AgriFutures National Rural Issues (NRI) Program Open Call

AgriFutures Australia recently completed a consultation process with AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries to identify and prioritise cross-industry challenges, threats, opportunities and risks. A number of priority issues were identified through that process.

AgriFutures Australia is seeking to invest in projects that deliver innovative approaches to the five themes outlined below, with high potential for practical benefits to not only AgriFutures levied, small and emerging industries, but relevant rural industries more broadly.

The AgriFutures NRI Program open call has now closed. 


The National Rural Issues program, funded under AgriFutures’ Arena 2: National Challenges and Opportunities, was established to prioritise and invest in RD&E that addresses opportunities and challenges that are common to AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries, as well as Australia’s broader agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries.

This open call is seeking new investments under the NRI program. Proposals are being sought to deliver impactful cross-sectoral projects aligned to the five investment themes outlined below. These themes were identified in partnership with AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries and represent gaps in the current research and/ or knowledge.

The themes were prioritised against four criteria­­, being­­ ­- the issue had a clearly defined research question; was common to multiple industries; potentially impacted productivity, profitability and/ or business resilience and; the likelihood of identifying an effective solution was high.

AgriFutures Australia is seeking to partner with suitably qualified consultants, researchers and/or universities to respond to the five identified themes. In planning and submitting proposals for AgriFutures Australia funded projects, prospective researchers should familiarise themselves with the application procedure and AgriFutures Australia’s overarching goals and strategies.

Information on AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries can be found at:

RD&E objectives

AgriFutures Australia ‘s investments are driven by our Five-year Strategic R&D plan that addresses the needs of industries and stakeholders. Our aim is to increase knowledge that fosters sustainable, productive new and existing rural industries and further understanding of national rural issues through research and development in government-industry partnership.

AgriFutures Australia welcomes research proposals for the following five investment themes that support and enable action that directly benefits primary producers and their industries in one or more of the following work areas:

  1. Impact of water policy and future water availability on regional viability and on competition between current agricultural industries.
  2. Impact of innovative sensor technology for the purpose of industry preparedness (biosecurity) in pest, disease and weed incursions.
  3. Human capital – challenges and changing workforce demands.
  4. Improving the efficiency in the implementation of blockchain technology.
  5. Preparedness for, and recovery from, extreme disruptions: management of boom and bust business and production cycles in agriculture.


Project proposals will be considered by an expert panel comprising representatives from industry, RDCs and AgriFutures Australia. AgriFutures Australia welcomes research proposals that support and enable action that directly benefits primary producers. More than one investment may be supported per theme.

Interviews with shortlisted applicants may be required as part of the evaluation process. AgriFutures Australia will provide appropriate notice to applicants should this step be required.

Proposals should clearly indicate the following:

  • project impact for AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries
  • proposed project methodology, including project objectives and outcomes
  • who will be undertaking most of the work and any partnerships
  • the plan for extension of outcomes of the proposed work, where applicable.

The AgriFutures NRI Program open call has now closed. 

Objective 1

Impact of water policy and future water availability on regional viability and on competition between current agricultural industries  

Future availability of water for agricultural practices is likely to be impacted by climatic volatility, community and regional expectations and government policies and regulations. Forecasting those impacts will assist current industries to determine future state viability within current regions, likely regional growth areas and also likely impacts from competing industries that are either more water efficient or have the capacity to pay more due to increasing profit.

This investment theme aims to equip agricultural industries and individual businesses with the capacity to develop response plans that provide confidence in adjusting to future state water availability and to identify future regions for growth and industry viability. Including considerations and options to diversify business operations in times of water scarcity.

AgriFutures Australia is seeking proposals that will benefit agricultural industries that have water availability as a key future constraint.Consideration should be given to specific opportunities and challenges for AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries.

Potential deliverables under this objective include:

  • Further develop water availability models and scenarios for agricultural industries both separately and integrated that allow industries to identify future state requirements both within current and future production areas.
  • Identify forms of agricultural production that allow for variable water availability that sustain capacity within industries
  • Identify future state impacts of competitive alternatives based on water availability
  • Opportunities for greater agricultural resilience, by agricultural region
  • Opportunities for complementarity between industries with the potential to lead to greater long-term business viability.

Proposals sought for up to $200,000 and 9 months in duration. 

Objective 2

Impact of innovative sensing opportunities on industry preparedness (biosecurity) for pest, disease and weed incursions 

Globalisation and changing climates are increasingly providing opportunities for new pathogens, diseases, pests, and weeds to enter Australia or regions within Australia where they have previously not persisted.

