Agribusiness, Food & Trade

Study tour invaluable to WA food and beverage businesses

Food Industry Innovation Interstate Study Tour participants at Monash Uni

Networking, relationship building, access to knowledge, conference participation and the chance to visit leading Victorian food manufacturing facilities were highlights of DPIRD Food Industry Innovation’s first Interstate Study Tour in September 2019.

Thirteen food and beverage businesses from Western Australia were selected for the tour, with the cost partially subsided by DPIRD.

The itinerary included food and beverage manufacturing site visits and was centred around the inaugural Global Table Conference which attracted more than 2700 delegates from 25 countries and featured 200 speakers across 50 sessions over the four day program.

Heading out of Melbourne, the first stop on day one was Parwan Valley Mushrooms where participants were taken through every step of the growing process and given insights into the planning and decision making processes by this successful business.

"Parwan Valley Mushrooms was a great example of best practice. In our industry (insect protein) there aren't many to share knowledge with. Everything from growing, packing and QA/QC this is the closest comparison". Amanda Abou Rjeily, Grubs Up Australia.

The tour then continued to Ballarat where a facilitated sprint design workshop allowed for networking, critical and innovative thinking with City of Ballarat food and beverage businesses.

"It is rare to have uninterrupted time and space in business to indulge in creativity. The segment devoted to design thinking allowed that precious space and time to get creative and collaborate with like-minded people. Loved it!" Laila Gampfer, Rawesome.

L-R) Amanda Abou Rjeily, Grubs Up Australia and Laila Gampher, Rawsome at Parwan Valley Mushrooms farm

Day two was spent at the inaugural Australian Global Table conference entitled ‘Feeding our Future’, hosted by the Victorian government and presenting Seeds & Chips ‘The Global Food Innovation Summit’, focused on climate change, food waste and sustainability. The day began with an inspiring and rousing keynote address from John F. Kerry, 68th US Secretary of State calling for urgent and dramatic action on climate change, food waste and energy policy. Kerry is a passionate advocate for climate change policy and presented undeniable evidence of the need for change but was optimistic of our ability to make the right choices and turn this around.

“By being here today you are part of the solution,” Kerry said. He was very motivating and his passion and energy flowed through the venue for the remainder of the day.

John F. Kerry keynote speaker of Global Table conference

'Teenovators' aged 13-19 from all over Australia were invited to apply and were selected to open each conference session with a message. The tour were excited to meet Bella Burgemeister a passionate young climate activist and author of Bella's Challenge from WA. Bella spoke before John F. Kerry’s opening address.

At the conference dinner, participants were also excited to meet WA Teenovator Luke de Laeter of Luke's Bees who funded his Global Table trip with proceeds of his business which he operates one day a week on special leave from high school. Luke is passionate community education around beekeeping and the importance of bees. Luke valued making connections with some of Western Australia’s honey bee industry members on the tour.

L_R) Debbie Starr, Swan Valley Honey; Ben Pan, Australian Natural Biotechnology; Luke de Laeter, Luke’s Bees; Kim Antonio, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

The tour continued on day three with a tour of Costco’s Docklands warehouse which proved eye opening for participants as they considered the scale they would need to achieve to become a Costco supplier. Although everything is on a LARGE scale (including the trolleys) Costco contend it is high quality. Costco are the third largest global retailer and have 772 warehouses world wide, 11 are in Australia. Western Australia's first store is due to open at Perth Airport in May 2020 with a second scheduled for Kwinana later the same year.

The afternoon was then spent back at the Global Table conference, squeezing in more panel topic discussions and exploring the innovation and trade exhibitions. Austrade prepared a comprehensive presentation for our WA delegation who had the rare opportunity to hear from Trade Commissioners to China, Japan, India and South East Asia all in Melbourne for the conference.

“The sessions that stood out for me are those around waste innovation. It made me start thinking about all the waste we have in agriculture and how we can use that waste in other ways, so it’s not just a single product, but a supply chain product”. Tracey Hodgkins, Southern Dirt Inc.

Global Table ‘The pitch’ sessions

Site visits to two dairy manufacturers on day four allowed tour participants to talk to marketing staff and managers, gaining insights into the strategies that have worked for these businesses. Access to the production floor and seeing two contrasting production systems was also a highlight.

  1. that’s Amore! cheese produce more than forty types of stretch mozzarella style cheese, many of them labour intensive hence the business name and motto ‘ the key is love’.
  2. Chobani, who landed in Australia in 2012, climbed to be #1 yoghurt brand in five years, producing yoghurt 24/7 in a nearly 100% automated factory.

“Chobani have executed a perfect plan in a very short period of time. They have brought a business into reality. We need to remember (to focus on) what the market wants and not as producers get too bogged down in production and our physical assets, and make sure that the consumer is front and centre of our minds”. Ryan Walsh, The Farmhouse Margaret River.

Fiona Loke from Mundella on the floor of that’s Amore! cheese

The tour wrapped up on day five day after participants visited two of Australia's leading Food Innovation Centres, Monash Uni and CSIRO. Monash began their Food Incubator program in 2018. Businesses are able to access Monash's in-house recipe development assistance, prototype development (including 3D printing), label design and consumer testing, making their journey to commercialisation less risky. It also helps back their pitch to retailers when they can present tried and tested consumer research.

The group were particularly impressed with 'the Cave' virtual supermarket and eye tracking heat mapping which shows hot and cold spots on the shelf. This technology can also be applied to product labels.

Participants inside ‘The Cave’ virtual supermarket application

CSIRO's Food Innovation Centre in Werribee focuses on food technology and consumer taste testing among many other areas of research and development. Here businesses can make use of various food processing machines on commercial scale which can be easily moved around and connected in sequence as required. From testing the scale up of new recipes to improving process efficiency, this centre is versatile and the staff highly knowledgeable.

Feedback collected shows participants found the tour invaluable and plan on making changes to their businesses as a result of what they have learned. Food businesses put study tour knowledge into practice details some of these outcomes. They also found new friendships, mentoring and collaboration opportunities in their peers from WA.

“Being part of this group has been fantastic, I’ve met all these people that I wouldn’t have come into contact with otherwise. We’re not in the same business but we’re in the same state. We have the same common factors.” Fiona Marshall (Torbay Asparagus)

“On the tour you could walk out and chat with like-minded people about what you’ve just seen. You can throw ideas around and others will come up with something you hadn’t thought about - it gives you immediate feedback. DPIRD have made it an interesting tour for us, there’s been something for everyone from a small producer to a large producer. It’s all about cooperation and working together, building confidence in what we’re doing.” Adam Wilson (Great Southern Truffles)