Ben van Delden, Head of Agri-Food Tech, provides insights from KPMG and AgFunder's Agri-Food Tech & Internet of Farms Traction Tour to the Netherlands which was held on 1-6 July 2019.
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 July 2019, KPMG and AgFunder Inc. led an Australian, New Zealand, and Irish delegation of agri-food leaders on a 7-day Agri-Food Tech & Internet of Farms Traction Tour of the Netherlands. This was the second Agri-Food Tech & Internet of Farms Traction Tour developed and hosted by KPMG and Agfunder. The tour focused on leading edge Agri-Food Tech, Internet of Things, circular economy initiatives, and supporting ecosystems in The Netherlands. The tour had three main goals:
Innovative technology, collaboration, and values driven eco-systems form the competitive pillars of a country 185th the size of Australia, which produces 660 times more export earnings per hectare and more than three times the 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 413 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.
In the paper developed following the 2018 tour, 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 more than 30 Dutch organisations we visited, the most useful and relevant is the power of collaboration and shared investment, and the focus on circular economy models.
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, industry-led investment in research facilities, or shared data platforms, 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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