GFAR at Australia’s Asian Future Summit 2017: Innovation as Competition

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Prof Wendy Umberger, Executive Director of the Centre for Global Food and Resources, was an invited speaker at The Economist’s Innovation as Competition: Australia’s Asian Future Summit 2017, held in Sydney on the 1st of September.

The summit was attended by policymakers, leaders in regional and Australian business, academics and pioneering entrepreneurs, and included a talk by Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Julie Bishop MP. Presentations and discussions centred on the role that Australia is playing and can play in boosting Asia’s capacity for innovation. Click here more information about the event and the range of featured topics.

In her presentation, Prof Umberger made it clear that technology was changing the face of Australia’s agricultural and food sectors. She discussed that there is still a need to invest in traditional agricultural R&D, but if we want to be the “Delicatessen Bowl” we need to innovate beyond the farm gate. She discussed that while we are “good” agricultural scientists, we are relatively poor at translation and commercialization of our agricultural research compared to other countries.

She emphasized that it is imperative that businesses operating in these sectors uncover new ways in which to brand and market their products to differentiate themselves from their competitors. She believes that greater investment in research to understand the drivers of “customer” and end-consumer behaviour, decision-making and perceptions is crucial for businesses operating in this sector.

I don’t just mean doing the macro or high-level research on consumer trends, I mean really investing in research to understand the thought processes and perceptions of our consumers. We talk a lot as a country about being a ‘clean and green’ provider of ‘safe’ food and agricultural products, but so do our global competitors. If you go to New Zealand that’s what they talk about, that’s what Canada talks about, the United States… Whether we’re talking agricultural commodities or higher end product markets, we are competing globally. Furthermore we need to think about what we are doing to ‘protect’ the ‘clean and green’ claims that we are making about our agricultural and food products…

Wendy went on to highlight that while the appetite for Australian-branded products from countries such as China, Vietnam and Indonesia appeared insatiable, there was much work to be done to better understand consumer behaviours – both their desire for functional foods and products, and concerns they may hold about food safety and provenance.

I think we need to invest in understanding our markets, domestic and export markets, much more deeply. This includes understanding perceptions about claims, awareness of product attributes, and how both customers and end-consumers in export markets actually use and consume our products.

A media article about the event can be accessed here.

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