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Four regional agri-food clusters win $600,000 in FIAL funding

(Source: Supplied)

Four Australian regional food and agribusiness clusters have been awarded a combined $600,000 in funding as the industry works to meet its 2030 target of unlocking $200 billion in value and creating an extra 300,000 jobs. 

The Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre, trading as FIAL, has awarded $150,000 each to the Tasmanian Agrifood Network, the Tropical North Queensland Regional Food Network, the Greater Whitsunday Alliance – Agtech Cluster, and the Limestone Coast Food and Agribusiness Cluster. 

A cluster is defined by FIAL as a regional group of businesses that come together to create local ecosystems of shared resources, knowledge, and relationships. “Clusters enable increased collaboration between businesses to enhance their ability to innovate and value-add beyond what would be possible if operating in isolation,” explains Dr Mirjana Prica, MD at FIAL. This supercharges the competitiveness of Australia’s businesses, regions and economy.

The four recognised in the latest round of allocations were chosen from 17 applicants across the country. 

The Tasmanian Agrifood Network, based in Launceston, is a region of eight local governments and includes farms, vineyards, artisan, and commercial producers. New irrigation systems are set to turbocharge the existing annual agriculture output worth $700 million. The cluster aims to support entrepreneurship and innovation and embrace “culture and creativity” through events centred on food and culture within the area and its grant will be used to set up a governance structure and fund day-to-day operations.

Food manufacturing in Tropical North Queensland.

The Tropical North Queensland Regional Food Network, working with Regional Development Australia Tropical North, will focus on making the most of the region’s abundance of high-quality produce, including a diverse horticultural industry, and world-recognised seafood and aquaculture. The region has historically attracted and developed diversification within industries including food technology, tropical food-trail tourism, and farm-stay opportunities for tourists. The region is looking to use agriculture and value-adding as a priority sector for renewed growth post-Covid. The funding will be used for revitalisation, including creating a new board with strong governance, and hiring staff for day-to-day running. 

Fruit processing in the Great Whitsunday region. (Supplied)

The Greater Whitsunday Alliance – Agtech Cluster, is part of a diverse region that includes mining and food production, manufacturing and supply chain systems for sugarcane, horticulture, aquaculture, livestock, pulse, and grains. The cluster aims to foster the adoption of agtech and attract ‘new blood’ into the industry, developing a regional agtech strategy and specific training opportunities and support, to gain a better understanding of agtech solutions for the region. Funds will be used to grow the cluster’s agtech offering, helping to take the businesses to a global level.

And South Australia’s Limestone Coast Food and Agribusiness Cluster covers an area diverse in agricultural production, including red meat, coarse grains, wine, seafood, horticulture, dairy, and eggs. The funding will be used to help the newly established cluster launch its brand, cover regional branding, hire staff, and create virtual and physical hubs for businesses that fall under the cluster. 

Decade-long transformation plan

Dr Prica says the grants are designed to support the agri-food sector’s continued movement toward transforming the agri-food sector over the next decade.

“Agri-food clusters play a vital role in bringing together communities to tackle challenges in regions and/or cities. These grants will allow agri-food businesses to undertake further research and development activities and commercialise new products so they can scale up operations and export to new markets.

“By providing this critical funding, and supporting these businesses’ ability to capture growth opportunities, we can continue to build Australia’s global competitiveness whilst creating new local jobs.”

The funding supports projects within the Government’s Food and Beverage National Manufacturing Priority road map, helping to harness growth, foster innovation, and transform the sector.  

FIAL has driven the growth of Australian agri-food clusters since 2018. Clusters provide a platform for businesses and members to share similar experiences and to overcome common challenges via networking events, workshops and development programs. Collaboration is a key component for their effectiveness, sparking innovative ideas to improve business practices and create an entrepreneurial culture that can result in the development of new products.

Cheese is one of a myriad of foods produced in the Tasmanian Agrifood Network’s Launceston region.

Currently there are more than 80 agri-food industry groups within Australia using the cluster approach. 

Dr Prica says clusters understand the needs and wants of the business community in their region, knowing the landscape in which their members operate. By coming together in clusters, agri-food businesses benefit from: 

  • Acquisition of new knowledge and capabilities.
  • Productivity and competitiveness improvements.
  • Shared infrastructure, capital, networks, and learnings.
  • Access to private and public investment.
  • Sharing experiences to help build skills and capabilities across the region.
  • Leverage innovation and product development.
  • Integration with reliable supply and value chains.
  • Tapping economies of scale for improved profitability.
  • Enhanced value-addition.

“Clusters are the voice of industry, for industry. Connecting and leveraging regional strengths accelerates national economic growth,” says Dr Prica. “By working together, businesses leverage each other’s skills and resources to build resilient industries and communities, increase the overall productivity and competitiveness of the region, attract tourism, migration and investment to the region, and create jobs.”

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