Of direct relevance to the Australian agriculture sector is innovative automated and remote sensing technologies that are emerging in several global agricultural industries and offer the opportunity to increase awareness, improve detection and estimate spatial prevalence long before traditional surveillance methods detect changes. The identification, evaluation and implementation of these potential technologies would significantly increase business, industry, regional and national preparedness for global or regional incursions of novel disease, pests, and weeds.

The potential for such technologies to increase industry preparedness and speed of response, however, requires a systematic evaluation by agricultural industries within Australia.

Use of automated and remote sensing options for industries will provide the earliest possible warning of an incursion or support other established detection systems. This project is likely to benefit most plant and livestock industries.

An example of deliverables under this theme include:

  • A global scan of emerging automated and remote sensing technologies that have application for detection of novel pest, disease and weed incursions at paddock, farm, and regional level
  • An evaluation of the likely triple bottom line benefits of investment in technologies and likely commercialisation and uptake barriers of such technologies.

Proposals sought for up to $200,000 and 9 months in duration. 

Objective 3

Human capital – challenges and changing workforce 

Many agricultural industries face the challenge and difficulty of attracting and retaining skilled workers to service their industries. A current example is the reduction in immigration due to COVID-19 (including overseas temporary work permits) which has dramatically impacted the workforce for processing sectors and industries with a high reliance on a seasonal workforce, often supplied by backpackers.

Under this investment theme, AgriFutures Australia will consider the implications for our levied, small and emerging industries. The challenges for smaller, less well-known agricultural industries often differ to those of larger, more established business operations. The objective is to identify the future skills required by these industries that need to be maintained independently or as a collective with other agricultural industries.

Projects submitted under this theme could include:

  • The evolving skill sets required by employees in levied, small and emerging industries and the increasing technical aspect including the use of agtech and precision farming methods.  A key question is “will rural industries need to generate agriculturalists with different skills or generate the translation of skills into the agricultural ecosystem”?
  • The challenges of levied and emerging industries to maintain research and advisory capacity and capability through both public and private R&D providers.
  • Evaluation of the changing global agri-food tech ecosystem and the potential impact on access to innovation that is customised to Australian agriculture and specifically the levied and emerging industries.
  • Identification of where the future workforce will come from to service the different sectors of the value chain if global workforces continue to be impacted.
  • Evaluation of opportunities for labour-saving strategies through mechanisation in harvesting and processing.

Proposals sought for up to $200,000 and 12 months in duration. 

Objective 4

Overcoming the inefficiency of supporting a plethora of blockchain solutions and the barriers to traceability.

Globally, consumers are becoming more discerning in their purchasing decisions and increasingly require assurance that goods being purchased have been produced to an approved standard (fit for purpose, desired quality, environmentally sustainable). Currently, traceability and provenance of products can be traced through technologies such as blockchain. However, the use of this technology is varied, with a number of barriers facing both producers and supply chain participants, including but not limited to; cost, feasibility, return on investment and the challenges of tracing a commodity through the entire supply chain. This is particularly challenging where:

  1. Produce is broken down into multiple products, e.g an animal carcass broken down into multiple cuts of meat
  2. When it is on-sold through a co-operative market arrangement
  3. When it becomes an ingredient to another product, e.g a single herb into mixed herbs or essential oils into cosmetic or cleaning products.


As a result of the issues listed above, product fraud is common and difficult to manage. Currently there are limited viable, cost effective solutions to track provenance and authenticity in these scenarios. Increasingly, this requires some form of verification system and process of data transfer to support the trace claims and to retain trust in products and systems.

Blockchain is a strong candidate to support product traceability, integrity and provenance enhancing food safety and reducing food fraud.  Blockchain has the potential to positively benefit many Australian industries, particularly where a premium is sought (or a discount avoided) via attributes that differentiate the product from commodified versions – such as niche industries, clean/ green/ environmental credentials, Australian branding, provenance, quality, quality assurance.

Currently there are several competing blockchain solutions being evaluated in pilot programs. Each has its own process and therefore cost of implementation. For producers that operate more than one agricultural business this presents significant challenges. The problem extends further through the supply chain where participants (e.g. exporters, retailers) are handling multiple agricultural products requiring them to invest in multiple blockchain technologies.

The reduction in duplication required for multiple systems makes economic sense and use by multiple industries will build critical mass which is important to drive adoption momentum and develop the required support services.

