Food and Agribusiness

A Roadmap for unlocking value-adding growth opportunities for Australia

JULY 2017

CSIRO Futures is the strategic advisory arm of Australia’s national science agency.


CSIRO Futures

CSIRO Futures is the strategic advisory arm of Australia’s national science agency. We work with senior decision makers in Australia’s largest companies – and government – to help them translate science into strategy and plan for an uncertain future. We build on CSIRO’s deep research expertise to help our clients create sustainable growth and competitive advantage by harnessing science, technology and innovation.

CSIRO Agriculture and Food

CSIRO Agriculture and Food is transforming productivity, profitability and sustainability in Australia’s food and fibre industries and is a leader in the global response to food and nutritional security.


CSIRO would like to acknowledge the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre – Food Innovation Australia Ltd – for their input and support in the development of this report.

We are also grateful for the time and input of industry representatives consulted throughout this project and the many researchers who provided invaluable review and feedback on this report.

Copyright and disclaimer

© 2017 CSIRO. To the extent permitted by law, all rights are reserved and no part of this publication covered by copyright may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means except with the written permission of CSIRO.


CSIRO Foreword

Australia has a rich history in food and agriculture and now has an opportunity to transform from the old notion of being Asia’s food bowl into a more realistic and growth-oriented goal to be the delicatessen of high quality products that meet the needs of billions of informed and discerning customers both here and abroad. Our wealth of raw ingredients paired with our world-class science can help feed a world market hungry for premium food at a price that recognises its value. The food and agribusiness (F&A) sector can become a shining example of Australia exporting unique end products rather than just raw materials.

CSIRO’s Strategy 2020 is to be Australia’s Innovation Catalyst, which will help us work closely with the sector to create new value by translating world-class science into innovative products. ‘Customer First’ is the first pillar of our strategy, and we’ve prioritised the way we work side-by-side with our customers and partners to tackle the big challenges facing their industries. We’re committed to responding with agility and creativity to find the right solutions for unique projects, and spending more time understanding the specific requirements of industries and businesses. This customer-centric approach doesn’t just extend to how we work with our partners; it is also reflected in our broader research agenda.

CSIRO uses science to conceptualise, predict, and model the major trends shaping Australia’s future, including the Australia 2030 Report, Our Future World: Global Megatrends report, and the Australian National Outlook. We believe the F&A sector has a bright and bold future in this country. This Industry Roadmap report identifies a range of opportunities that could secure the future competitiveness and success of F&A in Australia. But more importantly, the report discusses enablers for unlocking these opportunities which rely on a collaborative approach from the research, education, government, industry and investor communities. CSIRO is committed to continuing to channel resources into this effort, including bringing our world-class science and solutions to the table.

Responding to the disruption facing every part of the Australian landscape requires nothing short of deep collaboration to drive breakthrough innovation. We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Food Innovation Australia Ltd (FIAL) and the other Industry Growth Centres as they further map out their roads to success. Together, we can apply world-class scientific and technological expertise to our unique Australian challenges and chart a course for long term sustainable prosperity for our nation.

Dr Larry Marshall
CSIRO Chief Executive

FIAL Foreword

Never has it been more timely than today for the Australian food and agribusiness sector to unite and work together to grow the share of Australian food in the global marketplace. The size and scale of developing markets reflects the scope of the opportunity for growers, producers and processors up and down the value chain. It is huge and it has come at a perfect time, because our research suggests that business as usual for the Australian food and agribusiness sector is simply not an option.

The Food and Agribusiness Sector Competitiveness Plan, developed by FIAL as part of the Industry Growth Centres Initiative, provides the high-level sector vision for this Roadmap. The plan highlights the need for businesses to be more agile, take calculated risks and apply Australian ingenuity to make what we have go further and capture the value currently wasted at a household and industrial level. Through creating a sense of urgency or burning platforms for change and growth, including improved coordination of government activities, a thriving Australian food and agribusiness sector will be the prize.

At the core of seizing this opportunity are better connections between educational and research institutions with industry, and supporting targeted investment in the Industry Knowledge Priority Areas described in the Food and Agribusiness Sector Competitiveness Plan. The discussions in the CSIRO Roadmap further support and/or provide solutions or enablers to these knowledge priority areas.

The continued investment in research and development is imperative for the competitive advantage of our businesses and industry, and will provide the pathways for more ‘new-to-world’ innovations with greater industry impact compared to the adoption of innovations already in the marketplace (or ‘new-to-firm’ innovations).

Tackling global trade, particularly new export markets, will throw up many challenges so industry, researchers and government must partner and support one another towards a common purpose. We are delighted to be partnering with CSIRO in detailing the steps for driving innovation, productivity and competitiveness in the food and agribusiness sector. We are confident that the Food and Agribusiness Sector Competitiveness Plan, together with this CSIRO Roadmap, will provide a stimulus for transformational thinking and innovation, shaping a bright future for Australian food in growing global markets.

Peter R. Schutz
FIAL Chairman


Executive Summary

The food and agribusiness (F&A) sector is a vital contributor to the Australian economy and presents a key source of growth for the nation over the coming decades. This growth cannot be sustained through productivity improvements alone.

Businesses of tomorrow must unlock greater value from Australia’s resources through harnessing science and technology and creating new offerings that meet the emerging needs of global customers. Early signs of this shift have been identified by recent Austrade analysis of the 3 years to 2016 which showed that for the first time in Australia’s history value-added foods have accounted for the majority (60%) of food export growth.

Australia’s F&A sector has the potential to strengthen its position as a small but significant exporter of sustainable, authentic, healthy, high quality and consistent products. To do this, the entire F&A ecosystem must work together to address cultural challenges and transition businesses towards being more collaborative, globally connected and growth oriented.

As the global sector changes faster than ever before, businesses will need to re-evaluate their role in this changing landscape – ensuring that strategy is underpinned with strong underlying market, business and technology assumptions. This Roadmap, through a process of industry consultation and analysis, aims to support this decision making process by identifying opportunities for products and services that align with Australia’s comparative strengths in the global landscape and by providing discussions around the key enabling activities required to unlock them.

The megatrends illustrated in Figure 1 represent five significant trends in the global sector which are already changing the F&A products demanded by consumers and the business models of F&A companies. Consideration of these trends is critical in order for stakeholders in the ecosystem to make strategic decisions that will successfully position the Australian sector for future success.

Geopolitical instability, climate change and technological advances are now impacting the sector more than ever before.

Figure 1 – Global F&A Megatrends


Supply of limited resources is being further constrained by more severe and unpredictable climate events and more potent microbes, pests and diseases – causing food producers to more seriously consider the environmental life cycle impact of food production activities.


An ageing population, rising levels of chronic disease and increasing social awareness around health and wellbeing are creating demand for foods that provide specific and holistic health outcomes.


Rising wealth, increasing choice and greater market access are driving demand for a more diverse range of foods and food service options that are tailored to individual preferences and lifestyles.


As food and beverage value chains become increasingly global, new market opportunities are created while at the same time introducing competition and supply resilience risks in a volatile world.


Increasing demand for food, the use of big data and more sophisticated e-commerce platforms are driving the creation of leaner, faster, more agile and low waste value chains.


Being a small player in a global market, Australia must work harder to develop and promote unique differentiators.

The increasing pace of change creates global opportunities. To understand where Australia can prosper, the sector must consider the nation’s comparative advantages and disadvantages. Australia’s clean and green brand is well regarded but is not unique and is poorly differentiated. Businesses – and the sector overall – must focus on developing and marketing more unique offerings that leverage Australia’s strengths while avoiding or addressing disadvantages.

Figure 2 – Australian F&A comparative advantages and related disadvantages

Comparative advantages Related disadvantages

Clean and green

  • Strong reputation
  • Low prevalence of food-borne illness
  • High safety standards
  • Lacks uniqueness
  • Disparity between perception and performance
  • Extensive list of accreditation schemes

Unique geography

  • Close to growing Asian markets
  • Diverse range of agroecological zones
  • Counter-seasonality to Northern Hemisphere
  • High transport costs
  • Small and geographically dispersed domestic market
  • Disconnect between producers and processors

World class research

  • Strong R&D sector, especially in agricultural science
  • Poor conversion / commercialisation
  • Relatively low business expenditure on R&D

Established sector with a global mindset

  • Strong knowledge, skills and infrastructure base
  • Globally focussed industry
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • Exposure to global fluctuations
  • Complex regulatory arrangements

High proportion of SMEs

  • Fast, agile and high innovation potential
  • Difficult to generate scale
  • Most Australian SMEs are micro
Advantages can be easily lost if not continually invested in Disadvantages can become advantages by being prioritised and addressed

Significant growth can come from pursuing value-adding opportunities domestically and abroad.

