US manufacturer AGCO focuses on hi-tech systems

THE SHAPE of things to come may be gleaned from the move by one of the world’s largest agricultural manufacturing companies, US-based AGCO, forming a joint venture with aerospace and agriculture machine control and technology developer Appareo Systems.

Formally, the partnership has been described as building on AGCO’s Intelligent Agricultural Solutions (IAS) program, which centres on data collection, wireless communication, advanced sensors and intelligent machine control.

But this is more than incremental technology gain for AGCO’s existing brands – they include Challenger, Fendt, GSI, Massey Ferguson and Valtra – this is a move seeking to discover what the next generation of precision agriculture and precision machine management should look like.

Appareo chairman and CEO, Barry Batcheller said he envisaged the partnership would enable “the unprecedented infusion of new to the world technologies into production agriculture”.

“Appareo is very excited about forming this exciting new partnership with AGCO, the world’s largest manufacturer focused strictly on agricultural equipment,” Mr Batchellor said.

The joint venture will be enacted through AGCO Technology Solutions.

“As the agricultural industry shifts, there is a greater need for more advanced technology, and we anticipate that this partnership will provide breakthrough innovation making our customers more profitable while supporting their mixed fleet operations,” ACGO senior vice president for advanced technology solutions, Eric Hansotia said.


Rural scholarship offers $5,000 a year

THE Rural Industries R&D Corporation (RIRDC) is again seeking submissions for its Horizon Scholarships, aimed at school leavers looking to start an agriculture-related university degree.

The Horizon Scholarship by RIRDC, in partnership with industry sponsors, provides $5,000 per year for the duration of a student’s university degree.

The Horizon Scholarship also offers students annual industry work placements that give them first-hand exposure to modern agricultural practices, access to industry leaders, professional development workshops and opportunities to network and gain knowledge at a range of industry events.

RIRDC managing director, Craig Burns said the Horizon Scholarship would appeal to university students who want to broaden their networks, are passionate about agriculture and are ready to develop their leadership skills.

“The current scholars and the scholarship’s alumni are testament to the success and quality of the Horizon Scholarship,” Mr Burns said.

“They are driven, energetic, passionate and want to be future leaders of Australia’s agricultural industries and we look forward to having several more new scholars join this special group in 2015.”

Applications for the Horizon Scholarship must be submitted by January 30, 2015.


New research centre aims to transform food industry

A NEW Australian Research Council (ARC) training centre at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia Campus is being dedicated to creating healthier foods and preparing Australia for a surge in Asian market demand.

ARC chief executive officer Aidan Byrne said the research training centre would focus on “training a cohort of innovative scientists” who will facilitate transformation of the Australian food industry.

Led by the University of Queensland, the centre will combine the expertise of principal partner, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, as well as collaborating partners the International Rice Research Institute, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science.

The ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre, which Professor Byrne said had a mission statement of  being ‘Agents of change: transforming the food industry for Australia, Asia and beyond’, has been awarded $2.7 million over three years from the ARC through the Industrial Transformation Research Program.

Prof. Byrne said its broad aim was to ensure Australia was prepared for the challenge to create and market healthier foods and to respond to a surging demand from Asia’s expanding markets — both within a resource-constrained world.

“This new training centre will graduate at least 13 innovation scientists in areas such as health and nutrition, consumer and sensory science, agrifood value chains and business leadership,” Prof. Byrne said.

“These scientists will provide transformative input into the food industry to create and promote healthier foods for Australian and, in particular, Asian markets.

“Food and agribusiness is a key sector identified by the Australian Government in its new Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda. This training centre will play an important role in undertaking research to secure a healthier global food supply.”

The training centre’s director is professor Melissa Fitzgerald, an expert in rice quality and breeding who has extensive connections with rice improvement programs in Asia.

Prof. Fitzgerald has pioneered the development of international research networks in her field.


Lead on ‘superfoods’ from Europe?

AUSTRALIAN food producers can take heart from new research in Europe, being presented through the upcoming Health ingredients (Hi) Europe trade show, that this major market is moving strongly to a so-called ‘superfoods’ focus on health and nutrition.

A major part of that movement is based on perceptions about the source of those superfoods – and Australian producers can play to advantage in this space, according to organisers of the event, Food ingredients Global.

Hi Europe is expecting 8000 delegates to the event being staged at Amsterdam RAI on December 2-4, and focusing on Europe’s increased demand for protein alternatives, knowledge on ingredients’ sources and superfoods.

“Today’s consumers no longer find the ‘five fruit and veg a day’ message relevant,” said Food ingredients Portfolio marketing director Georgina Smith. “Consumers now want to know where their food is sourced, how it is prepared and if the food provides them with an added extra and a super-boost of health, energy and the vitamins they need to help them perform and feel better.

“It is also evident through market research that these consumers will pay more for such food and those food manufacturers that meet these requirements will be highly successful. Hi Europe provides a unique and innovative platform for food manufacturers to find the key ingredients to enhance their current product offerings and to help drive innovation in this imminently booming market.”

The food consumption trends cited by Hi Europe also bear out the research of CSIRO, which has mainly focused on Asia Pacific demand. The quest for protein globally is one of the biggest opportunities for Australian agribusiness. The issue of food source and sustainability of production is high on the European agenda, as it is in Asia.

However, there are also some fringe offerings at Hi Europe that may open up some very unusual opportunities for innovative Australian agribusinesses – such as insect harvesting.

Exhibitor Ana Christina Day, founder and CEO of 4ento, said more than 1,000 species of edible insects currently exist, including water beetles, wasps and larvae.

“It only takes 1 litre of water to produce 1kg of crickets, in comparison to 22,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef”, making insects, not only a great source of protein and minerals, but highly sustainable,” Ms Day said.

