Building on a strong tradition of valuable agricultural research and development (R&D) one thing we have observed recently is a positive trend towards better understanding of consumer decision making and what is most important to the people who buy our agricultural produce, be they supermarket consumers, international markets or other farmers. Within AgriFutures Australia’s own levied rural industries we’ve seen a new recognition that understanding the consumer is of paramount importance and can add real value, especially in helping industries to grow and be more competitive.
One example of this is the tea tree oil industry, which has grown from a cottage industry to export powerhouse over the past 25 years thanks to consistent investment in R&D that is directed towards improving the quality of the product for consumers. Of critical importance to the industry’s success was a $6 million breeding program which delivered efficiencies in productivity that have made Pure Australian Tea Tree Oil an iconic product sold throughout the world. This is set to continue with increased RD&E investment as the industry has now moved to levy funding.
Similarly, the Australian ginger industry is benefiting from increased investment in research that is focused on delivering a great consumer product. In its latest RD&E Plan (2017 – 2022), which sets the direction for future investment, the ginger industry has focused on market research to boost consumer demand and identify new profitable channels, improving farm productivity to compete with imports, and ensuring uptake of research outputs.
Another example of consumer-focused research is around the increasingly popular topic of gut health, which has led the Australian honey bee industry to a new research project examining the medicinal properties – including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and prebiotic – of eucalyptus honey. Knowing that consumers are willing to pay more for honey with proven health benefits, the outcomes of this research have the potential to aid further expansion of our honey bee industry.
What’s also clear from the above examples is that investment in agricultural R&D has been steadily increasing in recent years. At AgriFutures Australia, in response to renewed RD&E plans for our levied rural industries, we have been pleased to see not only fresh research priorities that will bring even more benefits to producers and consumers but also growth in investment that is very promising for the future.