In considering Australia’s competitive position in this rapidly changing global market, three broad opportunity themes have been identified. Each opportunity leverages existing research strengths and customer demands. Investments most likely to prosper are those that possess characteristics of all three themes.

Figure 3 – Opportunities for growth in Australia’s F&A sector

Opportunity theme Industry opportunities

Products for health and wellbeing

Food or beverage products that provide specific health benefits above and beyond basic nutrition, and target consumers who are either health conscious or have specific medical/dietary needs.

  • Free-from and natural foods
  • Supplements
  • Fortified and functional
  • Personalised nutrition

Sustainable solutions

Environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing processes and products, and the recovery of novel, value-added products from waste streams.

  • Waste conversion
  • Alternative protein sources
  • Sustainable packaging
  • Green and ethical value chains

Premium interactions

Products that fetch a premium price due to quality and convenience, luxury status, novel attributes or their integration with food-based experiences.

  • Convenience without compromise
  • Luxury products and gifts
  • Experiences and tourism
  • Novel tastes, smells, texture

Science, technology and ecosystem support are critical to unlocking the opportunities and enabling business-led growth.

While there is significant breadth and value to be captured in the offerings under each of the identified growth opportunities, businesses must act quickly or risk losing these future revenue streams to the competitive global market. Sustained growth in the sector will require proactive investment and translation of enabling science and technology, involving transdisciplinary teams and transpartisan relationships. These science and technology investments must be supported by business and ecosystem decisions that improve culture, skills, business models and knowledge within the sector.

Five key growth enablers arose from industry consultation, each requiring a unique mix of science and technology investment, business action and ecosystem assistance (Figure 4).

Figure 4 – Enablers of growth for Australia’s F&A sector


Example science and technology solutions

Business actions

Ecosystem actions

Traceability and provenance

  • Blockchain
  • DNA-testing
  • Isotope analysis
  • Barcoding and image recognition technologies
  • Develop data handling arrangements
  • Understand drivers of demand
  • Introduce unique identifiers on packaging
  • Address domestic fragmentation
  • Develop and promote brand Australia
  • Support industry-to-industry collaboration
  • Retain critical mass of production
  • Identify key markets for targeted R&D efforts

Food safety and biosecurity

  • Hybrid high pressure processing
  • Advanced packaging
  • Microwave assisted thermal sterilisation
  • Blockchain and bio-sensing
  • Investigate and consider the impacts of non-tariff barriers to trade
  • Enhance domestic food testing capabilities
  • Harmonise food safety systems
  • Increase in-process transparency of quality
  • Develop a national centre of excellence in food safety research and collaboration

Market intelligence and access

  • Sensors and data analytics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • E-commerce for perishable products
  • Identify export destinations of best fit
  • Perform ongoing market research
  • Understand requirements of food service customers
  • Get feet on the ground
  • Use local immigrants for consumer research
  • Develop publically accessible market analysis
  • Provide industry seminars and workshops

Collaboration and
knowledge sharing

  • Develop regional clusters
  • Identify potential international collaborations
  • Contract SMEs for new product development
  • Establish long term agreements
  • Coordinate and streamline representative organisations
  • Develop business consortium
  • Provide more holistic R&D solutions
  • Simplify Intellectual Property arrangements
  • Establish ‘end-to-end’ pilot plant offering
  • Leverage state and federal innovation support schemes


  • Increase investment in developing and acquiring skills in general business tasks, leadership, market research and data science
  • Increase practical elements of tertiary courses
  • Hire more commercially experienced business development staff in research
  • Mobilise researchers into industry

Call to action

Working together, the Australian F&A sector is well placed to succeed in the global marketplace. However, businesses will need to take calculated investment risks to remain competitive in the future. This Roadmap can be used as a tool to support this decision-making process (Figure 5).

Figure 5 – Using the Roadmap

Collaborate at each step for shared learning

1. Evaluate and accept the implications of the changing global F&A sector

2. Explore strengths and weaknesses in the context of the global landscape

3. Identify opportunities for growth and prioritise areas of specialisation

4. Develop the required skills, culture, processes and business models

5. Gain practical experience in emerging science and technology areas

6. Re-evaluate strategy based on new information and experiences


1 Introduction

Much of Australia’s past research and innovation has focussed on increasing agricultural yields and improving the efficiency of land harvesting and to a lesser extent supply chains. While these breakthroughs continue to be important for maintaining Australia’s F&A competitiveness, they alone cannot maintain or improve the nation’s global standing indefinitely.

Increased value-adding across the entire F&A value-chain is acknowledged by industry as a key source of more sustainable competitiveness, greater differentiation and higher margins. While Australia’s clean and green reputation is a strong foundation, it is not unique and businesses cannot afford to be overly reliant on it.

Failure to consider Australia’s changing role in the global landscape and invest proactively in new markets, processes and products will likely result in a sector that experiences a reduction in global significance, economic value and jobs. Now is the time for businesses to identify new sources of growth and ensure continued success of a sector that has been a vital contributor to the Australian economy for decades.

Defining value-adding

Value-adding typically falls under two categories:

1.1 This report

This Roadmap seeks to support Australian food and agribusiness in its transition to a collaborative, growth oriented, high value-adding and clearly differentiated sector by discussing current and emerging trends, ascertaining market opportunities and challenges, and identifying key science, technology and business enablers.

The opportunities highlighted in this report focus on leveraging Australia’s existing strengths to deliver consumer-facing improvements in quality, taste, texture and nutrition.

The discussions within this report seek to assist Australian F&A businesses – particularly the many SMEs – who have the desire to pursue growth and new markets but need help.

To achieve this, CSIRO has worked closely with businesses of all sizes to develop this Roadmap which is intended as a bridge between high-level sector strategies and specific technology roadmaps. The ideas expressed in this report represent views collected through industry consultation (see A.3).

To capitalise on these opportunities, businesses and the supporting F&A ecosystem (industry bodies, suppliers, research, education, investors and government) need to invest in a variety of science, technology and business enablers. This report discusses these enablers and recommends actions that are designed to best position Australian industry for the long-term opportunities identified.

The Roadmap aims to build on the National food and nutrition research and development and technology transfer strategy1 and complement the 10-year Sector Competitiveness Plan developed by FIAL – the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre2. While the Roadmap distinguishes opportunities (tangible products and services) from enablers (mechanisms for unlocking these opportunities), both chapters provide discussions that support FIAL’s four Industry Knowledge Priorities and are strongly tied to the Growth Centre’s goal of supporting industry to access new markets.

Figure 6 – Report structure






1.2 A vision for Australia’s food and agribusiness sector

Vision: By 2025, the industry is working together to grow the share of Australian food in the global marketplace (FIAL, 2016).3

Australia’s F&A sector has the potential to strengthen its position as a small but significant exporter of sustainable, authentic, healthy, high quality and consistent products. Underpinning this status will be local businesses who embrace the existing volatility and possess the agility to continually and proactively seek opportunities to create new markets. Enhancing the proportion of on-shore value-adding will be key to these businesses, whether it be through the creation of unique products for niche markets or through developing varieties of commoditised goods with unmatched quality attributes and competitive production costs. These transformative opportunities will arise through research, planning and relationships that span entire value chains.

Local businesses will be more collaborative with each other, creating an environment of SMEs and contractors who leverage each other for scale and globally unique offerings. SMEs will also work with major multinational companies who have established manufacturing bases in Australia to utilise the un-matched Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the Asian region.

Asia will be the key focus of these Australian networks which have become the delicatessen of the region – a small player by volume but providing high-value, high-margin products. Asian markets will be targeted based on fit (how well placed Australian businesses are to service demand) rather than just overall market size or growth.


2 A changing global landscape

Variability is not new to food and agribusiness, however climate change, geopolitical instability, and technological advances are now impacting the sector more than ever before.

Both opportunities and challenges arise from this rapid pace of change. Understanding, continually monitoring and making strategic decisions based on long-term changes in global markets will be critical for the sustained success of export focussed businesses.

At the same time, the discrete trends underlying these broader changes can be transient. Building agility and flexibility into business planning to adapt to short-term variations in consumer ‘fads’ is also important.

Globally, agribusiness is set to grow significantly faster than global gross domestic product over the next 10 to 20 years, with an expected growth rate of 4.06%.4

2.1 Global food and agribusiness megatrends

A megatrend is defined as a substantial shift in social, economic, environmental, technological or geopolitical conditions that may reshape the way a sector operates in the long-run.5 CSIRO has identified five megatrends evident in global F&A that will have significant impact on the sector over the next 20 years.

These were developed by applying a food and agribusiness lens to previous megatrend analysis including CSIRO’s global megatrends6 and the agriculture megatrends developed in partnership with the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC)7. Both industry and research communities were consulted to further refine the megatrends and their more detailed narratives which can be found in A.1 Global food and agribusiness megatrends.

