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Going Dutch: Opportunities for the Australian agri-food sector

Going Dutch: Opportunities for Australian agri-food

Ben van Delden, Head of Agri-Food Tech, provides insights from KPMG and AgFunder's Agri-Food Tech Traction Tour to the Netherlands.

Ben van Delden

Partner, Management Consulting, Head of AgriFood Tech and Circular Economy Advisory

KPMG Australia


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Tractor in a tulip field in the Netherlands

Opportunities for the Australian agri-food sector

If Australia wants to grow its agri-food sector to $100 billion, there is much we can we learn from the second largest agri-food exporting nation in the world. Australia has every reason to be buoyant with the core ingredients of production scale, leading technology and undoubted capability. The trick is how we manage these ingredients to achieve our potential faster.

In June 2018, KPMG and AgFunder Inc. led an Australian and Malaysian delegation of agri-food leaders on a 7-day Agri-Food Tech Traction Tour of the Netherlands. The Agri-Food Traction Tour was calibrated by KPMG, Agfunder Inc and the Netherlands Embassy and focused on two main goals:

  • To demonstrate to executives of Australian agri-food organisations how the Netherlands has developed the disruptive technologies and ecosystems that have driven it to be the second largest global agri-food exporter.
  • To establish a coalition of willing Australian leaders to drive different thinking and initiatives to accelerate collaboration and technology adoption across the Australian agri-food sector.

A modern world agri-food vision

Innovative technology, collaboration, and values driven eco-systems form the competitive pillars of a country 185th the size of Australia, which produces 810 times more export earnings per hectare and nearly three times more agri-food export earnings than Australia.

The Netherlands is geographically slight but their output is powerful. Strategically positioned on the doorstep of major markets, they have become the second largest food exporter on the planet. All of this is achieved with a population density of approximately 411 people per square kilometre of land compared to Australia, which has three people per square kilometre.

From LED laboratories and light recipes for plants to milking robots and on-farm milk pasteurisation, greenhouses heated by excess data centre server heat and reusing carbon dioxide captured from the natural gas heaters, there is a considerable amount to be learnt from this innovative nation.

The key lesson for Australia

In this paper, we address the question of what changes the Australian agri-food industry needs to make to create a thriving and successful industry that is just as focused on creating value from intellectual property and technology as it is on producing and exporting commodities.

Of the many lessons delegates took from the 45 Dutch organisations we visited, the most useful and relevant is the power of collaboration and co-investment.

It is well-known that collaboration is the key to unlocking innovation across a range of sectors, including agriculture. Whether it is co-investing in geothermal wells to heat greenhouses, creating food processing and logistics precincts or industry-led investment in research facilities, there is an apparent default mindset of partnering to do things faster and with greater scale and impact. This mindset has resulted in the establishment of production clusters and technical centres of excellence across the Netherlands.

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