Tasmanian food producer collaborations point to future gains

From wasabi-infused cheddar cheese, black cherries and spreadable chevre to being a key ingredient in Huon Salmon’s Dark Mofo menu, Tasmanian wasabi is a great mixer.

Shima Wasabi’s collaborations with other Tasmanian brands is a great example of how agricultural businesses can create opportunities for the state, national and international market.

Tasmanian businesses were invited to consider collaboration through for Food Innovation Australia Limited Cluster Programme grants and Ifor Ffowcs-Williams presentations throughout the state.

As Mr Ffowcs-Williams explains, “Businesses find a way to collaborate through co-purchasing packaging or freight, co-marketing, co-specialisation or co-creation of value”.

“It’s David meets Goliath. The small producers need scale and the big producers need innovation,” he said.

We have a great opportunity to collaborate and cooperate and come up with new products.

Tom Lewis

FermenTasmania executive director Tom Lewis works on multiple collaborative projects with industry, government and the university and sees it as the way forward for Tasmanian food producers.

“We have a great opportunity to collaborate and cooperate and come up with new products,” Mr Lewis said.

“It’s the triple helix of entities that has the environment that will help create and foster innovation,” he said.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Peter Skillern agreed that collaboration was an “innovative way of doing business”.

“Sometimes economies of scale can make a difference between having a margin and not having a margin. A smaller operator doesn’t necessarily have those economies of scale, but collectively you can, so I would expect to see more of that,” Mr Skillern said.

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH

Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture becomes a research institute within the new College of Sciences and Engineering at the University of Tasmania from January 1, director Professor Holger Meinke said.

“This evolution is a direct consequence of TIA’s research and teaching performance that saw us rise to rank 44th in the world and fourth in Australia for agricultural sciences during 2017,” Professor Meinke said.

“It will support TIA to strengthen its international reach, while maintaining a focus on local delivery of high-quality agricultural research, development and extension,” he said.

The institute will engage with Tasmanian industries and businesses to support development in agricultural and food sectors throughout 2018.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN AGRICULTURE

The Tasmanian Irrigation inquiry this year will assess the future of the organisation that oversees the state’s water schemes and holdings.

Mr Skillern said the inquiry would provide an opportunity to discuss the future and most appropriate structure for Tasmanian Irrigation.

“I think that will be an important conversation at whatever time that happens,” he said.

No forecast would be complete without forewarning, and no agricultural wrap-up would be accurate without mention of the weather.

The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted that Tasmania would probably receive rainfall above the median between December and February.

Rainfall in early December buoyed farmer’s spirits, Mr Skillern said, but more was needed to keep the state green.

“Certainly at the moment it looks like [potential drought] has turned around on the back of what were some pretty heavy falls, but you’ve got to recognise that is falling on pretty dry soil with absolutely no moisture profile in it at all,” Mr Skillern said.

“Even though they were heavy falls they need to soak in to the soil. You need consistent falls. We do just need to keep a watching brief on the weather situation,” he said.

Tasmanian dairy farmers have enjoyed improved milk prices at the end of the season, but English milk prices have started to drop.

“We really need to look to Europe to see what’s transpiring there and then watching those prices and seeing how long it takes [for prices to fall here]. It’s like a stone in a pond that ripples around the world.” Mr Skillern said.