2.2 Global food and agribusiness megatrends







3 Australia’s food and agribusiness sector

3.1 Overview

The food and agribusiness sector is a vital contributor to the Australian economy and a major driver of economic activity, employment and prosperity for many parts of rural and regional Australia.8

Australia’s advanced agricultural sector produces a healthy surplus – estimated to feed around 60 million people annually.9 This export orientation means the sector benefits from, but is also heavily reliant on, the performance of global markets. Australian agriculture also supports Australia’s largest manufacturing industry – food, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing – which delivers 27% (~$26 billion) of gross value-added by the manufacturing sector.10

Despite the significance of the F&A sector compared to other Australian sectors, it is still a small player in the global trade of food and beverages, accounting for only 2.2% of global food trade in 2014.11 The domestic production market is also not as profitable as it used to be, with increasing costs and the dominance of large local and international retailers placing increasing pressure on production and processing margins.12 This is causing businesses to seek new channels to market – from farmers’ markets to advanced e-commerce solutions – and new ways of differentiating their products.

The sector is traditionally commodity based, with bulk commodities making up 88% of Australia’s food and beverage exports.13 Comparator regions such as New Zealand and the UK realise more value per kg of exports by keeping a greater share of food processing on shore.

CIE modelling has shown that the largest potential gains to the farming and processing/marketing sectors can come from increases in export demand.14 Gains from increases in productivity along the chain are generally significant, but in many cases get passed to others along the value chain and to other sectors of the economy.

CIE modelling has shown that the largest potential gains to the farming and processing/marketing sectors can come from increases in export demand.

Business mix

The vast majority (99%) of food and agribusiness enterprises are wholly Australian owned with profits going back into the Australian economy.15 The family farm remains the most common ownership structure in agribusiness and it increasingly faces pressure to grow and to maintain efficiency.16 This is resulting in farms becoming either very big (profitable and large market share) or very small (lifestyle farms).

Culture is a significant challenge to industry growth. FIAL estimate that of the approximate 57,000 employing F&A businesses, only 5% are ‘businesses of tomorrow’ that actively pursue new markets, are more inclined to take risks, are more connected to their end markets and continually invest in building both their capability and knowledge of these markets.17

Australian food and agribusiness sector snapshot

Employment and business mix


National contribution



3.2 Australia’s comparative advantages and related disadvantages

Analysis of Australia’s competitive landscape has indicated that of the 25 sectors assessed, Australia had the greatest advantage in agribusiness, which was also one of the largest global opportunities identified.18 The food processing sector was also deemed to be in a position of high advantage and opportunity. It is critical that the businesses of tomorrow build upon and exploit this significant potential to secure the future competitiveness of Australia’s F&A sector.

Australia’s clean and green brand is well-regarded and provides a strong foundation but is not unique and is poorly differentiated.

Australia’s competitive position can be altered rapidly as a result of government policies, global disruptions and other significant events. Both the national brand – and that of individual businesses – need to leverage Australia’s competitive advantages to develop a stronger and inimitable reputation. The related disadvantages identified can quickly cripple existing advantages but can also be addressed or turned into advantages through prioritised investment.

In order to strengthen Australia’s competitive position globally, businesses, governments and research organisations need to focus on opportunities that leverage (or create new) advantages and either address or avoid the disadvantages highlighted.

Importantly, Australia’s points of differentiation vary across products and markets. The themes outlined in Figure 7 – and discussed in more detail in A.2 – relate to characteristics that span the entire F&A sector and were identified through industry consultation and literature review.

Figure 7 – Comparative advantages and related disadvantages

Comparative advantages Related disadvantages

Clean and green

  • Strong reputation
  • Low prevalence of food-borne illness
  • High safety standards
  • Lacks uniqueness
  • Disparity between perception and performance
  • Extensive list of accreditation schemes

Unique geography

  • Close to growing Asian markets
  • Diverse range of agroecological zones
  • Counter-seasonality to Northern Hemisphere
  • High transport costs
  • Small and geographically dispersed domestic market
  • Disconnect between producers and processors

World class research

  • Strong R&D sector, especially in agricultural science
  • Poor conversion / commercialisation
  • Relatively low business expenditure on R&D

Established sector with a global mindset

  • Strong knowledge, skills and infrastructure base
  • Globally focussed industry
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • Exposure to global fluctuations
  • Complex regulatory arrangements

High proportion of SMEs

  • Fast, agile and high innovation potential
  • Difficult to generate scale
  • Most Australian SMEs are micro
Advantages can be easily lost if not continually invested in Disadvantages can become advantages by being prioritised and addressed


4 Opportunities for growth

The rapidly changing business and technology environments are resulting in F&A companies that are willing to deploy new products and services to ensure survival in the future.

F&A businesses with desire for significant and sustainable growth acknowledged that this is most likely to arise from value-adding for export markets. In considering Australia’s competitive position in the rapidly changing global market, three consumer-facing opportunity themes have been identified – Products for health and wellbeing, Sustainable solutions and Premium interactions.

The time to impact of opportunities within each theme varies, but all are believed to position Australian F&A businesses for sustainable competitiveness over the next 20 years. Each product or service opportunity is considered to be disruptive in terms of the technology utilised; transformative in terms of how products and services are delivered to consumers; or significant in terms of the economic potential that they hold for Australia.

These opportunities are not mutually exclusive; investments most likely to prosper are those that possess characteristics of all three themes. Given the breadth of the F&A sector, each opportunity is illustrated by example product or service offerings and case studies, acknowledging that many other niches exist for creative SMEs. Each discussion concludes with a list of key research questions that industry – in partnership with research – will need to answer in the coming years as well as example enabling technologies. Both of these lists are designed to help businesses initiate conversations about how to unlock more specific opportunities.

Figure 8 – Opportunities for growth in Australia’s F&A sector




  • Health on the mind
  • Choosy customers

Products for health and wellbeing

  • Free-from and natural foods
  • Supplements
  • Fortified and functional
  • Personalised nutrition
  • A less predictable planet
  • Smarter food chains
  • Choosy customers

Sustainable solutions

  • Waste conversion
  • Alternative protein sources
  • Sustainable packaging
  • Green and ethical value chains
  • Choosy customers
  • One world
  • Smarter Food chains

Premium / high-end products

  • Convenience without compromise
  • Luxury products and gifts
  • Experiences and tourism
  • Novel tastes, smells, textures


4.1 Products for health and wellbeing

Food or beverage products that provide specific health benefits above and beyond basic nutrition, and target consumers who are either health conscious or have specific medical/dietary needs.

Driving Megatrends

Key statistics

The ageing population and rising affluence across Asia will see these regions increasingly experience the same chronic illnesses burdening western societies today. Many of these, such as diabetes, obesity, dysphagia, sarcopenia and age-related decline in cognition can be treated and even prevented through nutrition. With Australia’s high levels of obesity and diabetes, there are already strong incentives in place for local F&A businesses to develop solutions.

In addition to these medical dietary needs, there is a growing consumer group within all developed regions that are becoming more nutritionally literate and are seeking high quality, fresh and healthy foods that improve general health and wellbeing. These products which target the prevention of illness represent an even larger market than ‘treatment’ products.

There is a growing consumer group within all developed regions that are becoming more nutritionally literate and are seeking high quality, fresh and healthy foods that improve general health and wellbeing

Future growth in the global health and wellbeing market will be unevenly distributed. Large current markets in developed countries such as USA, Japan and Germany are expected to exhibit slow growth over the next five years (<1%), while high growth is expected for emerging Asian markets including Vietnam (13%), India (13%) and Indonesia (13%) as well as the well-established Chinese market (8%).25

With a strong standards-based regulatory regime, clear legislation around the substantiation of health claims and a global reputation for safe products, Australia possesses the high levels of trust required for F&A products consumed for health and wellbeing outcomes.

Case study: Foods from the Earth

Foods from the Earth is a Brisbane-based company with an innovative chemical-free process that neutralises the astringent flavours associated with pulses (particularly mungbean but also chickpeas and fava bean) whilst retaining the nutritional benefits of these functional foods. The technology is used to create a range of raw material ingredients and food products which Foods from the Earth has commercialised both domestically and in SE Asia, supplying ingredients to food processors, and the consumer range, ‘Notnuts’, to retailers.

Ingredients and products derived from this process maintain the nutritional integrity of pulses without the typical taste, which is often a barrier to their consumption in the domestic market. They also have the added benefit of being allergen-free.

Foods from the Earth’s patented technology gives them a leading position in this market which they continue to strengthen through strategic research collaborations and wider relationships, particularly with international partners that help them access export markets.

