Introducing Boundless Plains to Share!

Keiron Costello - Wednesday, April 05, 2017
The day is finally here, Boundless Plains to Share is officially launched!

After a couple of years of hard work and contributions from over 80 leading industry figures and authors, the printed edition of Boundless Plains to Share is now available to purchase. You can preorder your copy of this beautiful, 360-page book by contacting Hania Amjad on (02) 9884 9664 or hamjad@onemandate.com.

Led by our patron Major General Michael Jeffery and our distinguished advisory board, and with a foreword by Australia's Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, Boundless Plains to Share is the largest ever campaign on Australia's agricultural potential and its relationship with Asia.

Our high-profile authors include: Kishore Mahbubani, author and former President of the UN Security Council; Dr Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist; John Brumby, former Premier of Victoria; Geoffrey Blainey, Australia's greatest living historian; leading scientists Professor Lindsay Falvey and Professor Göran Roos; and award-winning author Don Watson.

We're very excited to share the fruits of our labour with you, and we hope you enjoy reading Boundless Plains to Share as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Of course, this isn't the end of our work on the project - the revised digital edition of Boundless Plains to Share, featuring updated and all-new material in both English and Mandarin versions, will be launched later this year.

Our companion publication The Australian Farmer is also being compiled as we speak, a digital-only knowledge tool and tribute to our hardworking farmers. For more information, or to be part of either of these projects, please contact the Publisher, Jim Eggleton, on 0408 763 947 or jeggleton@onemandate.com

Boundless Plains to Share to be launched next week!

Keiron Costello - Thursday, March 30, 2017

It's been quite some time since we last blogged, but we are delighted to announce that the launch of Boundless Plains to Share is just around the corner!


After a couple of years of hard work and contributions from over 80 leading industry figures and authors, the printed edition of Boundless Plains to Share will be launched on Wednesday the 5th of April.

Led by our patron Major General Michael Jeffery and our distinguished advisory board, Boundless Plains to Share is the largest ever campaign on Australia's agricultural potential and its relationship with Asia.

You can pre-order your copy of this beautiful, 360-page book by contacting Hania Amjad on (02) 9884 9664 or via email hamjad@onemandate.com. We're very excited to share the fruits of our labour with you, and we hope you enjoy reading Boundless Plains to Share as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Of course, this isn't the end of our work on the project - the revised digital edition of Boundless Plains to Share, featuring updated and all-new material in both English and Mandarin versions, will be launched later this year.

For more information, or to be part of this integral facet of the project, please contact the Publisher, Jim Eggleton, on 0408 763 947 or jeggleton@onemandate.com

DAFWA research on GM fruit flies shows positive results in eradicating Medfly

Grace Entry - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A research conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) has shown promising results in eradicating the Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly), a highly destructive pest that costs an estimated $200 million worth of damages to West Australian crops each year.

 

DAFWA partnered with UK-based technology company Oxitec to conduct trials in late 2015 testing the effectiveness of genetically modified organisms. The trials included importing a Medfly strain sourced from the UK – where the male flies are genetically modified to include a self-limiting gene – and mating them with the local female Medfly. The GM gene prevents the female offspring from reaching maturity or laying eggs in the fruit, effectively reducing the next generation of Medfly.

 

Just over a year into the program, the results of the trials have been successful. DAFWA Director of Horticulture David Windsor told ABC Rural, “We got the results that we were hoping for. The mating competitiveness of the Oxitec flies, and of conventionally irradiated SIT flies, was very similar.”

 

Currently, the sterile insect technique (SIT) is used across the state to counter the growing numbers of the Medfly. In 2014, Western Australia introduced the program of sterile fruit flies – sterile male flies that underwent radiation were bred at the state’s Department of Agriculture and Food headquarters in Perth, scheduled to be released over a period of four years. Dr Windsor believes however that the genetically modified fruit fly will be not only more efficient, but also cost effective.

 

“Because the poor flies haven’t been bombarded with radiation, we expect them to be a bit fitter and healthier, and to actually survive longer in the SIT environment than irradiated flies do,” Dr Windsor said. 

 

The appeal of the GMO option is that it does not rely on chemicals or toxins, but while the research has proven successful, it will still take some time before farmers benefit from it.

 

“The gene technology regulator applies a very robust process, and there’s a fair bit of paperwork that needs to go in to do the risk assessments,” says Dr Windsor. “Once that’s submitted, that process of assessment can take up to 12 months, so it really depends on how hard the regulator needs to look to be confident about the technology.”

 

Dr Windsor is optimistic that the assessments will be approved, with Oxitec having already conducted their own trials to ensure the safety of the GM flies towards human health and the environment.

 

“They’ve done work on, for example, feeding their [GM] flies to spiders and things like that just to have confidence that there’s no ill-effects on predators from eating flies, and that they’re not going to somehow change the environment in some unanticipated way. And as I understand, the results of those tests have been encouraging.”

 

Australian scientists develop environmentally sustainable pesticide

Grace Entry - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Groundbreaking research conducted by scientists from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) has led to the development of a special clay-based spray that could be an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemicals and pesticide.

 

Known as BioClay, initial trials conducted on a variety of crops such as tobacco, cowpeas and capsicums have shown that the spray protected these crops from invading diseases for almost a month.

 

“BioClay is a beautiful combination of biology and nanotechnology. It is a control measure which is environmentally sustainable, ecologically safe, stable, and easy to be adopted by farmers to protect their crop from diseases,” research leader Professor Mitter told ABC Rural.

 

BioClay works by containing double-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules, which can switch off gene expression, effectively preventing plants from being attacked by a virus. The clay helps these RNA molecules stick to the plant and then naturally degrades over time.

 

While gene silencing is not a new concept in genetic modification, Professor Mitter was clear to point out that rather than altering the genome of a plant, the BioClay process collects RNA from a virus then makes the virus turn against itself, leaving the plant whole.

 

“Once BioClay is applied, the plant thinks it is being attacked by a disease or pest insect and responds by protecting itself from the targeted pest or disease,” Professor Mitter explained. 

 

BioClay meets growing consumer demands for sustainable crop protection and residue-free produce and Professor Mitter believes the cleaner approach will value-add to the food and agri-business industry.

 

“If you use a chemical, pathogens are clever and can adapt, but with BioClay we use RNA from the pathogen to kill the pathogen itself, so we are strongly placed in terms of addressing the issue of pesticide resistance,” said Professor Mitter.

 

AIBN’s Professor Zhiping Xu held a similar opinion, stating, “It will produce huge benefits for agriculture in the next several decades, and the applications will expand into a much wilder field of primary agricultural production.”

 

The research by QAAFI and AIBN is the first in the world to produce long-lasting results, and is to be published (in Nature Plants) – an international feat, as chemical companies around the world, such as Monsanto, have been looking to develop and commercialise similar processes and technology.

 

“There is a lot of work going on in using gene silencing in a spray, but I think we are fairly progressed in our own BioClay product,” Professor Mitter said. She hopes to have a commercial and affordable version of the spray available on shelves within the next three years.

 

The research project was supported by a Queensland Government Accelerate Partnership grant and a partnership with Nufarm Limited.

Native Australian crops hold commercial potential for farmers

Grace Entry - Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Bruce Pascoe, an Aboriginal writer and historian has launched a project to harvest and mill kangaroo grass, a native Australian crop, to encourage modern Australian farmers to cultivate native plants.

Raising $17,000 from a crowdfunding campaign, Mr Pascoe will work with a group of volunteers from Victoria and the New South Wales south coast to show how the native grain can be milled into flour and used to make bread.

Mr Pascoe told ABC Rural that farmers should consider native crops such as kangaroo grass and yam daisy (an edible tuber also known as murnong) because they are naturally suited to the Australian climate.

“There are a lot of efficiencies to be gained – these plants only need the available moisture that Australia provides. They only need the available fertility and they’re adapted to Australian pests,” he said.