Other exhibitors at the event are focused in manufacturing and promoting ‘superfood’ products, another area of expertise in Australia.

The event is part of the UBMLive group, an arm of the global events and media organisation UBM, previously known as United Business Media.



Keogh wins prestigious agri leadership prize

AUSTRALIAN Farm Institute (AFI) executive director Mick Keogh has taken out the 2014 Rabobank Leadership Award, recognised for his outstanding contribution to Australia and New Zealand’s food, beverage and agribusiness sectors.

Mr Keogh – the driving force in establishing the AFI, an independent agricultural policy research body, and a key player in Australian agricultural policy debate for more than a decade – was presented with award in front of more than 200 Australian and New Zealand agribusiness industry professionals at the annual Rabobank Leadership Dinner in Sydney in October. 

Queensland cattle producer and beef industry advocate Bryce Camm was named the Rabobank Emerging Leader, an award category introduced in 2013 recognising up-and-coming young leaders in agribusiness.

Presenting Mr Keogh’s award last night, Rabobank Australia chief executive officer Thos Gieskes said, in establishing and leading the national policy and research body, the Australian Farm Institute, Mr Keogh had played a major role in informing policy direction for Australia’s vital agricultural industries.

“Mick Keogh is an ‘unsung hero’ in Australian agriculture,” Mr Gieskes said.  “He has made an outstanding contribution to the food, beverage and agribusiness sectors through his extensive and long-standing work in agricultural policy over a number of decades.

 “While Mick has not himself been directly responsible for the P&L of an individual agribusiness, his work at the forefront of strategic research into public policy issues which impact Australian agriculture and in representing the interests of Australian farmers, has undoubtedly had a far-reaching impact on the prosperity of the sector as a whole.”

The peer-nominated Rabobank Leadership Award is presented to individuals who create sustainable growth and prosperity at both a corporate and industry level in agribusiness, while demonstrating a wider commitment to society.

Mr Gieskes said, as a specialist in agricultural banking, Rabobank was in a unique position to see the talent, initiative and effort needed to develop and grow agricultural businesses and the wider sector.

Mr Keogh was raised on his family farm ‘Wyola’ near Holbrook in southern New South Wales, which has given him as strong connection to the agricultural industry. He is now one of the fourth generation of family members involved in the operation which includes beef, wool and prime lamb, and grains.

Completing tertiary study at a graduate and postgraduate level through the University of NSW, Mr Keogh furthered his knowledge in agricultural science, particularly in wool and pastoral sciences. This led him to a career in agribusiness consultancy where he was involved in a range of projects within the sector domestically and in China.

Mr Keogh subsequently spent 10 years with NSW Farmers Association as both deputy CEO and policy director.

In 2004, he became founding executive director of the AFI when it commenced operations. A national agricultural policy and research body organisation, the institute is independent of government and funded by industry.

Mr Keogh deems his biggest achievement to date as founding the AFI, referring to the process as an “interesting challenge”.

“As a concept, the Australian Farm Institute was completely new,” Mr Keogh said.  “It came at a time where there was significant change taking place in agricultural policy and very few dedicated resources existed to really look at the implications of policy and what it means for Australian agriculture and agribusiness companies.”

Mr Keogh said the institute provided an ideal vehicle to look at policies coming down the pipeline and delve into the implications for industry.

“I think I have always had a fascination with the processes involved in growing, transforming and marketing agricultural products, which make running an agricultural business so incredibly complex. When you add to that the extra layer of complexity arising from policy decisions, agriculture really is an incredibly challenging, but also very rewarding sector to be involved in,” he said.

Mr Keogh said it was “tremendously gratifying” to have some of his work recognised through the Leadership Award.

“We have a fairly small team at the Australian Farm Institute and I would regard this award as recognition of the work of my colleagues and the entire Institute team, including board members and advisory council members, rather than the work of any individual,” Mr Keogh said.

“It’s also very humbling to look at the previous recipients of this award, all of whom are highly respected leaders in agriculture. It’s daunting to be placed in that same group, after having looked up to those people over the years.”

Mr Keogh is “immensely” positive about the future of the Australian agricultural industry and says there are some great opportunities he believes will unfold for the sector.

“It’s a bit cliché but the boom in middle class consumption in Asia is going to without doubt create opportunities for Australian agriculture and agribusiness,” Mr Keogh said.

“It’s not going to be like the past where all we had to do was produce it and it would sell, we are in a much more competitive environment now, but the situation actually suits Australian agriculture.

“The emerging middle class consumers increasingly want to know where the product has come from, they want to know that it’s safe and they are focused on the reputation of a product. All of those factors will mean that many Australian products can actually secure a premium in those markets and can compete in markets where success isn’t solely determined by price. We are already seeing that in relation to the dairy industry and to some extent the beef and lamb industries.”

Mr Keogh said the challenge would be to retain that premium reputation and take advantage of it.

“There is real merit in having a single common brand or profile for Australian agricultural products – not to replace private brands, but to actually underpin them” Mr Keogh said.

“I think there is a lot of waste at the moment with different Australian states pushing their own profile and that is unfortunate because when you get to China, for example, there is very little awareness of individual Australian states. There is, however, good recognition of Australia and its reputation for quality and safety, but to build on that we need more national coordination.”

A peer-judged award, previous recipients include food and agri corporate heads John Watson, Max Ould, John McLean, Nick Burton-Taylor, Robert Hill-Smith and Barry Irvin, leading food scientists Dr Bruce Lee and Dr Jim Peacock, as well as last year’s winner, Sir George Fistonich of Villa Maria Estate.

The Rabobank Leadership Dinner was held at the Harbour View Ballroom, at Taronga Zoo.  Keynote speaker was Lino Saputo Junior, chief executive of global dairy company Saputo.



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