Industry opportunities

Free-from and natural foods

Middle and high-income consumers are looking for as few ingredients as possible aside from what they are buying the product for, leading to higher demand for organic, preservative-free, sugar-free and free from trans fats products. Growth in intolerances (be they medically diagnosed or perceived) are increasing demand for gluten-free, fructose-free and dairy-free processed products. Globally, over 220 million people suffer from food allergies and most countries report an increase in incidence.26 It is predicted that by 2050 the number of patients affected by allergic diseases in Australia will increase by 70% to 7.7 million.27 By 2021, the markets for naturally healthy (US$291 billion), food intolerance (US$42 billion) and organic products (US$45 billion) are expected to have grown at up to 4.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).28


As consumers become increasingly health conscious and time poor, dietary supplements are expected to rise in popularity. More diverse options for vitamin and mineral tablets will be sought for those wishing to ensure a better balanced diet however most opportunities exist in addressing specific needs associated with lifestyle. For example protein supplements for muscle development in the ageing, weight loss supplements for the obese and tailored supplements for pregnant women. Global sales of vitamins and dietary supplements is the fastest growing and largest segment of this market, estimated to grow at 3.3% CAGR to US$107 billion by 2021.27

Fortified and functional

With similar drivers to the demand for dietary supplements, fortified and functional foods and beverages also present as a significant opportunity. This category includes whole products designed to provide a specific health benefit above and beyond basic nutrition. The market for sports and energy drinks has grown at 5.5% CAGR between 2011 and 2016 (to over US$50 billion) and is predicted to continue to grow at 4.2% CAGR to 2021.27 Prebiotics that naturally occur in many horticulture (bananas, asparagus) and wholegrain (wheat, rye) products could also see growth due to their ability to increase the activity of ‘good’ bacteria.

Personalised nutrition

As consumers seek more customised products and services, designing meals for niche demographics or individuals could be the next disruption to the current F&A value chain. Instead of one-size-fits-all diet plans, consumers could have tailored products or diets created by pairing external information (exercise, weight, age, sleep patterns, environment) with internal information (genetic information of taste and odour sensitivity and responses to food measured through blood glucose readings and microbiome analysis). As the price of genomic screening continues to fall, predisposition to various diseases could also be included. In addition, the fusion of physical, digital and biological disciplines will drive the fourth industrial revolution and may enable improved ways for personalising genotype-based nutrition.

Example products for health and wellbeing



Free-from and natural

  • Lactose free dairy products, gluten-free barley to produce gluten-free cereals and beer.
  • Organic and low chemical varieties of all major primary produce.
  • Alternative animal products for different cultural markets such as sheep yogurt for the 1 billion+ HALAL consumers in the APAC region.
  • Natural and healthier sweeteners and preservatives to replace artificial ones.
  • Altered forms of common indigestible ingredients and allergens to aid digestion (i.e. moving from free-from to developing tolerable varieties of lactose, gluten and allergenic free nuts).
  • Vitamin D, zinc, folic acid and iron.


  • Ingredients such as whey protein powder for muscle development or infant formula.
  • A series of unscientifically validated multivitamins or supplements that provide benefits that can easily be gained through a balanced diet.
  • Horticulture produce farmed on marginal land specifically for use in nutraceuticals – cheaper land and farming/processing practices as qualities such as appearance and taste not important.
  • Scientifically validated supplement tablets that target a wider range of holistic health outcomes including stress and anxiety.
  • New and more natural sources of supplements.

Fortified and functional

  • Antioxidant rich processed foods including breads, cereals and beverages.
  • Reduced digestibility of foods for better gut health.
  • Probiotics and Omega-3 oils added to fruit juices, milk, yogurt and eggs.
  • Yogurt with higher protein ratios and more digestible textures for the elderly.
  • Omega-3 enriched grains (e.g. canola).
  • Cereals and grains with higher resistance starch for improved gut health.

Personalised nutrition

  • Generic diet plans for certain demographics (athletes, the elderly) but not tailored to individual environments, consumer preferences, lifestyles and genetic makeup.
  • Increased nutrient absorption and nutrient rich meals for the elderly.
  • Individual enzyme capsules for food intolerances (e.g. lactase tablets).
  • Meat products with structural changes that provide easily chewed, swallowed and digested protein sources for sufferers of dysphagia.
  • Genetic testing to identify nutritional needs and digital models for analysing food interactions with gut microbiota.
  • Targeted enzyme formulations for unique deficiencies, medical conditions and digestive health.
  • Personalised nutrition e-tools that draw on mobile methods and real-time sensor technology.

Case study: Flavour Creations

Flavour Creations is Australia’s leading supplier of high tech foods targeted at Dysphagia management (difficulty swallowing). Dysphagia typically affects the elderly and those with neurological conditions of all ages. The condition presents significant dangers of choking and aspiration pneumonia. Additionally, malnutrition and dehydration is commonly caused by loss of appetite. Flavour Creations has established a broad range of nutritious foods and fluids through their in-house research and development (R&D) department and collaborations with external research partners.

Flavour Creations is leading developments in food and beverage thickeners, textured foods and pre thickened fluids, supplying nutritional specialty food products to hospitals, residential aged care facilities and direct to consumers living in the domestic community and internationally. Along with a range of foods and fluids engineered to meet the client’s specific needs, in 2016 Flavour Creations launched their patented “Dysphagia Cup” designed specifically to reduce neck extension enabling a safer swallow with 100% of the fluid able to be consumed.

Current research questions

Example emerging technologies for use in creating products for health and wellbeing

4.2 Sustainable solutions

Environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing processes and products, and the recovery of novel, value-added products from waste streams.

Driving Megatrends

Key statistics

Along with the water-energy-food nexus, agriculture sectors across the world are being increasingly challenged by the impacts of climate change. In many F&A industries, maintaining high standards of environmental sustainability (e.g. reduced water, energy, waste and land footprint) and animal welfare have already transitioned from being potential differentiators to accepted costs of doing business. The remaining sources of differentiation typically fall within the social responsibility category, with premium prices still able to be charged for brands and production processes that engage the community, prioritise worker wellbeing and ensure the ethical treatment of livestock.

While reducing inputs and waste presents significant opportunities for reducing the cost of production, these environmental credentials are now considered a baseline requirement for many product categories. While this is reducing the potential for charging price premiums, these credentials are still important to consider in relation to social licence to operate. The exception is the generation of new streams of revenue from waste and sustainable packaging – both of which are likely to become common value-adding practices across the sector in the next 20 years.

Australia currently falls behind Europe in embracing circular bioeconomy concepts, however with the nation’s clean and green reputation and extensive knowledge in F&A, the sector has strong potential in becoming a recognised global player in sustainable forms of value-adding.

Case study: Natural Evolution

Every week in Far North Queensland 450-500 tonne of bananas are wasted due to being out of supermarket specification, or over supply. After suffering devastating losses in 2 cyclones, Natural Evolution was born, creating banana flour from ‘waste’ bananas. Since this time, Natural Evolution has built a pharmaceutical grade green banana processing plant and designed world first technology to take unsaleable produce with a few weeks/days shelf life and turn it into high value food source which can be stored for many years. The company’s NutroLock process has been proven to lock in properties such as antimicrobial characteristics 20-50 times more effectively than conventional practices.

The company has focused on producing large output with minimal energy use. Natural Evolution has grown plantations of bananas which use 25% less water and fertiliser. The company has also scientifically proven that green bananas are the richest source of resistant starch – a prebiotic nutritional supplement. Commercial interest in the product and process has seen representatives from Europe, America, Japan, South Korea, China, and Africa visit the facility and plantation in Walkamin, QLD.

In the near future, Natural Evolution will be expanding into high-antioxidant skin care and banana ointments that have been transformed from their factory’s waste (e.g. green banana skins).

Industry opportunities

Waste conversion

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world (~1.3 billion tonnes) gets lost or wasted, with fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers having the highest wastage rates.33 Much of this is caused by the rigid product specification requirements of retailers and export destinations, which will be increasingly harder to meet as farming conditions become more unpredictable and varied.

