2004 Winners

2004 New South Wales Winner - Rebecca Arnott

Beef Branding in Australia

At the time of the Award Rebecca Arnott was National Brand Manager for the Australian Agricultural Company’s branded beef products.

With beef consumption, until recently, within Australia declining, the advent of branded beef complete with a stringent set of standards, underpinned by Ausmeat and Meat Standards Australia, has helped turn consumption around and has helped the major pastoral companies and producer groups value add their product and retain greater control of the value chain.

Rebecca’s vision is to be part of a true beef industry supply chain alliance where all players are working towards the common goal of increasing red meat consumption, through consistent quality and quantity branded product.

Her project was to investigate the branded beef market, in the retail and food service sectors, in the United Kingdom, United States and Japan. Key areas of investigation included supply chain management, product differentiation, packaging, labelling and presentation, in supermarkets, butcher shops, hotels and restaurants.

The study tour Rebecca undertook provided her with a greater understanding of Australia’s biggest beef export markets and the importance of branded beef within those markets, with the expectation of identifying new opportunities for Australian branded product, along with new contacts, knowledge and expertise.

Rebecca met with numerous people involved in the red meat industries in Japan, the US and UK, including retailers and wholesalers and food service industry executives, along with customers and chefs and Meat and Livestock Australia overseas managers. She also attended and supported customers at a major food trade show whilst in Japan.

In Australia branded beef product has proved very popular in the food service and restaurant sector but has been slow to take off with consumers in the retail sector, including the major supermarkets. However in the US, UK and Japan Rebecca found quite the contrary situation, with branded beef occupying substantial shelf space in retail outlets, but little evidence of branded product in the food service sector.  She also found some innovative marketing tools and points of difference employed overseas.

In the UK, for example, she found some supermarkets promoting the farm and point of origin of beef with a picture of the farm and comments by the producer or a recognized chef, while in the US, recognized sporting heroes were used to brand and differentiate product.  She also found the packaging and presentation of beef particularly in the US and Japan to be excellent, with the capacity for domestic beef in Japan to be scanned back from supermarket to point of origin to ascertain the background of the cattle.

While it was too early to quantify the impact of Rebecca’s study tour on the Australian industry, the most immediate and direct implication was the development and promotion of a specialty steak section featuring branded beef in Coles supermarket, in collaboration with MLA. Rebecca’s study tour was critical to providing the necessary information on product differentiation, packaging and labeling, point of sale material and value adding strategies to orchestrate this.

The Award has given Rebecca a much broader understanding of Australia’s key trading partners and their branded beef product and of the issues and opportunities facing the Australian industry as it embraces branded product.

2004 Victoria Winner - Marilyn Lanyon

Simply Tomatoes

Marilyn Lanyon is the principal of ‘Simply Tomatoes’ a value adding horticultural enterprise, borne out of adverse marketing conditions and consequent price collapse for processed tomatoes.

Marilyn’s vision is for the men and women of the processing tomato industry to work together to remain viable and to seek out value adding opportunities, so that their future is not solely dependant on one buyer or one major company.

Her project involved a second overseas marketing trip to pursue potential market contacts visited whilst abroad in 2001, as part of the Women in Horticulture SE Asia Market visit. The focus of the second trip, with the assistance of her export advisor, centred on how to conduct business overseas and secure orders for Simply Tomatoes.

Marilyn conducted a number of in store tastings and met with a numerous buyers in Denmark, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and the USA, talking at length with them concerning their needs and issues with and acceptance of product. Major issues facing the enterprise currently include demand management, lean packaging and distribution, international labeling and product acceptance.

The discussions proved helpful in further identifying the needs of the export market. The trip proved successful with one order involving distribution into 14 countries throughout Europe secured, and negotiations for a second order into the USA. At the time of the Award, Simply Tomatoes was exporting into 19 overseas destinations in total. In addition, media exposure, guest speaking opportunities and market events all helped to rapidly increase the domestic market for Simply Tomatoes, with the enterprise boasting over 150 stockists across Australia at the time of the Award.

Simply Tomatoes was also been used as a case study for Austrade, Dynamic Small Business, a Globalisation Positioning Symposium for Horticulture and was showcased at the National Farmers Market Conference.

Marilyn says she has grown enormously in confidence through media and guest speaking opportunities, with her knowledge and expertise also increasing through attending a number of relevant workshops. She hopes that she will be an encouragement and a conduit to other rural women seeking to establish their own value adding businesses and turning their ideas into reality.

