In early January I wrote an article stating “The 20’s will be a pivotal decade for how we produce, move, and consume” and just two months on from that, it is evident that we are going to see a fundamental shift in how we operate as economies and people adjust in these uncertain times.
For those in rural Australia in particular, it’s been compounding. Firstly through extended drought, fires, then floods, and now Corona Virus. We have witnessed the absolute best of the human spirit, as communities rallied around each other during the Black Summer fires, and more recently as rains brought a lot of positivity back into the sector.
I’ve been watching the events surrounding the Corona virus unfold. I closely analysed the seafood market in January as it bottomed out within days of the virus gaining attention, highlighting how the reliance on a single market like China to underpin our export exacerbated the impacts. Now, closer to home, I’m genuinely feeling a bit of anxiety as the everyday behaviours and access we’re so well accustomed to are being removed. It’s putting perspective onto the fundamentals of life.
So what does it all mean for Australian agriculture?
To me, it has highlighted the necessity and importance of the bare essentials. Food and water are the fundamentals to the hierarchy of human needs, and when push comes to shove, people are going to go to desperate measures to look out for themselves.
"We produce high quality, safe produce that is grown under world leading standards"From our seafood to grains, Australia produces enough food to feed about 70 million people, exporting approximately 60 per cent of what we produce. We produce high quality, safe produce that is grown under world leading standards. With 4.5 billion people on our doorstep in Asia, we have a lot of choices and option in who we can target, and also who will be demanding these standards.
Beyond just our produce, we can support agriculture through the validation of how we assure our products via technology as well as our expertise. An example of young people seeking opportunities is Matt Champness spending 12 months with the Crawford Fund working with rice farmers in Laos, assisting them to better manage their weeds, utilising a whipper snipper. His Australian ingenuity is transforming lives and communities, helping them become more food secure.
There is a need industry to develop stronger cross sector and cross industry partnerships to further equip young people in agriculture to develop the skillsets to empower them to seek opportunities, build stronger relationships between communities, and better manage the volatility in the world we live in.
The world is changing before our eyes, the uncertainty is unsettling but it will not last. In the midst of global volatility, Australian agriculture is performing well – we have positivity in our livestock markets, grain prices are rallying, land prices have withstood these most recent tests, and we have a lot of amazing people within the ranks of agriculture – the world needs high quality, assured safe food and Australia is well positioned to capitalise on these opportunities.
2018 – Plastics
2019 – Alternative Proteins
2020 - ….................?
With the first full working week of 2020 down, I’m interested in hearing opinions as to what could be the next big trend(s) in Australian Agriculture, Food and Beverage for 2020.
2019 saw the dominance of alternative proteins and a fairly one-sided debate, the view being that livestock are a significant catalyst for the state of the planet. The importance of agriculture in general and livestock in particular in the global context is difficult to overstate. 40% of the world’s population derive their livelihoods from agriculture, animal proteins are and will remain incredibly important, not only economically but also in the fight to reduce hunger and malnutrition.
“Is it vegans and vegetarians driving the growth of this area or is it the flexitarian looking out for themselves with the planet in mind?” The 20’s will be a pivotal decade for how we produce, move, and consume, but what will be the big talking points in 2020?
Through my role with Global Table Australia in 2019, working with the team at Seeds&Chips, exposed me to new and emerging innovations in technology, practices and products that are driving us towards a more sustainable food system. In the lead up and throughout the event, I had many conversations and gained insights from leading innovators across Australia, NZ, Asia, USA and Europe.
Below are the five areas that I expect will produce big talking points in Australia in 2020
Food waste – It’s increasing as a key area of conversation, that everyone can have a positive impact in. It has quite significant Greenhouse Gas Emissions and there are big opportunities here both environmentally and economically. The circular economy is seeing this opportunity move beyond value adding in the form of waste by products, like composts, to higher value goods from further processing of what was previously considered waste. Aquabotanicals have developed products through their technology that extracts water from Fruit, Vegetables and now even sugar cane waste. Susie and Gerard Daly the 2019 Australian Farmer of the Year, have developed their second grade potatoes into Vodka, gin, and other value added products.
Low alcoholic beverages – All major Australian brewers are now producing low and zero alcohol beers. BWS states sales of non-alcoholic beers grew 60% in the second half of 2019. Melbourne based start-up, Brunswick Aces, production of non-alcoholic Gin has blossomed well beyond its backyard origins. Will even more creativity and expansion in the adult beverage space see this area providing the social buzz without the headache in 2020?
Indigenous and native foods – An overnight success that has been around for 40,000 years started to come to the fore later in 2019 as an emerging opportunity. Australia’s ‘bush tucker’ not only has rich cultural history, it exhibits many flavours and nutrient rich foods that are resilient to environment conditions, and may provide significant new commercial opportunities. With indigenous producers ‘not having enough native produce available’ for demand, are they going to see significant growth in 2020 and our very own superfoods?
‘Traditional vs Alternative’ – It was the dominant conversation of 2019, product ranges have expanded from vege burgers to now fish fillets, prawns, bacon and product ranges will continue to grow this year. It was a highly emotive conversation but will we see a levelling and balance of the conversation in 2020? Health conscious consumers are seeking out more ways to not only look after themselves but also protect the planet. From the old staple of milk, to burgers, to now bacon and fish – Is Lasagne the next target?
Storytelling – The demand for transparency is growing. With initiatives such as #thankafarmer leading the Paddock-to-plate conversation, in 2020 we will see greater engagement across the entire supply chain from point of origin throughout the journey to consumption. Broadly, people will be gaining exposure and insights more authentically into how food is produced, moved, processed and where it goes beyond the plate. The critical link here is people, and I think millenials will be the ones driving this.
Do you agree, disagree or want to discuss these more? I'm looking forward to seeing what other trends we should be watching and what will be the big talking points of 2020!
Oli Le Lievre
Oli's experience is extensive for someone his age; from AgTech to production agriculture to consulting. He was a key member in the development of Australia's largest agrifood event in 2019. Oli's passionate about a resilient food system and believes engaged people are pivotal to this success.