There are significant opportunities – both at the primary production stage and processing stage – to generate edible and non-edible products from waste streams. Particularly for established sectors operating with traditional (higher waste) processes such as dairy and meat. As these opportunities leverage existing materials, the costs associated with developing a new production line are significantly reduced. For example fish oil can be extracted from fisheries waste – a market expected to reach over US$2.6 billion by 2020.34

Alternative protein sources

As Asia’s middle class continues to rapidly expand, the demand for protein will explode. With global resource constraints putting limits on meat production, alternative and more sustainable sources of protein offer an opportunity to fill this gap. The most commercially viable alternatives at present are plant-based proteins, with soy leading the way in popularity and price but may experience limitations associated with being a major food allergen. Insects and algae are currently smaller markets but growing rapidly as Asian and African markets seek more sustainable sources of protein. The global edible insect market is expected to grow from US$34 million in 2015, to over US$520 million by 2023.35

Sustainable packaging

Enormous quantities of packaging are heading towards landfills, ending up in waterways or contributing to the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. The F&A sector is a major contributor, using 65-70% of all packaging produced in Australia.36 Lower impact packaging options like biodegradable plastics, reusable containers or packaging made from recycled material can all act as points of differentiation. The shift towards more sustainable packaging has made minor inroads with over 900 signatories of the Australian Packaging Covenant, committing to designing more sustainable packaging and increase recycling rates. However limitations remain for businesses who import inputs from other countries which can include substantial amounts of non-sustainable packaging.

Green and ethical value chains

Growing concern over environmental impacts and ethical integrity throughout the supply chain is driving the demand for sustainable and ethical production, increasing consumer demand for accreditations such as Fairtrade, free-range and other eco- certifications. The value of goods sold with these accreditations was estimated to be over EU 533 billion in 2015.37 Consumer information and education is critical to achieving a premium for such credentials, with studies showing that willingness to pay is dependent on how informed consumers are about what these labels actually mean.38

Example sustainable solutions



Waste conversion

  • Dietary supplements, bioactives and food additives (e.g. sweeteners, colouring and whey) extracted from food processing waste.
  • Bovine blood cooked into blood meals for fertilisers or animal feed.
  • Extraction of fish oils and Omega-3 from heads and skeletal remains of aquaculture waste.
  • Extracting nitrogen and phosphorus from dairy processing waste water for use in low grade fertilisers.
  • Higher value uses for crop residue – moving away from fertiliser and towards fodder, biofuels, bio-oils and paper production.
  • Moving dairy waste products like acid whey and permeate away from uses in pig feed and toward uses in the creation of products for human consumption.
  • Extraction of nutraceutical ingredients from plant waste, including carotenoids, vitamin D from plant stalks, and functional oils from plant leaves.
  • Extract immunity boosting compounds from bovine blood for use in dietary supplements and ingredients.
  • Closed loop production where any ‘waste’ streams are utilised in other production processes.

Alternative protein sources

  • Plant proteins including soy, pea and rice.
  • Hemp seed and ancient grains such as Quinoa and Chia with added benefits such as Omega-3 and -6 oils and short maturation/rotation time.
  • Insect-based ingredients (e.g. flours), snacks and animal feeds that draw on crickets, meal worms, locusts and ants.
  • Automated offshore aquaculture systems to increase fish production and reduce pressure on wild fish stocks.
  • Increased use of pulses (e.g. chickpea, faba bean and mungbeans) – which consumers are already very familiar with across SE Asia – in flours, spreads, snack bars, cereals and meat replacers.
  • Meat and dairy products produced in vitro.

Sustainable packaging

  • Biodegradable packaging and bioplastics.
  • Low embodied energy packaging materials.
  • Packaging made from recycled and re-used materials.
  • Edible protein-based packaging (e.g. casein) that replace plastic films and more effectively combat spoilage.

Green and ethical value chains

  • Off-grid self-sufficient seawater greenhouse systems.
  • Feeding algae to ruminants for improved meat quality and reduced methane emissions.
  • Natural and quality-enhancing prawn feedstocks that replace the need to use decreasing wild fish stocks.
  • Precision agriculture systems including drones, networked farms and cloud-based decision support systems.
  • Urban farms to reduce land use issues and climate challenges.
  • Crop biofactories that use plant-based oils to produce alternative compounds for specific industrial use (chemicals, plastics and lubricants).
  • Protected cropping of short life-cycle and high density produce to provide year-round breeding (e.g. microvine table grapes in glasshouses and growth rooms).


Case study: Sundrop Farms

Sundrop Farms is pioneering sustainable greenhouse technologies using seawater and sunlight for commercial horticulture crops. Beginning with a pilot facility in the arid lands north of Port Augusta with support from the SA government, Sundrop secured a 10-year contract with Coles supermarkets to supply 15,000 tonnes of truss tomatoes per year. This first contract led to around $100 million in finance from venture capital firm KKR, enabling the construction of Sundrop’s first fully operational 20-hectare farm in Port Augusta. Along with tomatoes Sundrop is trialling new crops and varieties and has new farms in Portugal and the USA.

Products are grown in highly controlled greenhouse conditions and are not genetically modified. These dual benefits of controlled, sustainable production and natural attributes provide Sundrop products with a major differentiating factor for consumers.

Current research questions

Example emerging technologies for use in creating sustainable solutions

4.3 Premium interactions

Products that fetch a premium price due to quality and convenience, luxury status, novel attributes or their integration with food-based experiences.

Driving Megatrends

Key statistics

The rising Asian middle-class is predicted to drive a sharp increase in spending on high-end F&A products, with higher disposable incomes leading to more discretionary spending. The way consumers are seeking to engage with premium offerings is also changing, with convenience and sensory experiences in growing demand.

At the same time, Australia’s increasing difficulty in competing on price means that local businesses have little option but to target premium and high quality global markets.

Importantly, the definitions of ‘premium’ vary across export regions and industries, and need to be considered when developing, branding and marketing such products. The following discussions define premium as the highest quality options within commoditised goods whereas luxury refers to products that hold a particular status due to their rarity and/or association with social class.

The way consumers are seeking to engage with premium offerings is changing, with convenience and sensory experiences in growing demand.

Case study: KitKat

Nestlé’s KitKat product range now includes specialty retail pop-up stores where consumers can design their own personalised KitKat which is then produced on site by expert chocolatiers. Product packaging is also custom made. After trialling the concept with a number of pop-up stores around the world Nestle established their first permanent store in Melbourne, followed by Sydney and now has a further eight stores in Tokyo. Nestle have tailored new KitKat flavours for Japanese customers that include green tea, cherry blossom and soybean.

The KitKat brand has a long history of innovation in Japan, including ‘postable’ KitKats with space to write messages to take advantage of the trend of sending KitKats to university students ahead of exams. KitKats are also available in elaborate packaging which makes them ideal for the large gift-giving market in Japan and China. This personalisation, from cultural down to the individual level, has contributed to KitKat’s enormous international success, including being named the ‘most influential candy bar of all time’ by Time magazine.

Industry opportunities

Convenience without compromise

Combinations of increasing wealth, ageing populations, urbanisation and busy lifestyles are driving demand globally for high quality, convenient fresh and packaged products – both for home and out-of-home consumption of snacks and whole meals. Reports of contamination and poor hygiene among independent food service outlets and street vendors in Asia have led to perceptions that ready meals have better standards of safety and hygiene.

Ready meals have experienced significant growth in Japan (over US$15 billion market size) largely due to their growing elderly population.43 Chilled and frozen ready meals are also seeing growth across Asia with the increasing reach of the cold chain and growing levels of refrigerator ownership in cities.

Luxury products and gifts

Luxury products are those with limited availability, a high price or hold some form of symbolism (e.g. an indicator of social status). With large numbers of high net worth individuals, significant wealth disparities44 and a gift giving culture centred around food and beverages, opportunities exist to export luxury food and beverage products across Asia. The luxury food market is dominated by the food service segment (i.e. for consumption in restaurants and hotels) rather than the retail segment, although opportunities in retail are growing.45

The CAGR for luxury sales in Asia between 2009 and 2014 was 15%, with cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul among the world’s top 10 luxury markets.46

Experiences and tourism

With younger generations prioritising experiences over material goods, demand is growing for new ways of interacting with food. These opportunities are not restricted to the retail end of the value chain, with growing interest from tourists and local consumers in combining the rural landscape of Australia’s pre-farm gate operations with local produce for enhanced dining experiences. Tourists often continue to eat the cuisines of their travel destinations long after they return home. Expanding into service offerings can add value to existing product lines through brand extension and open up demand in potential export regions.

Novel tastes, smells and textures

The ability to continually release products with novel properties is becoming increasingly important to satisfy consumers’ demands and differentiate from competitors. This can be done through breeding techniques at the agricultural level or by processing techniques to create exciting new taste, smell and texture profiles. These opportunities need not be restricted to novelty one-off purchases, with scope for improved sensory qualities of more familiar products such as grains, fruits and vegetables.

Example premium interactions



Convenience without compromise

  • Pre-made slow cooked and smoked meats.
  • Pre-proportioned cooking ingredients including liquid stock and individually packaged ingredient portions.
  • On-the-go liquidised breakfast meals.
  • Ambient yogurt that doesn’t require refrigeration.
  • Direct delivery of food using automated digital systems.
  • Portion innovation – packaging, labelling and portioning aligned to daily serve requirements.
  • Micro-climates in apartment complexes for home grown food in urban areas.
  • Functional packaging that helps to control microwave performance (evenly heated dishes), provides modified atmosphere and/or is easy to open for frailer hands.
  • Single convenient meals that contain 2+ serves of fruit and 5+ serves of vegetables.

