Trans-Tasman teams tackle agri-food challenge

20 September 2017

Young agri-food professionals and producers from Australia and New Zealand have demonstrated the benefits of Trans-Tasman teamwork in addressing value chain challenges as part of the Young Food Innovators (YFI) program.

YFI is a 12-month intensive, accelerated development program for young people working in the red meat, horticulture, seafood, pork and dairy primary producer sectors.

For participants in the red meat industry, the program is supported by funding from MLA Donor Company (MDC) and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme.

Participants travelled to Wellington, New Zealand, earlier this month, where they worked with some of the country’s leading agribusiness executives and researchers.

Hosted by New Zealand agribusiness Landcorp Farming Limited, which operates extensive sheep, beef, deer and dairy operations, the group of 26 spent the week working in teams on an industry challenge, helping Landcorp explore new business concepts and business models, using a design-thinking approach.

Landcorp’s General Manager of Innovation & Technology, Rob Ford, said the YFI program was a fantastic opportunity for the Trans-Tasman agribusiness professionals from across the value chain to come together and explore problems through the lens of the consumer. 

“The participants didn’t examine traditional pathways of producing a product to then find a market, but instead used ‘design thinking’ to find what consumers are really looking for, what problems they face, and in the true spirit of design, prototyped their ideas for validation and reiteration,” Mr Ford said.

“We were delighted that MDC invited Landcorp to be involved and participate in a program that leveraged the collective expertise of both countries to collaborate on common challenges.”

The group comprised the two Australian cohorts of the MDC-managed Young Food Innovators program (post-farm gate and producers), along with executives from Landcorp and Plant & Food Research in New Zealand. 

The teams, led by MDC Design-Thinker-in-Residence Professor Hamish Gow, participated in business model design workshops and site visits to farms and retail outlets as well as customer insight discovery interviews with chefs and end-users.

Australian participant and CFO of Perfection Fresh Group, Andrew Edwards, said that the customer insights helped him approach problems differently.

“Instead of shooting from the hip when trying to fix a problem, the Young Food Innovators program has given me the tools to create structure, based on evidence not assumptions,” Mr Edwards said.

Hamish Glendinning, a business development manager with Landcorp, agreed that the customer interviews were extremely valuable.

“It’s been great to get insights from both producers and post-farm gate representatives throughout the value chain process,” Mr Glendinning said.

“The empathy interviews have been extremely insightful and they really highlight just how complex the consumer is.”

Landcorp will be evaluating the participants’ final business concepts and models with the view to adopting learnings and outcomes.

The Young Food Innovators program is designed to assist the red meat, horticulture, seafood, pork and dairy industries attract, develop and retain new talent. It provides agri-food professionals and producers the opportunity to develop a whole-of-value-chain approach. 

MDC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Christine Pitt, said the program aims to equip participants with advanced design-led innovation and value chain design approaches to enable them to become innovation catalysts and participate effectively in the value chains of the future. 

“I’m delighted that MDC could enable this Trans-Tasman collaboration and the opportunity to share value chain learnings from both countries,” Dr Pitt said.

“I hope the success of this program paves the way for future collaboration between Australia and New Zealand in the agri-food space.”

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