AgriFutures Australia is seeking projects under this proposal to address the issues of multiple blockchain platforms for multicommodity producers as well as viable traceability methods that could be applied to AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries, particularly those commodities at high risk of product fraud.

Potential projects include:

  • An evaluation of Australian agricultural industries that would benefit from the availability of a single blockchain platform and their common requirements.
  • An evaluation of existing blockchain solutions that are currently under development that would benefit Australian agricultural industries. Report on the stages of development, the similarities, the differences, flexibility, adaptability, setup costs, ongoing costs, ownership and payment management
  • Evaluation of current opportunities and issues of reducing duplication by sharing one Australian blockchain platform – cost sharing, platform, privacy issues, payment along the supply chain, recall of product
  • Global examples of traceability in a single commodity along the entire supply chain i.e where the commodity is broken down into smaller pieces or becomes an ingredient of another product, and an analysis of how this could be applied to AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries, e.g Tea Tree Oil.

Proposals sought for up to $200,000 and 9 months in duration. 

Objective 5

Preparedness for and recovery from extreme disruptions: Management of Boom or Bust cycles 

AgriFutures Australia’s levied, small and emerging industries are unique to the more established industries. While a generalization across these industries, in many cases they have less mature markets, smaller production runs, less access to established R&D and well-tested production  systems and knowledge. On the flip side, they can be nimble, take advantage of new market opportunities quickly, respond to consumer needs, more readily explore new ways of doing things.

Often the drivers and impacts for AgriFutures’ levied, small and emerging industries are different to that of more mature, established industries. Therefore, this project is seeking to undertake a risk assessment and risk management process that allows for effective planning of access to resources (e.g. labour, water and energy), maintenance of supply (inputs) and access to capital within levied, small and emerging industries.

Understanding the extremes of influence in both production and profitability on industry resilience is key to appropriate risk planning. R&D that models those extreme impacts is a key input into establishing that understanding. R&D is then required to develop and implement risk plans.

Global agriculture is increasingly being challenged by situations where extreme outcomes in either production (fire, drought, climate, disease etc) or profitability (markets, global pandemics, trade and non-trade tariffs) occur. Such boom and bust positions result in significant industry disruption in terms of access to physical resources (land and water), capital and labour, to name a few.

These all impact on the industry’s ability to either prepare appropriate risk management or to resume normal activities Industries will have greater awareness and therefore the potential for greater preparedness and resilience to extreme disruptions. Industries may develop plans and scenarios that provide alternative solutions to extreme disruption impacts.

Proposals sought for up to $300,000 and 12 months in duration. 

Response criteria

Respondents will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  1. Organisational capability/technical skills
  2. Impact/methodology/project plan
  3. Value for money
  4. Extension impact and likely scale of change to be achieved.


The AgriFutures open call has now closed. 

How to make a submission

AgriFutures Australia has moved to a new online project management system, K2. This system will manage all stages of project administration and replaces our previous system, Clarity.

Applications for this Request for Quotation must be submitted online using the RFQ application in K2.

If you had a previous account in Clarity, you can login using your Clarity username or email address and the initial password “K2pass!”

You will be prompted to reset this initial password when you login. If at any time you forget your password, you can also reset it via a forgotten password link on the login page.

Users must create a K2 account before submitting a proposal. To set up a secure account before submitting a proposal, please visit the login page below to access our new user or new company request forms.

Usernames and passwords will only be issued while the applicable round is open.

If you require assistance, please contact

Terms and conditions

By submitting an application, respondents acknowledge that they are willing to accept the terms and conditions set out in the Provider Agreement.

The Respondent agrees that AgriFutures Australia may accept or decline to accept the Respondent’s proposal in its discretion. No commitments or contract exists until a contract in the form of the Provider Agreement is executed by both parties. The Respondent agrees that AgriFutures Australia is not required to enter into any contract in connection with the open call.

The Respondent agrees that participation in any stage of the open call process is at the Respondent’s sole risk and cost.

Acceptance of a proposal will occur only when an Agreement is issued, or a contract is executed.

AgriFutures Australia, at its discretion, may discontinue this open call, decline to accept any proposal, decline to issue any contract or satisfy it requirement separately from this open call process.


Date Activity
7 April 2021 Open call open
7 May 2021 Open call close
21 May 2021 Announcement of successful projects
11 June 2021 Contracts executed

Proposals are sought for one or more of the investment areas that support and enable action that directly benefits primary producers. More than one investment will likely be supported per research area.


Due to the large number of enquiries, please submit queries in the first instance to:

Jennifer Medway

Senior Manager, Rural Futures