Luxury products

  • Traditional luxury products such as spirits, wines, oysters, oils, truffles and cherries.
  • Selectively bred cattle for optimised meat quality.
  • F&A businesses partnering with high-end designers to cross-promote through unique packaging of luxury product lines.
  • Blended products that combine luxury items (e.g. truffle infused oils) or uniquely paired gift boxes (e.g. cherries and chocolates).

Experiences and tourism

  • Events and tours at vineyards and farms that use local produce for catering.
  • Experience-based restaurants that incorporate novel ingredients such as gold leaf and liquid nitrogen.
  • Dietitian or farmer led store/factory/farm tours for consumers to learn more about the benefits of their food and how it is made.
  • Virtual reality dining where consumers are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the meal’s country of origin.
  • Products customised to an individual’s sensory palate.
  • Restaurants that utilise facial scanning technology to assess mood and suggest a personalised menu.

Novel tastes, smells and textures

  • Miniaturised fruit and vegetables.
  • New varieties such as New Zealand’s golden kiwi fruit.
  • Enhancing existing products with flavours from other regions, such as dry pasta infused with chilli, turmeric and saffron.
  • 3D printed confectionary with novel shapes and personalised designs.
  • Carbonated fruits.
  • Vegetables with altered flavour profiles to encourage children to eat them.
  • Horticulture vapours.

Case study: Andrews Meat Industries (Creative Food Solutions)

Creative Food Solutions (CFS) is a brand established by Andrews Meat Industries to diversify into value-added meat products including full ready-to-eat meals featuring slow-cooked beef and lamb, centre plate meals and premium sauces and soups. By diversifying into cooked meals, Andrews Meat Industries has been able to capture a greater share of the value chain and with all facilities fully AQIS certified is ready to expand into new export markets. This expansion has been enabled by innovation in high-throughput cooking facilities within Andrews’ ‘sous vide’ industrial kitchen including custom designed and locally built integrated potato cooking/mashing machine, mixer kettle and semi-automated steak cutting system.

Current research questions

Example emerging technologies for use in creating premium interactions


5 Enabling growth

For many businesses, pursuing the opportunities presented in the previous chapter will involve transitioning to new product lines and business models.

This chapter highlights cross-cutting enablers that are key to unlocking all of the strategic growth opportunities discussed. The topics were informed by interviews with both industry and research, with some being primarily driven by advances and investment in science and technology while others require broader operational changes at the business and ecosystem level.

The five enabler topics in this chapter do not represent an exhaustive list for unlocking value-adding opportunities. Broader concepts like capital financing and regulation are also critical in supporting sectoral growth however are not within the scope of this report. Other reports such as the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s State of the Industry 2016 report and the Business Council of Australia’s Building Australia’s Comparative Advantages: A 21st Century Agrifood Sector discuss these themes.

Enabling science and technology

Future growth opportunities for Australia’s F&A sector will be underpinned by significant technological innovation from public and private research communities. Science and technology is playing a bigger role than ever before in creating new markets. Sustained growth in the sector will require proactive investment and translation of enabling science and technology, involving transdisciplinary teams and transpartisan relationships.

Transdisciplinary science will be at the heart of major breakthroughs over the next 20 years; providing significant competitive advantage to businesses that pursue the fast and efficient adoption of new technologies.

Sustained growth in the sector will require proactive investment and translation of enabling science and technology, involving transdisciplinary teams and transpartisan relationships.

Like the opportunities, the enabling science and technology areas discussed are not an exhaustive list and should not be considered in isolation as there are synergies in combining them. Much of the enabling technology is already available in some form, but is yet to be applied by industry for specific F&A applications or consistently across the F&A sector.

Further, as per the scope of this report, the science and technology areas discussed focus on unlocking value-adding activities or markets, rather than improving productivity on-farm/factory or over the value chain. Technologies that relate to the latter, such as the myriad of Internet of Things applications that can significantly improve margins and efficiency, should also be considered among R&D portfolios.


Each of the discussions concludes with a list of recommended actions for unlocking the enablers. All of these actions can benefit from a unified and collaborative approach across the F&A ecosystem, however the lists have been separated into:

New breeding techniques

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are a part of Australia’s history, with selective breeding, hybridisation and the addition of exogenous genes still being used today (e.g. Australia’s cotton industry is >99% GM). They are also part of Australia’s F&A future, with industry noting the importance of GMOs in supporting the survival of primary agricultural production as climate change harshens farming conditions and global biosecurity threats evolve.

Without doubt, there will be many opportunities and challenges that cannot be addressed without GMO technology. However, largely because of consumer acceptance issues, and the high costs of deregulation, the commercial use of GMO technology in Australian crops is limited. Both domestically and globally, the transition to consumer acceptance of GMOs as staple crops (e.g. rice and wheat), or for livestock and aquaculture production, is a roadblock.

With consumer appetites shifting towards more ‘natural’ offerings, there is renewed commercial interest in new non-GMO breeding techniques – such as gene editing – which have the potential to give rise to a range of products with enhanced quality and novel attributes. This area of science clearly demonstrates the need for enabling technologies and ecosystem actions to be considered together in order to unlock the benefits for Australian businesses and consumers.

5.1 Traceability and provenance

Rising product fraud, non-linear value chains and increasing requirements from overseas customers for authenticity and transparency are driving the demand for increased traceability and authenticated provenance claims.

Food fraud costs the global food industry an estimated US$40 billion each year47, with the United States (29.8%), China (13.6%) and India (12.6%) being the largest sources of fraudulent production.48

Assuring provenance can assist in avoiding or minimising fatalities and illnesses attributed to inferior product substitution as well as create additional capacity to export as fraudulent suppliers are removed from the market. Authenticity checks should not be restricted to the product content, with process and marketing fraud also prevalent.

Trust is a critical factor for export markets. Traceability systems provide the opportunity for Australian agribusinesses not only to effectively leverage the nation’s clean and green reputation, but also to build a strong image of being environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. Australian businesses will need to invest in both virtual and physical technologies that provide greater transparency around product origin, production inputs, suppliers, processing materials, transport and distribution.

Developing solutions that provide assurance of provenance and rolling the systems out across entire value chains is not cheap and will require whole-of-industry support and facilitation. Currently, not all industries stand to gain equally from these solutions, with the highest needs among industries with high levels of fraud (olive oil, fish, milk, grains and honey48) or where products are being sold with premium or organic credentials that require validation.

Australia falls in the middle of OECD rankings on food traceability due to having a high quality or mandatory system for specific commodities, such as livestock identification, but not all commodities.49

Figure 9 – Information required of F&A businesses from downstream partners

Top responses from global SGS survey50


Additional future information sought

Analytical test results (78%)

Country of origin (76%)

Packaging specifications (75%)

Site certification information (64%)

Allergen/free-from status of ingredients (58.2%)


Nutrient profile

Production technique

Genetic makeup

Environmental impacts

Enabling science and technology

The following discussions provide examples of key technologies that can unlock traceability solutions in the F&A sector. Ideal solutions will likely be a combination of digital tracking (RFID chips, bar codes, QR codes, blockchain) and biological readings (isotopic analysis, DNA fingerprinting, biomarker compounds).


A blockchain is an impenetrable, timestamped ledger of all transactions or events – in this instance across the value chain from farm to fork – that are added in a linear, chronological order. Coupled with smart contracts – legally binding computable code – this technology can be applied to automate and digitise business transactions. Blockchain is not limited to purely transactional data, with other viable features including tracking whether the package has been opened or tampered with at any point along the value chain and whether duties were paid.

Unlike biological readings, there is no need to tamper with the product itself or purchase expensive equipment for readings. With complex and often intermediated international value chains, blockchain solutions allow exporters to view where and when their product is traded once it leaves Australia; providing greater customer insights compared to the near zero transparency received today. This will reduce the rates of disintermediation and subsequent fraud.

At present, Blockchain is not commonly used in F&A value chains. Current limitations of the technology are that it is not suited to products that undergo transformation off-shore (difficult to continue tracking) and investment in significant digital infrastructure is required. In the future, larger multinational retailers could facilitate the adoption of this technology by requiring suppliers to use it, or governments could facilitate the move, but the initial outlay and risk is too great for an SME to adopt.


Many traceability solutions begin at the packaging stage, either as a label on the product itself or its packaging. DNA-testing allows full chain traceability – beginning at the birth of the animal or the planting of the crop and continuing past transformation (a limitation of protein-based approaches). DNA barcoding51 is effective in certifying both origin and quality of raw materials, and can detect adulterations (e.g. mixing products from different taxa). Genetic markers can also be added to foods for traceability purposes.

