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    EXPLORING OPPORTUNITIES: From left, Sharron Keating, Anita Evans, Shawna Dominelli, Sheree and Richard Inglis, Regional Development Australia Grampians chairman Stuart Benjamin, Barry McGookin from Food Innovation Australia, Denise McLellan and Jenny Moore at a regional leaders breakfast in Horsham. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER
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    Anita Evans, 5 Ducks Farm, Regional Development Australia Grampians chair Stuart Benjamin and Barry McGookin from Food Innovation Australia at a breakfast for regional leaders.

Food-business opportunity the backbone of Regional Leaders Breakfast


The potential of food-industry businesses and agricultural value-adding in the Wimmera and southern Mallee provided the backbone of a Regional Leaders Breakfast in Horsham.

Regional Development Australia chairman Stuart Benjamin and Barry McGookin of Food Innovation Australia painted a picture of opportunity during the gathering at Horsham Angling Club rooms.

Attendees, including budding regional food-business entrepreneurs and regional municipal and agency leaders heard about collaborative programs and how the region could capitalise on its strong agricultural position to generate growth.

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Wimmera Development Association organised the event in its role as the peak advocacy body promoting growth across much of the region.

Mr Benjamin used the occasion to press home compelling figures that revealed how the Wimmera and southern Mallee was missing out on value-adding opportunities to process food crops the region grew.

“We effectively help feed the state, country and the world,” he said.

“We’ve become very good at producing large amounts of raw products and have some of the best farmers in the world. Yet we’re not taking advantage to add value to that before it leaves the region.

“We do a lot of exporting and might make $2000 a tonne. But somebody else turns that $2000 into $10,000. 

“Our region should be creating that value, but at the moment we add only one percent of value to what leaves the farm gate. Based on the current trajectory for the Wimmera and southern Mallee, during the next 30 years our GDP per head of population is set to drop. Yet metropolitan Melbourne is set to increase by 50 percent.

“If we want to have a lifestyle that is suitable for future generations we need to reverse this trend and the way we do that is by creating wealth in our own region instead of exporting it elsewhere.”

Horsham example

Mr Benjamin said pulse-protein-power firm Australian Plant Proteins in Horsham was an example of how the industry needed to expand.

“The reality is, I would like to see 50 similar operations spread right across the region and located in every small town,” he said.

“APP is providing an example of a start-from-scratch trailblazing scenario. 

“Through the process there has been an identification of shortcomings as well as opportunities and we need to get ahead of all of this to make sure development can happen as quickly, efficiently and seamlessly as possible. 

“We need to take control of our own future.”

Mr McGookin spoke on the partnership between Food Innovation Australia, Wimmera Development Association and Beanstalk Ag as part of a pilot food-innovation program called Seeds of Growth.

The program is designed to equip participants with skills to transform ideas into revenue-generating businesses.

Participants in the program are involved in a broad range of emerging food businesses across the region.

The entire May 5, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!