2004 Queensland Winner - Claudine Ward

Stories of Women in the Gulf of Carpentaria Gill Net Fishery

“Do you go out of the boats too luv?” is a question all too familiar to Claudine Ward, an active master fisherman in the Gulf of Carpentaria Gill Net Fishery, for the past thirty years.

Claudine is a successful commercial fisherman in her own right, playing an active role in the management of the family’s three vessels and five entitlements and a driving force within the industry, having been instrumental in developing both the Gulf of Carpentaria’s Commercial Fishermen’s Code of Conduct and Environmental Management Plan.

Claudine’s vision is to promote the important role women play in the fishing industry both in the Gulf and beyond and to have them recognized as partners and business operators in their own right.  Her project was to produce a publication on the history of women involved in the Gulf commercial fishing industry, so that this unique story is told and available for future generations.

The project involved eliciting stories directly from as many women fishers in the Gulf as practically possible, to document the early history of commercial fishing in the region and to compile a cross section of anecdotal history of women in the commercial gillnet fishery. The result she proposed would be a quality publication that would provide an insight into the women and their stories of how they coped with conditions and seasons during the various stages of the fisheries history.

Claudine sent out a questionnaire to all the fishing entitlements currently fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria Gillnet Fishery and to those retired fisher women that could be contacted. The response to the questionnaire was astounding, and once contact had been made and based on these initial responses Claudine was able to establish a timeline from the earliest days of gulf fishing to the present time.  The publication, not surprisingly against the title “Do You Go Out of the Boats Too Luv? has went to print with a first print run of 1000 books.

Claudine believes the most obvious impact has been on the women themselves involved in the publication, in the self esteem it has returned them, seeing their lives and their stories in print, and the potential to nurture and encourage younger women into the industry.  She says the book has also changed her perspective on how she views women and their involvement and importance to the fishing industry.

On a personal note the Award gave Claudine the opportunity to travel to other areas of the Australian fishing industry to address like-minded groups on the subjects of women in the fishing industry and environmental management within the industry.  Since the launch of the book, women involved in the prawn fishery have approached her to gather together their stories with a view to producing a similar publication.  As Claudine sees it, there is little monetary gain achieved from her publication, but the loss of history if these stories were not told would be priceless.

2004 South Australian Winner - Jeanette Long

Women Embracing Agriculture Together

Jeanette Long is a business and training consultant delivering training across rural South Australia, as well as partner in two family farming operations.  Her vision is to empower women grain growers, to achieve change, by skills development through participation in strategic learning groups and to grow their leadership skills in a safe, family friendly environment within their region.

The pilot group called WEAT (Women Embracing Agriculture Together) was established with the objective of providing professional training for rural women in their regional areas at times which suited their family and work commitments. Training was based on a skills analysis and designed to fill specific gaps in knowledge as determined on an individual and subsequently group basis. The group once formed would provide a network for support and an opportunity for women to keep abreast of changes within their industry.

Jeanette’s ambition on a personal level was for professional training in leadership skills through a formal mentoring process and accreditation as a deliverer of the Myer Briggs Personality Type indicator.

A group of 15 women from across the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia came together for seven workshops over a six month period.

Strategic areas of interest covered in the workshops included business benchmarking, price risk management, succession and strategic planning, leadership skills, human resource management and mentoring. During the course of the workshops the group met with a number of industry representatives including executives from Australia Grain Marketing, AWB Ltd, ABB Grain Ltd, Ezigrain and NAB.

The pilot proved very successful and the 15 women who participated grew in confidence, strengthened networks and developed new skills in grain marketing and a greater understanding of supply chain issues and business financial benchmarking. The women each completed a skills audit and are now better placed to identify their future individual training needs.

Jeanette’s confidence in her own leadership skills grew to the point where she left paid employment and began working in her own consultancy business.  She also gained new skills in dealing with the media, in mentoring and in public speaking and has subsequently spoken at a number of high profile functions and events.

In addition, new career opportunities opened up to her, including being appointed the Independent Chair of the Inland Fisheries Management Committee for PIRSA and National Project Manager for the Partners In Grain Project.

2004 Western Australian Winner - Diane Morrison

Aquaculture Project -Wahroonga Station

Diana Morrison lives in one of the remotest parts of Australia, in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia, which is close to 1,000 kilometres north of Perth.  Diana is partner in a pastoral operation Wahroonga Station, which produces fine merino wool, beef cattle and rangeland meat goats.  But the Rangelands and the pastoral industries susceptibility to drought and the economic implications of drought on the region and the social fabric of the community, has driven Diana to seek out viable and realistic alternate enterprises for the region.