Consumer demand for animal welfare and safe meats, and the sophistication of existing systems52, means that the most viable applications are in animal production industries. Application of this technology area can provide consumers access to information such as the weight, age and health of the animal in their meal as well as the conditions it was raised, transported and slaughtered under. Applications in fish products are also suitable due to the high number of species (high genetic variation) and difficulty in differentiating fish once filleted.

Plants, which are often clones or exhibiting limited variation, are more difficult to screen effectively. However in the distant future (20+ years), genetic screening could become so commoditised that DNA-testing is an economically viable provenance offering for all product types.

Isotope analysis

Elements exist as one of a number of isotopes53. Many elements found within F&A produce possess these natural variations that result in different physical, chemical and biochemical processes. Identifying these locally specific variations can assist in mapping products to regions, but not down to the individual plant or animal. The best isotopes to compare will differ depending on where the most variation occurs for any given product.

This approach to authenticating provenance is applicable across many F&A products, including horticulture, seafood and meat.54 Isotopic analysis can also test for other incidents of fraud and substitution, such as the dilution of beverages with water, distinguishing between freshly squeezed and concentrate juices and distinguishing between organic and conventional cultivation of crops.55

Utilising this approach requires the development of a virtual global library of produce fingerprints (isotope ratios). Collecting and regularly updating these data sets comes at significant cost. Without publically available databases globally, businesses will typically create their own libraries that are limited to products and/or export regions that are considered at high risk of fraud.

Barcoding and image recognition technologies

As consumers demand more information about their product (provenance being only one category of information), labels on packaging are becoming increasingly dense with words. Some product lines and businesses have already shifted much of this information onto 2D QR codes that can be scanned by a consumer’s smartphone and hold significantly more information than the slowly disappearing 1D barcode. Another form – DataBar barcodes – are used in fresh produce at the point of sale to provide information around weight and expiry date but could be extended to include more provenance information.

A possible disruption to these solutions in the packaged food industry is the rise of image recognition technologies, which can allow products to become their own digital barcode. This approach imperceptibly embeds the barcode across the entire surface of the package, freeing up more space for branding.

At present, these retail-side offerings do not converge with barcoding technologies such as RFID that are used across the value chain for product tracking and inventory management. While it may not be practical to use a single barcode for both purposes, implementing interoperable systems will allow businesses to draw on the tracking data to demonstrate provenance to consumers.

Enabling business actions

Enabling ecosystem actions

5.2 Food safety and biosecurity

In many Asian markets, highly publicised food scares and an overall distrust in the safety and authenticity of local products is driving the growing consumer groups in middle and high income demographics to seek imported foods and beverages.

In absolute terms, South East Asia is the worst affected global region with 175,000 deaths a year attributed to food borne illnesses.56

The ability to provide consistent product, reliable supply and regular and transparent assurance that Australian food products are safe not only allows market access in these regions, but also enables the charging of premium prices and decreases the potential for non-tariff barriers.

Table 1 – The global burden of Food Borne Disease is of a similar order of magnitude to each of the ‘big three’ infectious diseases


Disability-Adjusted Life Years


92 million


55 million


44 million

Food Borne Disease

33 million

Source: Havelaar, A. et al (2015). World Health Organization Global Estimates and Regional Comparisons of the Burden of Foodborne Disease in 2010, PLoS Med 12(12): e1001923.


Science and technology that increases product shelf-stability will allow Australian produce to safely travel longer distances into Asian value chains, which often lack a complete cold chain. Solutions that remove or reduce the need for frozen storage and distribution will reduce energy costs, improve customer perception of freshness and nutrition, and provide businesses with a greater capacity to manage stock.

The key will be developing solutions that provide improved safety and stability without harming Australia’s natural and high quality image.

In addition to improving the differentiation of Australian products in existing markets, creating safer and more stable products can open up access to niche markets, such as products for remote mining camps, military rations or servicing remote developing regions in South East Asia.

As discussed in Chapter 3, Australia’s clean and green reputation is a vulnerable brand, with biosecurity risks and comparatively poor OECD food safety ratings57 threatening the marketing strategy of many key product categories. While Australian consumers are trusting of products sold within Australia, the F&A sector should be investing in food safety and biosecurity solutions to preserve the nation’s global reputation and keep the domestic market safe.

Better understanding microorganisms will be key to food safety solutions over the coming decades – both in terms of identifying ways to combat harmful foreign microorganisms found along value chains but also by better understanding the communities of microorganisms that naturally occur within fresh produce and the beneficial role they play.

Enabling science and technology

The following discussions provide examples of key technologies that can increase food safety in the F&A sector. Ideal solutions will likely be a combination of advanced production processes (creating safer and more stable products) and rapid real-time testing to identify contaminants before they spread or reach the end-customer.

Data analysis and modelling will be key to all combination approaches on the production side. Understanding the safety trade-offs inherent in changing ratios of elements such as heat treatment, acid content and preservative levels will allow production to be tailored towards the specific requirements of the end-product.

Hybrid high pressure processing

High pressure processing (HPP) is a relatively mature technology that is used routinely in almost 300 industrial units worldwide, mainly for cold pasteurisation of smallgoods, meals, beverages, dips and sauces. Many vegetative flora (i.e. bacteria, viruses, yeasts, moulds and parasites) are inactivated by subjecting products to pressures up to 600 MPa. This extends shelf-life, reduces the need for frozen storage and distribution and reduces the reliance on preservatives, with the absence of heat treatment maintaining colour, flavour and fresh-like characteristics.

By combining a thermal treatment with the HPP process, most of the HPP benefits relating to shelf-life and quality can be retained (compared to retorting and canning), with the additional benefit of inactivating the toxic bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Thereby extending refrigerated shelf-life or even allowing shelf-stable distribution.

Limitations of HPP include the current price (more expensive than conventional thermal treatment) and low throughput which restricts scaling.

Advanced packaging

Focussing on packaging modifications can offer cost effective benefits when compared to product alteration. These solutions typically require less investment in R&D and have lower consumer acceptance hurdles as familiar products can remain unchanged.

There are a range of technologies that can be applied to packaging to improve food safety. Sensors can monitor environments to ensure products are kept within required temperature conditions. These can be linked to labels which change colour depending on temperature or time. Active packaging can be used to release preservatives in a controlled fashion or absorb moisture and odours during transport.

Microwave assisted thermal sterilisation

This approach applies microwave at a frequency of 2450 MHz to heat products to sterilisation temperatures, resulting in a shorter heating time compared to conventional food processing techniques. This improves the retention of sensitive nutritional components, flavour, texture and appearance, and improves energy efficiency. In addition to these benefits, which can reduce a product’s reliance on canning and refrigeration, the technology can also be applied for disinfestation of insects living in fruit.

Microwave assisted thermal sterilisation has been used for disinfestation of fruit fly infected fruit and vegetables with some initial success and may be suitable for a wider range of products, insects and postharvest plant pathogens. Further validation work on microwave technology is required to obtain quarantine approval from Australian and overseas authorities.

Blockchain and bio-sensing

While both of these technology areas alone can improve food safety across a value chain, there are tremendous synergies in pairing them. Blockchain, as mentioned under Traceability and Provenance, can be used for more than just contract management. It can provide an impenetrable register of a product’s movements across the value chain. When coupled with emerging bio-sensing solutions, a range of information can be timestamped and reported in a reliable way that describes how the product is changing over this time.

Biosensors work by detecting a biological element (enzymes, whole cells or affinity biomolecules such as antibodies) and relaying the information through an electrical, optical or thermal signal. These tools can detect harmful microorganisms or chemical and physical contaminants. Rapid in-situ or in-packaging solutions may be supplemented with other rapid technologies such as rapid evaporative ionization mass spectrometry and desorption electrospray ionisation.58

Enabling business actions

Enabling ecosystem actions

5.3 Market intelligence and access

One of the most common themes to arise from industry interviews was the significant lack of market intelligence – and related market scanning research skills – within Australian F&A SMEs.

While industry and government bodies provide some level of public information, it is typically high level and scattered across the many organisations at each level of industry and government. Further, many businesses are unaware of the support that exists, possibly again due to the complex network of supporting organisations and initiatives.

While external support could be improved, businesses need to intensify their efforts in collecting market intelligence tailored to their business’s products and markets and use it to make evidence-based decisions. These efforts need to shift from focussing on local markets and competitors towards the global landscape. Understanding and continually monitoring consumer trends, demographics, supply chain shifts, their business implications and trade requirements is essential for establishing or growing exports.

