An ambitious new direction to grow the prosperity of our rural industries

18.09.17

AgriFutures Australia is the new name for Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), but it’s much more than a name change, according to Managing Director John Harvey. The organisation has set its sights on a bold new direction to grow the long-term prosperity of Australian rural industries. Here John explains how and why AgriFutures Australia is ‘open for business’.

The organisation formerly known as RIRDC has seen a great deal of change over the past 12 months. It’s been a convergence of circumstances – new location in Wagga Wagga NSW, new Chair Mrs. Kay Hull AM, new Managing Director and new team – that has given us new insights and presented new possibilities for how we deliver value to Australia’s rural industries.

AgriFutures Australia represents many months of research and discussion with stakeholders and it is a name that reflects a significant change within our organisation. We’re looking ahead and are firmly focused on our goal – to grow the long-term prosperity of rural industries and communities through research, innovation, and developing human capacity and leadership.

Our new strategy focuses on four key areas: people and leadership, national challenges and opportunities, growing the profitability of our rural industries, and establishing emerging industries.

It also takes advantage of our unique cross sectoral mandate to look at opportunities and issues facing all rural industries. We want to lead collaborative research in agriculture and drive innovation of national and global significance.

This means our focus is on:

  1. attracting talented people into the agriculture sector and building the skills of emerging industry leaders;
  2. identifying and addressing challenges and opportunities that are common across rural sectors, for example supporting our country’s ag-tech innovation ecosystem;
  3. delivering value through profitability improvements to our levied rural industries like rice, chicken meat and export fodder; and
  4. establishing high-value potential emerging rural industries.

It’s important to note here that while this strategy is indeed new, it is not wholesale change for change’s sake. Our new priorities are built on the solid foundation set by RIRDC and will allow us to deliver even more value to Australia’s rural industries. It builds on years of hard work from past Directors, employees, farmers and research partners all of whom have made it possible

So why is a new approach, and a new name, necessary? The short answer is because Australian agriculture has changed, and it continues to change rapidly in the face of many challenges and opportunities.

Challenges such as a hungrier world where population growth will drive up demand for food and fibre, information empowered customers who will expect more from their food in terms of health benefits, provenance and sustainability, and the reshaping of agriculture’s risk profile in the face of globalisation and climate change.

Opportunities such as the onset of transformative technologies that will change the way food and fibre products are made and transported, and a wealthier world where a new middle-income class will increase food consumption, especially protein, and diversify diets.

The rural industries that will be resilient, profitable and competitive in the face of these challenges are those that actively consider now what is coming next and position themselves to respond. This requires not only effective research and development at an industry or commodity level but a commitment to developing human capacity and leadership. Something AgriFutures Australia is uniquely placed to deliver.

How will we do it? Through strong partnerships. Partnerships with established industries like rice, chicken meat, and honey bees and pollination; partnerships with other Research and Development Corporations; partnerships with research organisations; partnerships with the private sector. Partnerships that tackle the issues that all rural industries face to benefit the Australian people.

Whether it’s fostering ag-tech or establishing new industries, we aren’t going to be able to do it on our own and the private sector has an increasingly significant role to play. We’re taking a new, more commercial, approach to research and innovation and over the next five years will be actively seeking private sector partnerships.

We know that doing great research is just the start. What’s more important is the point at which a farmer does something different on their farm or in their business because of the research. That’s where the return on investment happens.

At AgriFutures Australia, our goal is to grow the long-term profitability of Australian rural industries through research and innovation. We will not stand by and let Australian agriculture miss the enormous opportunities that the future holds or be overwhelmed by the challenges of tomorrow.  By focusing on the people in our industry, taking a national approach, improving profitability and establishing valuable new industries, AgriFutures Australia can and will make a real difference.

Follow us on Twitter @AgriFuturesAU and Facebook to see how we’re making an impact on Australia’s rural industries.