The Food and Agribusiness Growth Center, which acts as FIAL (an industry-led Australian government-funded non-profit organization), works hard to promote protected crops in the country. “98% of the companies we represent are small to medium-sized,” said Dr. Mirjana Prica from FIAL. “That means they may not have access to financial resources that would allow them to scale.”
dr. Mirjana Prica from FIAL
A potential to unlock
Horticulture today accounts for 4% of Australia’s gross domestic product, and although raw materials and basic crops account for a large share of this, Prica believes that the biggest opportunities lie in the specialty crop segment. “If you can promote the origin of a crop and ensure that you deliver a high quality product, we can differentiate our offerings and be smarter with our exports.”
According to Prica, the potential in the Australian food and agriculture industry sector is € 132 billion “There are around 19 growth opportunities, including horticultural practices such as protected cultivation, which are valued at € 1.3 billion,” she explains. “There is land, water and land management, there is animal feed and so on. When we think about this, we have to think about the whole value chain, how we grow raw materials and how we optimize processed foods. By designating a category, we create additional jobs and, in general, 300,000 can be added. “
Roughly speaking, many sectors depend on horticulture, its products and its raw materials. It is Prica’s job to help growers seize the opportunities that would give top products thanks to protected crops. “Today, consumers are becoming more picky, and for good reason,” she says. “People are now willing to pay a higher price if they know what they are getting is high quality. They want to eat healthy and stay healthy.”
CEA clusters as an engine for growth
So it goes without saying that to consistently achieve the high quality is the best way through Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). The problem with this is that the barrier to entry for breeders can be quite high. This is where FIAL comes in. “For example, a new airport is being built in western Sydney and it is being considered to build protected cultivation structures nearby. The rationale is to create clusters where high quality fresh food is grown, processed, packaged and then sent directly to the nearby airport. .
“This is the kind of project that is making Australian horticulture grow,” says Prica. “We have been at the forefront of developing clusters; groups of companies working together to solve problems. It gives the entrepreneurs in those clusters easier access to different types of technologies. These clusters are really important because they focus on different problems in it. all the way. Land. ” What matters is that there is one voice, one vision that unites raw materials and producers. “Clusters provide that platform.”
The ultimate goal is to export in a more targeted and efficient way. “It’s a supply and demand market and we can not approach it on a pure scale,” she says. “We need to be smarter and we need to do better. The answer is more differentiation, so away from the commodity cycle.”
A case study: tomato grower Flavorite
Tomato Grower Flavorite is a great case study to show what Prica is talking about. The grower wanted to ‘regain the taste of tomato’ when he started his business in the 1980s. But the experiments they made often led to the loss of crops.
“They had a problem and they did not know how to solve it. Then they saw an opportunity,” Prica said. In fact, growers realized that they could not do it alone and that they had to collaborate and invest in research. “At the same time, they were also curious and open to research. They had a vision and they were determined,” Prica added.
So the company started using and even developing its own automated system. “They started automating irrigation, using robots, measuring humidity and so on,” she explains. They also invested in developing their own measurement system, which measures any task across the company to monitor performance and provide accurate real-time operational data. The result? “Previously, they grew 5 kg of tomatoes with about 60-100 liters of water. From now on, they grow 80 kg with only 18 liters of water.”
Flavorite shows how collaboration, being open to news, but also investing in research can give a CEA company a huge boost. Given the harsh Australian climate, differentiating supply to better hit the market through CEA-grown products certainly represents a huge opportunity for Australian farming. “We need to be wiser about what we grow and offer, and we need to structure these resources. This will unlock the potential of € 1.3 billion of protected crops in Australia.”
For more information:
Food and Agribusiness Growth Center
671 Sneydes Road, Werribee, VIC 3030 Australia
+61 499 016 389