop a year.