Collaboration, technical capability and a global mindset changing Australia’s agribusiness
Food loss and waste is a global phenomenon.
In Australia alone, it is costing the country approximately $20 billion and contributing 7.3 million tonnes annually. However, a problem always presents an opportunity for those willing to pursue it; Australian producers have a significant opportunity to take a current waste stream and convert it to a revenue generating element of their business.
The key principles of a circular economy revolve around reducing, reusing and recycling; producing only what we need and utilising everything that we produce. For Australia, a key focus needs to lie in finding alternate production pathways for products that are otherwise reduced to waste. For example, on-farm products that do not meet retailer specifications and otherwise go to waste, or products that are unable to be sold to retailers as a result of adverse weather events (i.e. cyclones, frosts). Identifying alternate markets for these products before they are harvested is a step toward reducing the volume of product that is currently wasted.
Yume is one example of a company who has taken on the role of identifying alternate markets for products that are currently contributing to Australia’s food loss and waste figures through connecting suppliers with buyers via an alternate distribution channel.
Changing consumer behaviours and increasing awareness of sustainable production is driving new and emerging markets. Hailing from a strong family line of red meat producers in the Western Districts of Victoria, the alternate protein debate is close to home for me. Grazing animals are an incredibly important part of ecological landscape management and partnering them carefully across our land is vital to sustainable management. While the alternate protein market has proven to have a number of key advantages (i.e. control over nutrient and product mix, lower/no cholesterol), the red meat market is not going to disappear. With the predicted population growth to 10 billion by 2050 there will be demand for both markets to cater to consumer choice and preference in eating choices.
Nutritionally, alternate proteins are currently being developed for taste, meaning they often have a higher combination of ingredients and levels of sodium and salt than their red meat counterparts. Until alternate proteins can be distinguished as nutritionally superior, each product should be seen as a preference, not a way of the future.
However, plant based proteins may see an indirect demand boost following on from the African Swine Fever and COVID-19 virus links to wet markets and intensive livestock systems in some parts of the world that have operated without high levels of animal health and biosecurity controls in operation. More humans and more animals for human consumption mean our global food safety and integrity systems must improve to keep us all safe. It is important for Australia in particular to continue to use plants and beef hand-in-hand to feed the global population, nutritiously and sustainably, and to do all we can to protect our biosecurity and integrity systems safeguarding agriculture.
Building consumer trust
Trust, transparency and traceability have been a significant part of the consumer conversation in agriculture over the last number of years. Recent food safety scandals have heightened consumer awareness around the dangers of not knowing what their product contains or where it has come from. Consumer trust in a product and a brand can have significant ramifications, both positive and negative. The question for Australian producers now lies in what information do we share with producers, when, and how?
KPMG Origins is one example of how to underpin trust in both products and supply chains by providing a blockchain platform that allows access to reliable information across the product journey. However, at a more foundational level, the first step to building a trusted brand and reputation is creating a narrative that the consumer can understand. Bridging the knowledge gap between on-farm systems and practices, and the food that ends up on a consumer’s plate is critical to understanding the processes that a product goes through across the supply chain. Without this foundational understanding, how can a consumer interpret the data that many technology solutions are proposing?
For Australian agriculture to fully take advantage of the looming technology revolution, we must address the three key underlying challenges.
Collaborative thinking and sharing of research and information is historically difficult, but vital to continue driving innovation. Having research tied up and underutilised will not provide any benefit to the industry, whilst a sharing and collaborative culture will enable technology producers to challenge each other and continually improve.
Australian businesses need to adopt a global mindset when developing new technology or product ideas. Access to a global market gives rise to a significant range of consumers and producers, each with different values, choices and preferences of production systems.
The presence of larger technology firms in this market now means the biggest barriers to accelerated adoption of agtech benefits is our agricultural workforce’s development of digital capabilities to optimise these new tools to deliver the benefits they offer to producers. With the broader selection of digital tools in the market, and platforms like Agtech Finder to help producers find solutions faster, what is needed are tools to help farmers assess the return on technology investment and determine the cost of adoption.
A willingness to take on risk and invest is crucial to taking the next step toward our 2030 farm gate output target of $100 billion.
For more information on these topics refer to: