Resilience, tenacity and authenticity are in abundance in rural Australia. We also tend to be conservative, and don’t always throw ourselves readily into change. And why would we, when the weather, markets and the innumerable variables of farming dish out plenty of surprises?
The farming life has enough unknowns without volunteering for more.
But change is also the condition that produces opportunity. It is a good time to be pondering change + opportunity, because Australia is somewhere in the process of the biggest change in its short modern history.
Economically, and in some cases politically, we are switching our gaze from our cultural origins in the Western world to our geographical location on the edge of Asia.
That change is well under way. I was recently a guest at an investor conference hosted by vibrant venture capital firm Blue Sky, and was blown away by some of the analysis around the unprecedented size of the markets opening up in Asia, and the vigorous response of some of our forward-thinking agribusinesses.
One talk, by demographer Bernard Salt, brilliantly sketched out the colossal changes occurring in Asia (and demographically within Australia), but laid down a warning: Asian prosperity is not ours for the taking. We can stuff it up.
Bernard made the point that as a whole, Australia’s entrepreneurial culture hasn’t strongly distinguished itself in the world. The world’s biggest companies – Apple, Microsoft, Google – have sprung up in the US within the last few decades. Australia’s biggest companies — BHP, the banks, CSL, Wesfarmers — all started more than a century ago.
And while we may be excited about our prospects in Asia, Bernard observed that, “We are conceding sovereignty in the agribusiness sector to other nations … if you look at the competitive advantage of Australia, we should be leading the world”.