Safe, transparent food supply chains

11 Feb 2020

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Ensuring food safety and quality with leading-edge traceability solutions

With an unparalleled reputation for safety, Australia’s food supply chain is a world leader in food quality. This gives Australian food producers a vital competitive advantage in a world where consumers seek assurances that the produce they purchase meets stringent biosecurity standards.

Australia is also a leader in foodtech innovation. Australian growers, buyers and supply chain companies are constantly seeking and implementing next-generation agricultural and food technologies. For example, Australian organisations are developing multiple technologies to enhance food traceability, so global customers gain visibility of their food supply chain.

With top-grade food safety standards, reliable supply chains and an ingrained receptiveness to new technology, the Australian agriculture and food industry provides a vast range of opportunities for global investors.

A fine reputation in fast-growing markets

Australia has developed robust food safety frameworks, regulations and quality assurance systems. Government bodies such as Food Standards Australia and New Zealand and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources ensure the quality, safety and export of produce across the food industry. This gives Australian produce an enviable reputation in global markets.

The result: global demand for Australian produce is high. Australia exports two-thirds of its agricultural production.

In 2018, the total value of Australian food and fibre exports was A$49 billion, making Australia the 12th largest agricultural exporter globally.1

Research suggests this figure is set to grow substantially. Key Australian export markets such as China and India will account for 43 per cent and 13 per cent respectively of global growth in agricultural demands by 2050, according to forecasts.2

Meanwhile, safety-conscious consumers and suppliers across all markets seek transparency on where their food comes from. Assurances on quality must be trustworthy. Only an enthusiasm for foodtech can support these growing consumer needs.

Blockchain meets supply chain

Australia’s agricultural sector has been an early user and developer of provenance and traceability systems to demonstrate safety. Today, producers are deploying incoming technologies to develop close and authenticated links between the end-user and primary producer.

Brisbane-based Fresh Supply Co (FSC) is a good example. Through industry partnerships, FSC is using blockchain-enabled QR codes on avocados, broccoli, mangoes and other produce to enable supply chain visibility.

FSC has participated in SproutX, Australia’s pioneer accelerator program for early-stage agtech startups. FSC’s co-founder, David Inderias, says the company has become closely intertwined with the agtech and foodtech ecosystem in Australia to deliver value to consumers.

‘We are changing the way consumers are engaging with food by using digital and blockchain technologies to add value and build trust,’ he says.

Latitude 28, an Australian exporter of red meat, is also using blockchain-based traceability technology to create closer links between consumers and primary producers.

‘The appeal of these technologies is an unparalleled authentication process that provides customers with visibility over the entire product’s life,’ says James Williamson, Director for Latitude 28.

Building brand confidence with Chinese consumers

Latitude 28 is currently collaborating with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) on a provenance project for Chinese consumers.

‘Through digital mediums, Latitude 28 is able to create a close and personal experience between consumers in China and those in Australia,’ says Ian Jenson, MLA Program Manager, Market Access Science and Technology.

‘Australia has always taken a lead in the use of technology for the overview of products across the supply chain,’ he adds. ‘Every product has a description and a unique identifying code, and the whole industry uses a single system for traceability.’

These companies are strong additions to a growing list of provenance-oriented startups that aim to fundamentally alter the way consumers engage with Australian produce across the world.

‘All produce suppliers are looking to reduce costs through efficiency to remain competitive, while enhancing the customer experience. Australia’s traceability and provenance technology has the ability to excel in both of these areas and drive great profitability worldwide.’

James Williamson, Director, Latitude 28

Home-grown innovation

The Australian food sector is fertile ground for innovation. Historically, Australian food producers are highly receptive to groundbreaking solutions. Home-grown foodtech companies display ingenuity and adoption is rapid.

Australia’s fast-adoption culture is partly due to intellectual property (IP) protection. Ranking above the UK, Japan, Hong Kong and Sweden, Australia is a safe destination for the development of new technologies.

Natural diversity is also a strong advantage for Australia. The country’s seasonal shifts, climatic conditions, and land and soil varieties provide farmers and innovators with ideal testing grounds for new ideas. Counter-seasonality also offers opportunities for Northern Hemisphere collaboration.

A natural opportunity for global investment

Australia’s food security, supply chain transparency and regional market access provide an incredible opportunity for investment. The industry has an exceptional track record of investment in research and development (R&D) programs, Australian universities and research bodies.

Today, global collaboration in agricultural R&D helps Australian and overseas companies innovate and develop food traceability systems.

Global food producers are engaging with Australia on blockchain-enabled provenance and traceability. California-based fresh berries supplier Driscoll’s has partnered with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) to explore the benefits of Australia’s product-authentication technology. TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.

‘Collaboration between government, agricultural institutes and industry partners is a major strength of Australia. We partnered with the TIA due to their active involvement with a range of industries – not just agriculture – as it makes cross-pollination of technology much easier. This unique relationship allows researchers to work on real industry issues and provide solutions.’

Malkeet Padda, Global Lead Postharvest R&D, Driscoll’s

TIA provides access to industry-embedded knowledge that greatly benefits producers who want cutting-edge advantages over the competition.

‘Driscoll’s are really interested in quality, and we are working with them to conduct value and supply chain research – from farm, right through to market,’ says Holger Meinke, Director at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.

‘When partners choose to work with Australia, they quickly find remarkable freedom of exchange between industry, government and academia. Innovation in Australia gets a head start – and crosses the finish line to practical application faster – because of our strong focus on practical solutions through collaboration.’

Access to fast-growing Asian markets

The Australian Government understands the value of authenticated supply chain technology – and its role in building global trust in Australian produce. More broadly, Australians active throughout the food supply chain have a natural understanding of a variety of key export markets.

For instance, the nation’s understanding of Asian markets is strongly influenced by a multicultural community and 60 years of two-way trade relationships in the region. This is formalised with a network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that give Australian food growers preferential access to fast-growing markets.

Australia has 13 active FTAs with countries throughout Asia, including all ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries.

As demand increases, Australian transport companies are enhancing their air and sea services to Asia. Australian freight times to Asia are short relative to other areas. This gives domestic-based food manufacturers a natural advantage, especially when seeking to increase freshness and ensure a favourable shelf life.

Export-oriented growth

With the assistance of global partners and investors, Australian companies are enriching connections between producers, suppliers and consumers. Today, the Australian agricultural sector is trialling and deploying new technologies to grow exports. International collaboration is welcome at every step in the food supply chain.

In the global marketplace, Australia’s natural, competitive advantage will be the transparency, safety and efficiency of its food industries.

Watch a video on why Australia is a compelling destination for agtech and foodtech innovation.

For more information on Australia’s agtech and foodtech sector and discover how Austrade can help you and your business connect with Australia contact Austrade.

 

 

1 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia’s Merchandise Export and Imports, 1990 to 2018
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Food demand to 2050: Opportunities for Australian agriculture report