The Gascoyne Artesian Basin Rehabilitation Project, a joint initiative between the Federal and State governments and pastoral leaseholders, to cap and control the once free flowing bores of the region, has effectively revolutionized water, land and stock management in the region and paved the way for alternate new industries, including aquaculture and more specifically ornamental fish production.

At the time of the Award, the global ornamental fish industry was estimated to be worth as much as US$5 billion, yet the majority of ornamental fish were imported into Australia, including fancy gold fish from China and SE Asia and guppies from Sri Lanka and Singapore.

Diana’s project involved two fact finding missions, one domestically to New South Wales and Queensland and one overseas to Singapore, coupled with extensive trial work on farm, to resolve some of the major issues facing the production of ornamental fish in saline artesian water.  The study tour to Queensland and NSW involved meetings with a number of industry leaders, wholesalers and importers, proved fruitful in providing Diana with a greater insight into the Australian industry and some valuable new contacts, while the tour to Singapore to attend Aquarama 2005, put fish breeding on the world stage, highlighting the latest research into the nutrition, breeding, animal welfare and best practice management of numerous fish species.

Trial research work back at Wahroonga Station has proved both revealing and promising. The major research involved investigating the ability of egg laying ornamental goldfish and other ornamental species to spawn successfully in low saline artesian water. The concern being that saline water could cause a process of reverse osmosis through the egg wall resulting in the death of the embryo.

The trial started with live bearers or fish producing live young and proved these species able to breed prolifically and in commercial numbers. The trial continued with egg laying fancy goldfish and showed the species able to grow to sexual maturity, with a hormone induced spawning moderately successful and resulting in the small number of eggs retrieved showing no signs of impairment due to water quality. The trial then moved on to further egg laying species including the Australian and New Guinea rainbow fish with the species producing numbers sufficient to become the basis of a commercial industry. The trial concluded with the Catfish species which produced eggs that subsequently failed to be fertilised and the Guppies species which resulted in sufficient production for commercial potential.

In addition a small grass trial was undertaken, using perennial grasses currently used as a stock fodder crop in Queensland and Western Australia, to test for the effective use of waste water from aqua tanks. The grasses grew prolifically and set seed with no obvious signs of salt stress.  While it was too early to confirm from trial results a viable new industry for the rangelands, the research at Wahroonga Station as a result of the Award conclusively proved that some egg laying ornamental fish species capable of producing in commercial numbers of viable larva in saline artesian water.

With the help of a grant secured through the Gascoyne Murchison Strategy, Diana has set up commercial facilities including a tunnel house, tanks and plumbing and an aeration system, to allow her to move into commercial production. She anticipated that full production levels would enable her to produce 48,000 juveniles and a gross income of $80,000 p.a.  The Award helped Diana develop new skills and launch a new business, along with bringing her community recognition and a self confidence from her achievements.

2004 Tasmania Winner - Diane Rae

Sheep Dairying in Europe and New Zealand

Diane Rae is one of a handful of sheep milk and cheese producers that make up the Australian industry.  She is responsible for establishing Tasmania’s only organic sheep dairy and cheesery and her product has been recognized by a number of Awards including the 2003 Tasmanian Fine Food Award’s Minister for Primary Industries Award for Best Organic Product.

Diane’s vision is to lead and encourage by example other rural women to recognize sheep dairying as a viable agricultural enterprise and one with a huge potential, with demand already outstripping domestic supply of cheese milk and cheese products by a ratio of five to one.  At the time of the Award, the sheep dairying industry in Australia was only 20 years old and still in its infancy and lacking critical knowledge in genetics, pasture management, infrastructure expertise (housing and equipment), milk processing and cheese production; all needed to more the industry forward.

Diane’s project involved travel to Europe, the United Kingdom and to New Zealand to visit with sheep dairy farmers and processors, and learn from their expertise and experience. She travelled to England and Ireland, Southern France, Italy, Spain and Sardinia, visiting a wide range of sheep dairying farms and factories, and seeking out information on dairy sheep management, milking machinery and infrastructure, shed design, lamb rearing techniques, cheese manufacture and selling and marketing options.

