Helping emerging industries is growing Australian agriculture

09.03.21

By John Harvey, Managing Director, AgriFutures Australia

Opportunities within the agricultural sector are constantly evolving. We see consumers hungry for new products, with changing requirements and expectations for food production – you only have to look at changing attitudes about eating meat to see how quickly things evolve. And that’s one of the reasons I think it’s vital that Australia continues to invest in our emerging agricultural and food production industries.

Opportunities within the agricultural sector are constantly evolving. We see consumers hungry for new products, with changing requirements and expectations for food production – you only have to look at changing attitudes about eating meat to see how quickly things evolve. And that’s one of the reasons I think it’s vital that Australia continues to invest in our emerging agricultural and food production industries.

We have to be nurturing emerging industries and helping them to establish themselves, so that some of our now fledgling industries can make big economic contributions in the near future. It’s indeed key to the Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector meeting the target of $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.

The challenge for us is however to not create hundreds of new little industries but instead focus on supporting select emerging industries with the capacity to be substantial – that is, with the potential to reach or exceed $10 million annual gross value of production (GVP).

If we look to past success stories for Australian agricultural industries that have emerged, canola is the ultimate example. From a small industry with limited success in Australian conditions, research and development turned canola into an essential major export crop that’s worth well over $1 billion to the economy annually.

Then of course there’s tea tree oil and ginger that AgriFutures Australia has seen progress in the last five years from ‘emerging’ to ‘established’ industries that now each contribute more than $30 million annually in GVP.

And let’s not forget the burgeoning export fodder industry that’s established itself by finding new markets in Asia for our high-quality hay and feed. In 2020 alone Australia exported more than 1.2 million tonnes of fodder, valued at more than half a billion dollars (ABARES).

Then there’s the emerging industries that I think are poised to make their mark very soon – from Australian truffles exporting to the northern hemisphere out of season, to the $1.5 billion opportunity that is a local seaweed industry, and the potential for a multi-million dollar insect protein industry to address global protein demand.

I’ve seen phenomenal interest and investment in companies and industries that are developing alternative proteins in the past two years. In fact, according to independent think tank and Food Frontier, in Australia and New Zealand alternative proteins companies raised tens-of-millions in investment between 2018 and 2020, and globally US$3.6 billion has been invested in plant-based meat.

I’ve also seen a focus for our emerging industries on building commercial partnerships as a means to expand quickly. The local hazelnut industry is a key example of this having experienced rapid growth thanks to investment by a subsidiary of the Ferrero Group, which has planted close to a million hazelnut trees at Narrandera.

At AgriFutures Australia, we also see the success that comes from likeminded producers working together – collaborating, sharing knowledge, forming cooperatives, companies and industry associations – in order to advocate for their industry and take it to the next level.

That’s why I think it’s important for producers to keep their eyes (and minds) open to emerging industries. The opportunity you’ve been looking for to renovate or rejuvenate your business might well be something new and innovative that can drive the future prosperity of Australian agriculture.