A member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative of southern Victoria, Mr Pascoe grows a variety of native plants on his property and says that he was encouraged to grow them due to the numerous misconceptions regarding the ways Indigenous Australians grew and harvest food – Mr Pascoe has put forward the argument that Aboriginal people were distinguished farmers who cultivated native plants prior to settlement (and were not just hunter-gatherers). He cited that a grindstone discovered at an archaeological site at Cuddie Springs in New South Wales has shown that seeds were grounded into starch for cooking more that 30,00 years ago.

“We know that Aboriginal people were harvesting [kangaroo grass] grain and rendering it into flour using grindstones. That makes Australians the first people on Earth to bake bread,” says Mr Pascoe.

“When I first started getting interested in the native grasses, no one knew anything about it. People were growing kangaroo grass but no one had converted it into flour.”

“Non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people have been incredibly supportive,” says Mr Pascoe. “This will be our first venture into the wide-acre harvest of these grains.”

Mr Pascoe believes that kangaroo grass could be used not only to produce flour, but also as feed for livestock. He hopes that the project will draw attention to the various advantages of native Australian plants.

Tapping into northern Australia’s agriculture potential

Grace Entry - Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Since the release of the Federal government’s Developing Northern Australia and Agricultural Productivity White Papers in June last year, CSIRO has dedicated a part of their research resources to unlocking the agricultural potential of the northern landscape, in particular the area stretching from Pilbara to Rockhampton.

Northern Australia comprises 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass and is currently the world’s fifth largest beef and sugar exporter with revenue of $3 billion each year from 12 million cattle and 3000 sugar farms – however, both the government and CSIRO believes that this represents only a fraction of the region’s agricultural potential.

“With its highly variable landmass and four distinct climatic zones, northern Australia can support all sorts of agriculture and horticulture,” CSIRO Research Director Dr Peter Stone said in a statement.

“More than 100 researches are supporting the Australian government to deliver on these commitments – looking at opportunities to innovate along the entire value chain, from the soil and water availability through to expanding market opportunities.”

As part of the Federal government’s multi-billion-dollar plan to develop the Top End and double the country’s agricultural output, thousands of soil samples from water catchments in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland have been collected and are now being analysed by scientists. It is the biggest undertaking of its kind in the country, as reported by ABC Rural.

Dr Stone, who is overseeing the northern Australia program, told ABC Rural, “Northern Australia is a vast and underdeveloped landscape that’s three million square kilometres – roughly five times the size of France, or the size of India. Knowing where to look to develop is critical.”

In recent years, CSIRO has identified 70 crops that could grow in the north and 16 million hectares of land that is suitable for irrigated agriculture.

“If you… grabbed all the water you could, there’d be enough to irrigate about one and a half million hectares of northern Australia,” said Dr Stone. “So overlaying the sweet spots – where soil is suitable and water is not only available, but reliable – is part of the key.”

Soil samples that have been collected undergo a range of tests to determine their composition, structure and level of nutrients (such as nitrogen and carbon, essential for plant growth and soil and plant health).

Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan told the ABC, “If we can, over time, irrigate one and a half million hectares in the north, that would almost double the amount of land we have under irrigation today… in the whole of Australia, and that would help us to double agriculture over time.

“We don’t have a lot of major dams in the north and in the south, in the Murray Darling and other places, we’ve kind of exploited the resources we already have, so our future opportunities in agriculture and water resources do predominantly lie in the north.”

CSIRO is to deliver its report by July 2018.

Lismore’s Southern Cross University to house new national science centre for organics research

Grace Entry - Tuesday, December 13, 2016
A new collaboration between Southern Cross University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) will see the establishment of a new science centre dedicated to organics research, as reported by ABC Rural.

Both parties will finance the $4 million project equally with DPI set to contribute $2 million over a five-year period, which will be matched by the university.

State Member for Lismore Thomas George said at the announcement, “The University has a world-leading reputation in plant genetics and related fields. There is growing global interest and huge potential in all aspects of organics, so this is a big opportunity for our region.”

Southern Cross University Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Professor Geraldine Mackenzie stated a partnership with DPI was a natural fit and that the vision for the centre was to create a world-leading facility for all aspects of organics research.

“We are already working on a number of projects and the centre represents an exciting extension of the relationship between the two organisations,” she said.

