A TSUNAMI of job losses is heading the Clarence Valley's way unless the region can cash in on the current infrastructure boom to join in the digital economy, an expert has told local business leaders.
The program manager from Byron Bay-based business support group Sourdough, Mark Holden, addressed Wednesday's Grafton Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting.
Mr Holden warned technology, like automation and robotics, would make up to 60% of the jobs now done by people disappear over the next 10 to 15 years.
"Agri-robotics will replace manual labour on farms," he said.
"The new image of a farmer won't be a cockie in a slouch hat. It's going to be a young person in front of a lap-top piloting a drone.
"It's happening now. Already we have robots mowing the lawns and macadamia trees."
Mr Holden said the changes are going to come across the board.
"I wouldn't be encouraging my children to get into medicine," he said.
"When you see a doctor now you've got about seven minutes for them to come up with a diagnosis and prescription.
"Their accuracy is about 72%. Not so good."
He said computers armed with a DNA profile of the patient, family members and close relatives, accessing a database of every known disease and its symptoms could pump out a diagnosis and prescription in a matter of seconds, with a 91% accuracy rate.
"The computer also sends a prescription off to the chemist - also a robot - immediately and even have it delivered to you while you're there," he said.
Mr Holden said many people found this sort of change alarming, but there was good news to.
"Technology is taking away a lot of jobs, but it is replacing them with others," he said.
"One of the big growth areas is going to be in the digital area and servicing the robotics industry," he said.
"There's also going to be jobs growth in areas like healthcare, looking after the elderly.
"Hairdressing is another area which I don't think will be affected. I certainly wouldn't like a robot cutting my hair."
Businesses also need to embrace online shopping rather than seeing it as a threat.
"There's lots of technology available that can help businesses grow," he said.
"A business in Grafton has to think it is not selling in Grafton. It's market is in Australia, Asia and the world."
Mr Holden's address also touched on the transformation Grafton would need to make after the big infrastructure projects like the highway upgrade, second bridge and new jail were complete.
"Grafton needs to think what it wants to be famous for," he said.
"This is strategic thinking over the next 10 or 15 years, and probably less in Grafton's case."
He pointed to regional cities like Orange and Bathurst, which were thriving after finding their identities.
"They're building another race track at Bathurst, because that's what people love there, car racing," he said.
"It's what they're famous for and it gives people a reason to come there to visit and to live."
The new president of Grafton Chamber of Commerce, Katie Kelemec, said the chamber was excited to be working with Sourdough.
"We're in discussion with them to work out how we're going to do it," she said.
"They're interested in moving into the area and working with existing people to promote economic development.
"Businesses can approach them individually if they want, but the chamber is going to be working with them to develop something for the region."
Visit the Sourdough website at: http://sbp.org.au/