Growers' success with diversification was the focus of final day of GrainGrowers' Innovation Generation conference (9-11 July)
The last day of GrainGrowers' Innovation Generation conference in Wagga yesterday celebrated the stories of farming families and businesses which had branched out to add value to their existing operation through increased Return on Investment. Other opportunities for increased returns for Australian grain producers were also discussed.
Stuart Whytcross, Voyager Craft Malts, demonstrated how a passion for craft beer led him and long-time friend, Brad Woolner, to producing a craft beer sold only in Barellan, NSW from barley grown on his own family's farm and on those of friends. From there, they began growing and producing batches of artisan malts for craft beer produced in the Riverina region at such sites as the Thirsty Crow Brewing Co. in Wagga.
Michael Nichols, from Sisters Creek in Tasmania, showed how diversification can be an important tool which grain farmers should consider in their businesses to manage risk. Michael's mixed farming enterprise today grows canola, wheat, pyrethrum, poppies, potatoes, onions, mustard, peas, buckwheat and runs 80 Friesian steers. Michael also has a contracting business which provides muck spreading, spraying and combine harvesting services to local farmers.
Neil Druce, Green Grove Organics, grew grain at Ardlethan NSW and asked himself the question "what can we make with our grain that we can take straight to customers without a middle man?" His answer was to produce organic licorice from a renovated former flour mill, now a tourist facility, at Junee. From 31 August, he will also start selling whisky at Corowa Whisky and Chocolate. In telling the story of the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory, he gave participants two main messages: you have options in what you do and how you run your business - follow your passion; to diversify you don't have to be all that smart, but you do need to choose a product that no-one else is selling.
Nuffield Scholar and grain grower at Gilgandra NSW, Andrew Freeth, discussed Grower Co-operative Limited which, with 52 grower members, produces 1.2 million tonnes of crop production including wheat, barley, chickpeas, sorghum and cotton. The co-operative was formed to improve the economics of moving grain from the farm to the customer for increased return on investment.
Dr Ken Quail, AEGIC, talked about the opportunities for grain in Asia (particularly Indonesia on our doorstep with a middle class forecast to be 120 million by 2020) which including defending Australia's share of the noodle market - given that Indonesians eat 12 billion serves of instant noodles every year (and the Chinese, about 38 billion). He also said Australia should capture a share of the Indonesian bread market and work on its share of the biscuit, cracker and cake market.
The program concluded with a Predictions and Future Directions Panel which was moderated by Dr Michael Southan, GrainGrowers CEO, and featured Nuffield Director, David Gooden, AgriDigital's Ben Reid and Daybreak Cropping's Belinda Turner. Among topics discussed were dealing with social licence issues in agriculture, the development of blockchain and its benefits for agriculture, how to increase the adoption of new technology on farms, how to use the copious data now being generated through new technology, and the question of who owns the data.
Next year's Innovation Generation conference is planned to be held in Victoria.