With the organics industry being one of the fastest growing areas of demand in the food sector, the announcement of the new organics research centre could not have come at a better time.

The university’s Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said, “There is something like $70 billion spent worldwide on organic products and only five per cent on research into organic products. We expect to attract partners who will have their own research priorities and problems to solve.”

He believes that the field has great potential to innovate. “The Centre for Organics Research will build on Australia’s reputation for food safety, security and export to key markets worldwide,” she said.

“It is also of great relevance to our region. It complements the work underway at our Lismore campus hosting the $13.8 million federal government Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot program which is providing Australian farmers with knowledge and skills to boost their returns at the farm gate.”

The centre will be the first formal facility in Australia with a strong focus on organics. DPI Chief Scientist Dr Philip Wright said that having a central facility such as this would produce more meaningful work, combining the skills sets of two well-established organisations.

“By forming the centre we are able to invest in and conduct the really critical research to underpin the organic industry in New South Wales and Australia,” Dr Wright said.

“The centre will be important on a national scale and we hope it will be a catalyst to attract further interest and investment.”

Australian innovations given a boost by new superfund

Grace Entry - Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Marking one year since the launch of the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, this week saw the official launch of the CSIRO Innovation Fund – a joint government-private sector fund established to commercialise early stage innovations from CSIRO, universities and other publicly-funded research bodies.

As reported by Farm Online, the $200 million fund will invest in start-up and spin off companies, as well as products created by Australian research institutions and their SME partners. The government hopes that the fund will bridge the gap between science and the industry, allowing innovators to meet industry half way by developing attractive propositions to investors, and enabling scientists to get their product to market more rapidly.

 

In a press release, CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall stated, "Having a fund focused and administered close to the sources of invention and research is ideal for generating the innovation Australia needs.”

 

"The fund will bring intense focus to high growth potential opportunities and at the pace that markets demand."

 

The Innovation Fund will be built from $70 million government funding spread out over the next 10 years and $30 million of royalties from CSIRO’s invention of wireless LAN technology (the Wi-Fi enabler has generated more than $700 million for the organisation over the past decade). The additional $100 million will be sourced from wholesale private investors who will benefit from a 10 per cent tax offset on their contributions and exemption from capital gains tax.

Overseeing the management of the Innovation Fund and procurement of the remaining funds will be venture capitalist Bill Bartee, a co-founder and partner of Blackbird Ventures and an Investment Committee Member of NAB Ventures.

“To ensure the best ideas have the greatest impact, we will back the most ambitious entrepreneurs who want to build important, enduring companies,” he told Farm Online. “The fund provides a fantastic opportunity to help ideas coming from accelerators and elsewhere realise their potential in the commercial market.”

In addition, there will be a $20 million expansion to CSIRO’s accelerator programme, ON Accelerate. Australia’s national sci-tech accelerator established by CSIRO in 2015, ON Accelerate specialises in assisting researchers in the science and technology fields that directly benefit the country’s future – particularly in food and agriculture, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, medical technology, mining technology and energy. The programme helps researchers more rapidly prepare their work for commercial adoption.

The expansion of the Accelerator programme commenced this year, with the early stage innovation fund implemented this month. It has supported several Australian research innovations to date, including Kebari, an ultra-low gluten barley; Future Feed, a natural animal feed additive that reduces methane emissions from cattle; and TranspiratiONal, a sprayable biodegradable polymer membrane that improves agricultural water use.

Food processing industry biggest benefactors from Australia’s FTA with China

Grace Entry - Tuesday, November 29, 2016
In the coming weeks, Australia will mark the second anniversary of its free trade agreements (FTAs) with Korea and Japan, and its first anniversary with China on December 20.

As reported by ABC Rural (who conducted an analysis for Australia’s agricultural exports for the 2015-16 financial year based on numbers released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), both agricultural trade and two-way trade with China increased over the year, with agricultural trade up $48 million (0.5 per cent) and two-way trade up $3.3 billion, a rise of 2.34 per cent.

While two-way trade with both Japan and Korea fell sharply, there was a significant increase in agricultural exports – exports to Korea rose $339 million in value and $128 million to Japan.