What she found were some stark differences in the sheep dairying industries and operations between the countries. Italy and Sardinia proved to have an extremely well established and integrated industry with efficient farms, large sheds and state of the art milking equipment and adequate infrastructure to allow for specialist cheese making and farmer cooperatives. In contrast in France while she found their cheese making to be far more innovative she also found conditions in some regions to be quite rudimentary and subsistent.

England also boasted a well established and integrated sheep milking and cheese making industry with over 40 registered producers, involved in the full range of activities from milking only to milking and processing products, to milking, processing and selling product on farm. In contrast Ireland proved a very basic industry with only three producers and no cooperative cheese processing factory.

All European countries shed their milking sheep for at least part of the year, for either protection from the elements or as an intensive farming exercise, with a large variation in housing facilities and feeding and watering infrastructure between countries.  European countries also employ several breeds that are true dairy animals bred for their quantity of milk, as compared to Australia’s one commercially available dairy breed, the East Friesland and comprising of an extremely small gene pool.

Diane gained substantial new knowledge in dairy sheep management as a result of the study tour, particularly in the areas of sheep management in a fully housed situation and extending to feed mix rations, ventilation and health management.  In terms of cheese making techniques, the trip also provided her with new experiences in the finishing off of cheeses, for enhancing flavour and for presentation, which she has since incorporated into her own cheese making.

These new learnings, Diane believes, have given her a better understanding of the challenges the Australian industry faces and a realization that they are similar to those faced by other industries worldwide, learnings that she was eager to share with the rest of the Australian industry and with other rural women.

Diane believes that for the Australian industry to move forward a number of major resolutions need to be made, including the establishment of a sheep cheese manufacturing teaching facility and the release of the Awassi breed to the Australian industry as a second dairy sheep breed and as a cross against the current East Friesland.

2004 Northern Territory Winner - Lee Berryman

Harvesting and Post Harvest Treatment of Bamboo Shoots

Lee Berryman, with husband Phil Vivian are the Northern Territory’s largest commercial bamboo growers and suppliers of fresh bamboo shoots.  Bamboo is a new commercial crop for the Northern Territory with a small, but growing number of producers. The Territory environment and distance pose unique challenges for harvesting and packaging, quality assurance and marketing, and with most research to date focused on temperate climates there is little data currently available of benefit for Territory growers to benchmark against.

Lee’s proposed activity involved visiting a range of commercial bamboo farms to observe and document harvesting techniques, post-harvest treatment and packaging and transportation of bamboo.  Lee proposed to apply best practice on their own farm, documenting changes made to existing practices and reasons and then follow up the consignment from farm to markets to observe changes to the quality of product offered to consumers.

Farm visits to commercial properties in Queensland and northern NSW were undertaken between January and February 2005 but due to the extremely short length of the 2004/2005 season market visits did not eventuate, nor did other management activities planned for that season, including application of best practice and monitoring of a consignment of bamboo shoots.

The 2004/2005 season was an extremely difficult season brought about by a late and dry NT wet season, resulting in poor bamboo quantity and quality, with most growing areas coming on to market at the same time, resulting in an oversupply on the market and an early drop in prices.

Major findings from the visits to other commercial bamboo shoot producers can be summarized as:

  • There is little easily identifiable ‘best practice’ in harvesting techniques, post-harvest treatment, packaging or transportation, with wide variances resulting from individual preferences and circumstances.
  • Further comparisons of overall returns from heavily thinned plants (the most common practice) and plants with little or no thinning may indicate that current practice is not the most economic option.
  • There is little data to demonstrate ‘real’ economic returns from bamboo shoot production, and it may be that growers are accepting lifestyle alternatives over long term economic viability.
  • Value adding, alternate uses and other options are being explored by most growers.

The major conclusion to come out of Lee’s project was that while NT bamboo shoot production often has an early season niche, growers need to carefully evaluate whether bamboo products from the Territory can overcome the challenges of distance from large markets and the transport costs involved, to enable them to compete with other more suitable growing regions and to achieve longer term sustainable returns.

As a direct result of the visits, Lee and Phil actively explored nursery and ornamental bamboo production and supplies. They also adapted management techniques and reducing plant thinning and more closely watched market pricing of bamboo shoot to assess actual returns against required returns, given the costs of harvest and transport.

For Lee the opportunity to visit a wide range of growers and discuss issues related to bamboo shoot production and handling was an extremely valuable one, providing her with information and contacts difficult to gain other than through face to face contact and information and contacts that she will share across the Territory industry.