NSW Farmers is calling for $10 million to support the establishment of a $185 million Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), with its research focussed on igniting food regions, developing smart indoor cropping and using science and technology to improve the future of food manufacturing.
Our bid, one of six shortlisted, includes more than 70 partners from around Australia. New South Wales-based partners include industry partners RuralCo, Perfection Fresh, Costa, Oz Medican, Sumo Salad and Mountain Blue, alongside the Department of Primary Industries, Horticulture Innovation Australia, the Liverpool, Armidale and Coffs Harbour local governments and RDA Sydney. Our research partners are the University of NSW, Western Sydney University, University of New England, Queensland University of Technology, Murdoch University, Charles Darwin University and the George Institute for Global Health.
A chief focus for the CRC will be lifting the proportion of value-added agricultural products which are exported from Australia – at present, 88 per cent of the food and fibre grown in Australia is exported in a raw state, allowing others to value add and create significant additional value. By developing smarter and more innovative ways of value adding in regional areas, in particular, we can lift the value of our agricultural production and the value of our agricultural exports.
With a co-investment by the New South Wales Government, the CRC can prioritise investment in:
- regional food, industry and growth planning, with an initial focus on western Sydney, Coffs Harbour and Armidale,
- urban design, planning and circular economy solutions for the Western Sydney Fresh Food Precinct at the new airport,
- fresh food logistics tools to support rapid export of perishable premium goods, and
- skills and technology transfer by supporting traineeships, research and scholarly development programs.
Industry clusters and ‘place based innovation’ are central to the CRC delivery model. By building shared infrastructure, a local ecosystem of specialised skills and shorter supply chains, significant synergies, innovation and efficiencies can be established. Through exemplar food hubs in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the CRC will design and demonstrate food industry facilities which are fit for purpose.
The CRC will also investigate ways to improve the reliability of supply chains, including the faster and more efficient movement of fresh produce from the paddock to the plate. Demand for traceable food, in which the ‘food journey’ can be verified by compliance authorities and end users, is a growing opportunity for food and fibre producers in New South Wales. The opportunity of the Western Sydney Airport and fresh food precinct, along with regional food hubs, presents us with a unique opportunity to revolutionise supply chains in this state and establish a clear competitive advantage in target export markets.
Finally, the CRC has a focus on reducing costs associated with doing the business of farming. Improving profitability and productivity, protecting the provenance of the produce and maximising the end value paid for the product are essential to the business of farming. Evolving them to the next generation of farming systems, including digital platform-specialised food production will give Australia a share in a growing market for premium foods. It is estimated that, by 2025:
- the global health and wellness market will be worth A$3.4 trillion,
- the quality assured fine foods and health-focussed pre-packaged meals market will be worth up to an estimated A$3.6 trillion, and
- foods targeted at addressing particular and specific nutrient needs, health concerns and other ‘personalised foods’ will be worth up to A$770 billion.
This is an area of enormous potential for Australian agriculture, giving us the opportunity to leverage our strong brand and reputation for quality, safe produce and add significant additional value to the output of farmers across the country. The CRC bid is central to unlocking the full potential of Australian agriculture to exceed our $100 billion target by 2030 and setting Australia up to be a modern, premium food bowl for a growing world.