Top exports to China
Over the year, the industry that has benefited the most from the Australia-China FTA has been the food processing industry, in particular edibles and food preparations such as baking powders, soups, sauces, condiments, mustards and ice cream. These exports rose 225 per cent to $966 million, rising from Australia’s 10th largest commodity in 2015 to its second largest in 2016.

Fruit and nut exports have also rose in recent years – up 154 per cent to almost $239 million. And they can only be expected to increase as most fruits and nuts will be tariff-free by 2019. China is already Australia’s leading market for citrus (with exports up 50 per cent) and wine, surpassing the US and the UK as Australia’s top wine export destination this year with a 54 per cent jump, worth more than $417 million.

Dairy exports (milk, cream, whey and yoghurt) increased $100 million, up almost 60 per cent and while beef exports also increased (14 per cent), other meat exports declined this year, falling 35 per cent – a drop of $155 million down to $285 million. Canola and cotton were also in decline this year.

Japan

The Australia-Japan FTA will remove tariffs off 97 per cent of Australian exports in the coming years. Beef is Australia’s major agricultural export to Japan, followed by cheese, wheat, woodchips and other meat – all five of which have remained at a steady rate the past year.

 

The only exception was woodchips, which increased 37 per cent to $404 million in value. Fruit and nuts exports represented another big increase, with a 66 per cent jump rising from the thirteenth largest export to the ninth.

 

Dairy and oilseed exports to Japan decreased by half this year, dairy losing $24 million in value (a 47 per cent drop), and oilseeds down $107 million to $90.9 million, a decrease by 54 per cent.


Korea
The smallest and oldest of the three Asian FTA markets, Korea represented the largest gains for Australian agricultural exports over the year, rising 12 per cent.

 

As with Japan, beef is the top Australian export product to Korea (worth $1.32 billion) and continued to increase in 2016, rising by 24 per cent. Other export increases included sugar, up 17 per cent to $617 million; wheat, up 15 per cent to more than $406 million; and wool, rising 57 per cent to $127 million.

 

The only export commodity to Korea that decreased sharply was cotton, which fell by 70 per cent.

Sustainability and profitability key topics at red meat industry conference

Grace Entry - Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) will host the inaugural Vital Ingredient Sustainability Conference this month in Sydney. Held over two days on November 29 and 30, the conference will focus on how to develop the best sustainable practices and profitable businesses in the Australian red meat processing sector.

 

A sector that contributes up to $23 billion annually to the nation’s gross domestic product with over 135,000 people in its employment, the red meat processing sector is the country’s second largest manufacturing industry.

 

“Our industry has changed phenomenally over the past 20 years along with consumption patterns and the regulatory environment,” AMPC Chairman Peter Noble told The Land. “Now we’re looking at how we can use best practices to become one of the best sustainable businesses in Australia.”

 

Key topics at the conference will include increased competition, the regulatory environment, changing consumer patterns, climate change and value chain integration. It will also feature a range of problem-solving topics such as feeding seaweed to cows to cut emission, developing new and profitable Australian food products and supporting rural communities.

 

“The red meat industry is the foundation on which many rural communities are built. Doing nothing now will mean we could lose value from the entire red meat supply chain,” Mr Noble said.

 

The conference follows the industry’s Feast of Ideas workshop event, recently held in Wagga Wagga, which provided fresh input and inspiration to ensure sustainability and profitability in the red meat processing sector. Mr Noble said a sustainability report released by AMPC following the Feast of Ideas event – which identified some risks currently facing the industry – would be best tackled by the entire supply chain collaborating more effectively.

 

“Lack of information sharing can disadvantage participants along the chain and lead to low levels of trust and cooperation,” Mr Noble said.

 

A lineup of local and international industry experts will attend the conference to discuss the latest research and developments, the risks facing the business and how to tackle them. It will also feature the latest innovations in meat and food science and technology.

 

The conference will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel and is open to all working in or interested in the meat industry, from meat processors to producers, industry researchers and scientists, technology companies and food retailers.

Boundless Plains to Share

Fulfilling Australia's Agricultural Potential

© One Mandate Group, 2017

Innovative Ideas shaped for business and social betterment