The CSIRO recently released the Food and Agribusiness Roadmap, a comprehensive report on emerging opportunities to unlock value and growth in Australia’s food and agribusiness industries.
The CSIRO is a national, outward-looking research organisation, and much of their report reflects this with a strong focus on the need to build high value, export oriented revenue streams. This isn’t a particularly new insight, and for horticulture there are specific and unique challenges in this area. However the report also asks us to challenge existing judgments about our culture and national capacity to innovate. Australians are innovative for sure, but we can also be individualistic and to some degree highly focused on our own piece of national production.
What the roadmap offers, is an invitation to create an industry architecture that unlocks sustainable value creation in a more connected, collaborative food and agricultural sector. It describes a simple reality – we are in a global market with increasing pressures on food supply chains. These pressures create shifting demand and when demand shifts, suppliers with a comparative advantage will ultimately win the day – the report reinforces that increasing production alone will not be enough to sustain an Australian advantage.
The really innovative line of thinking is that we can overcome some of the disadvantages we have (e.g. high transport costs, cost and availability of labor, etc) by leveraging our strengths (excellent research and technology skill base, regulation and frameworks for food safety, etc).
The architecture put forward by the CSIRO calls for more collective action and the need to create and build eco-systems of services that can be utilised by industry to find higher value niches in our region. That thinking offers a profound shift in the way supply chains need to operate. In a real sense what we have is a plumbing challenge. We have tremendous untapped opportunities here, but they often sit isolated and disconnected from services and channels that could realise their true value. We need more connectivity, more openness, and a capacity to react and change to support different market signals.
It is a vision that the HiveXchange embraces. In fact this month we opened an office in Asia – www.hivexchange.hk and are now market testing the appetite for Asian commercial buyers to become part of an ecosystem of buyers, agents, exporters and service providers in Australia. We believe this kind of fabric (or plumbing), can be used to join services to products, build value and make the right connections. We also sit inside the Food Agility CRC and see the potential of bringing in our outstanding research capability to solve industrial challenges in a more connected food world. Every challenge we solve gives us a comparative advantage over our trade competition.
Where to start? Well, we believe there is one place where everyone needs to be, and that is online. In todays’ world not having a digital presence means isolation – isolation from markets, service providers, information, and spare capacity. This is as true for horticulture as it is for other sectors.
It is also imperative to get there first! Digital connectivity delivers comparative advantage and getting there first counts. If you don’t think so, consider what Amazon is doing to retail and what Facebook has done to newspapers. We need to shift our way of thinking and create an architecture for the future, one that enables our farmers and food industry to unlock value and new trade opportunities.
Watch the Roadmap animation HERE