Collaborative approach is fundamental to maximise RD&E outcomes in emerging industries

13.07.21

A growing number of new and emerging rural industries are bringing opportunity, diversity and resilience to rural Australia and have the potential to make significant economic, social and environmental contributions. The AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program is encouraging industry players to work together to pool their resources, collective knowledge and face challenges with a united front to achieve strategic outcomes and gain competitive advantage 

AgriFutures Australia Manager Emerging Industries, Laura Skipworth said one of the fundamental components in growing Australia’s emerging industries is developing thorough research, development and extension (RD&E) plans.  

“RD&E plans are designed to not only detail the priorities for an industry, but to also identify any key opportunities and barriers to growth,” she explained.  

“A considerable amount of work goes into the development of an RD&E plan, from desktop research, to stakeholder engagement. A plan paints a picture of the current state of the industry, where it wants to get to, and how.”  

Ms Skipworth said although emerging industries generally have a small support network, fostering collaboration – sharing knowledge, learning from each other’s experiences and ensuring plans are representative of the entire industry – is central to success. 

“It is vital to have whole of industry buy-in and perspective,” said Ms Skipworth.  

“Involving industry stakeholders from across the entire supply chain – producers, processors, transport and logistics, wholesalers, researchers, industry bodies – means that RD&E plans are representative of the entire industry.  

“Importantly, those who make up the industry at all levels feel a sense of ownership and an increased desire to drive the implementation of the plans.” 

Cultivating an industry wide approach crucial to success 

One emerging industry that is rapidly gaining momentum is the Australian seaweed industry. Jo Kelly, CEO of Australian Seaweed Institute, said it has taken a collaborative effort to drive industry growth. 

“Collaboration has been crucial for developing a seaweed industry strategy and plan. The Australian Seaweed Industry Blueprint was developed over several months with input from stakeholders across research, government and industry nationally.  

“It was really important to represent the industry opportunity for Australia as a whole and the process has given us a reference point to help support individual business cases. It also created the opportunity for people to meet and network and a number of collaborations have sprung up from those introductions.” 

Ms Kelly said that a key outcome of the collaboration has been the formation of a peak body for the seaweed industry, the Australian Sustainable Seaweed Alliance (ASSA). 

“With support from the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program, the ASSA was formed to be the voice of the industry and help drive the development and change needed to accelerate impact.” 

“Collaboration between industry, researchers and government will be critical if we are to realise the opportunity of a seaweed industry for Australia and the economic, environmental and social benefits it can have for the nation.” 

Ms Kelly said that the development of a clear RD&E plan is helping to focus investment into the right building blocks needed to support the whole industry and commercial outcomes.  

Collaboration yields real results 

Another success story is the export fodder industry, which has grown significantly from an emerging industry to a highly profitable and competitive player within the grain sector, with an industry-wide RD&E Levy. 

Mark Heaslip, Chairman of AEXCO said it was a collaborative effort that led to the establishment of the Export Fodder RD&E Levy. 

 

“In 2003, Australia’s export hay companies agreed to establish the Australian Exporters Company Pty Ltd (AEXCO), to support the National Oat Breeding Program (NOBP) in developing oat hay varieties for Australian growers,” Mr Heaslip said.  

Mr Heaslip explained that as the licensee of NOBP oat hay varieties, AEXCO commercialised the oat hay varieties, and AEXCO shareholders agreed to collect an end point royalty on all AEXCO licensed varieties of hay grown and exported.  

“As a result of their involvement in the establishment and development of AEXCO, the export hay companies collaborated to support a number of industry research and development initiatives, such as agronomy trials and economic analysis on the benefit of oat hay production,” Mr Heaslip said.  

“In 2015, this collaboration subsequently saw the export hay companies agree to the establishment of a mandatory Export Fodder RD&E Levy of $0.50 per tonne for all hay and straw exported from Australia.” 

Mr Heaslip said the levy, and the subsequent RD&E plan, has facilitated the growth and development of the industry in a very positive way.  

“Collaborating as an industry and investing in priority RD&E needsincluding the development of new oaten varieties, consistent quality and residue testing regimes, and market research, is delivering a competitive advantage to all export fodder industry participants, and has seen the Australian export fodder industry develop into a sustainable and highly profitable sector,” he said.  

Building capacity for a prosperous future  

Ultimately, people are at the centre of ensuring the growth of Australia’s emerging rural industries, which, Ms Skipworth says, is why capacity building is recognised as a priority in the development of all AgriFutures Australia’s RD&E plans.  

“Without a core group of engaged stakeholders within the industry who are easily accessible, developing and implementing an RD&E plan is very difficult,” said Ms Skipworth. 

“We are thrilled to launch a new virtual capacity building program in conjunction with specialist training provider, Associations Forum Pty Ltd. 

The program aims to give industries the skills they need to develop an industry association, or strengthen governance in existing associations.  

“Having an industry association or group helps provide a vehicle to promote the industry and drive industry initiatives, including the implementation of an RD&E plan.” 

As part of developing the Australian seaweed industry, Ms Kelly has participated in AgriFutures Australia’s Emerging Industries Capacity Building Program and the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Course. 

“The capacity building and AICD course are really timely for me as we are just setting up the peak body – Australian Sustainable Seaweed Alliance. We are launching to members in July and there is a lot of work involved in set up and best practice governance for an industry group. It has been enormously helpful to have AgriFutures support in helping grow the Australian seaweed industry,” Ms Kelly said.  

Learn more about the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program and the Emerging Industries Capacity Building Program, via: agrifutures.com.au/emerging-industries  

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The AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program is encouraging industry players to work together to pool their resources, collective knowledge and face challenges with a united front to achieve strategic outcomes and gain competitive advantage