Asia unquestionably presents key growth opportunities for Australian F&A. Fast growing economies of China and India, a former powerhouse in Japan, an increasingly affluent South Korea, and the fast-growing Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).61 Each possessing multiple regions and demographics that demand varying tastes, sizes, prices, packaging and branding, as well as differing in standard business practices, routes to market and competitive landscapes.

Businesses must unpack the hundreds of unique markets within Asia before tailoring their products for markets that best fit with the business’s strengths.

In considering the opportunity themes, regions also vary in nutritional needs and definitions of healthy, sustainable and luxury. At the same time, Australian food companies must develop the capacity to exploit these market insights including developing cross-regional relationships, allocating dedicated internal resources and optimising operational processes.

Enabling science and technology

Enabling business actions

Enabling ecosystem actions

5.4 Collaboration and knowledge sharing

With a small domestic market and an industry predominantly consisting of small businesses, collaboration is essential for generating scale, efficiency and agility across rapidly changing value chains and markets.

Most businesses cannot access all the information required to be competitive, so the depth and quality of a company’s networks and interactions is critical to its competitiveness.62

Current levels of business-to-business collaboration in the sector are typically unsophisticated and focus on relationships up or down the value chain. While these relationships are important, businesses need to expand their approach to include knowledge and resource sharing with local competitors and international peers. Such networks allow those involved to identify innovative solutions faster through pooled knowledge and experience. This will require a cultural shift – driven by stronger and more strategic business leaders – away from the existing environment of price-based competition and fear of local competitors.

Also enabling future consumer facing growth opportunities will be improved collaborative efforts between businesses and the research community. At present Australia ranks the lowest across OECD countries in terms of collaboration between industry and research.63 Only a small proportion of Australian F&A businesses have a strong awareness of the breadth of capabilities that lie within the research community and even fewer have structures in place to take advantage of them.

At present Australia ranks the lowest across OECD countries in terms of collaboration between industry and research.

Australia’s research community is frequently characterised as too complex and difficult to engage with. Common reasons provided by industry included overly complicated intellectual property arrangements, priority misalignment (publications and grants of research vs commercial outcomes of industry) and a lack of quality translators who can understand both business needs and scientific solutions.

There are a number of existing initiatives aimed at facilitating business-to-research collaboration, including Cooperative Research Centres, regional partnerships and innovation networks. While this type of support can provide an effective framework for such interactions, industry noted that the long list of organisations established with these responsibilities is often added to with little regard to existing programs, creating a complex network that is difficult to understand and access.

Enabling business actions

Enabling ecosystem actions

5.5 Skills

Technologies and business models matter little without quality leaders and workers to implement them.

As the sector continues to evolve, so too will the required skillsets. Increasingly, multidisciplinary skillsets will be required. For example, staff with combined deep technical knowledge complemented by an understanding of supply chains, relationship management skills and experience with digital platforms.

While shifts towards increased value-adding will create more urban-based F&A jobs, the regional and rural location of many businesses is a disincentive to young graduates. Coupled with Australia’s ageing workforce, this suggests the sector will be increasingly reliant on a flexible workforce and adoption of sophisticated automation processes and mechanisation – both requiring specific education and training.65

It is not essential for all skills gaps to be addressed through tertiary education. Many from industry suggested their best recent hires were those with no formal F&A training (which can be learnt on the job) and instead held STEM generalist degrees or degrees that provided them with general business skills such as commerce, law and marketing.

Enabling business actions

The following skill areas were highlighted by industry as the most important areas of focus for training and recruitment over the coming decades.

Enabling ecosystem actions

6 The road forward

Australia’s F&A sector must proactively explore new offerings and business models today to ensure sustainable competitiveness in the rapidly changing global environment.

Growth cannot be sustained by productivity improvements alone. Identifying sustainable sources of growth can be led by businesses applying the concepts presented in this report to their own planning and operations – proactively seeking new ways of differentiating and exploring how science and technology can be harnessed to create new offerings in the global marketplace (Figure 10). This will ensure that scarce resources (labour, capital) are appropriately allocated, that business decisions are underpinned with strong underlying market and technology assumptions and that innovation is proactively applied.

Further detail on applying these steps at an individual business level, and incorporating volatility into strategic business planning through the use of scenario planning, can be found in CSIRO’s Australia 2030 report.

The broader F&A ecosystem also has an important role to play, being responsible for creating an environment that supports growth by reducing existing barriers to export, strengthening food safety and biosecurity systems, assisting with knowledge sharing and promoting Australian F&A at a national level. Consumer education is also key in realising the full potential of customer-driven investments in value-added products and enabling technologies. Independent and trusted sources must effectively communicate how these advances provide value through validated health outcomes or improved safety to ensure appropriate willingness to pay for these premium products.

Businesses, in collaboration with the F&A ecosystem, must act quickly or risk losing future revenue streams to the competitive global market.

Figure 10 – Using the Roadmap

Collaborate at each step for shared learning

1. Evaluate and accept the implications of the changing global F&A sector

2. Explore strengths and weaknesses in the context of the global landscape

3. Identify opportunities for growth and prioritise areas of specialisation

4. Develop the required skills, culture, processes and business models

5. Gain practical experience in emerging science and technology areas

6. Re-evaluate strategy based on new information and experiences



A.1 Global food and agribusiness megatrends

A less predictable planet

A rising world population and economic growth is placing an increasing burden on the world’s limited natural resources such as water, energy and land. For example, agricultural water use is projected to increase by 20% globally by 2050.66 These operational constraints are worsened by the impacts of climate change, with increasingly unstable and extreme weather conditions impacting crop yields, livestock health, biodiversity and the predictability of product quality and amount.

At the micro-level, the food and agribusiness sector is seeing an increase in the virulence of microorganisms and parasites, known pathogens spreading to novel geographies, and the continued rise of antimicrobial resistance.67 Global use of antimicrobials in livestock is expected to rise by 67% by 2030 to 105,596 tons.68 China’s livestock industry alone could soon be consuming almost one third of the world’s available antibiotics.

Global environmental change and biodiversity losses have the potential to create food price and supply shocks. For example, the loss of pollinators could cost the global economy over £300 billion per year.69

With growing concerns around the known and unknown consequences of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change on natural systems, food producers are experiencing greater consumer demand for environmental and social credentials as well as various decarbonisation initiatives from governments. Customers are increasingly demanding products that were grown or manufactured sustainably – using less energy and fewer materials. In addition to supply side constraints, this is encouraging producers and processors to shift towards lifecycle cost management and differentiating their offerings through cleaner and greener processes.

Health on the mind

The world’s population is ageing. Between 2015 and 2030, the proportion of the global population aged 60 and over is projected to grow by 56%, from 901 million to 1.4 billion.70 Alongside this, the incidence of chronic disease is rising globally due to increased life expectancy, changed diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.71 These factors all influence the types of food and beverage products demanded.

In addition to servicing the dietary needs of the elderly and chronically ill, there is a rising social awareness for improved health and wellbeing among younger generations. These individuals look to food and beverages (among other lifestyle choices) to provide holistic health and wellbeing outcomes. As greater insights into the health benefits of foods are discovered, and consumer knowledge of these grows, the impact of food on wellbeing is becoming an increasingly important consideration in purchases. A potential disruption to the increasing use of food as medicine is the development of affordable and user-friendly personalised medicines and health services which could provide more targeted solutions to health and wellbeing concerns.

While many consumers wish to enhance their health through food, diet and lifestyle, a greater and increasing concern is the direct harm and illness caused by unsafe food products. An estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year, with the impacts greatest in Africa and South East Asia.72 In these regions, trust in local products is continuing to fall with those who can afford imported products looking to increase their share of imports from regions and countries with reputations for cleanliness and safety.

Choosy Customers

The rapid growth of emerging economies will see billions of people transition out of poverty and into the middle income classes.73 By 2022, China’s middle class alone could rise from 300 million to 630 million, accounting for 45% cent of China’s population.74 This income growth will occur in parallel with urbanisation. By 2030, 60% of global households will be living in urban areas (up from 54% in 2014).75

As incomes grow, so do expectations. Urbanised consumers will increasingly demand quality convenient foods that require low preparation or can be eaten on-the-go. Especially as they move away from the traditional ‘3 square meals’ and towards a higher number of smaller meals/snacks over the day. Consumers will also demand improvements and optionality in the way they interact and engage with food – be it fine dining, artisan markets, food-based experiences, or direct-to-consumer ordering of customised offerings.

With dwelling sizes falling in many cities due to space constraints and decreasing affordability, the prevalence of micro kitchens or completely kitchen-less apartments will rise in Asia. Paired with the internet-enabled extension of work into an individual’s home (limiting time for food preparation), dining out will become an increasingly common source of food. In Singapore 67% of survey respondents eat out at least once a week.76

As issues around food security and sustainability grow, customers will demand products with greater provenance information and accurate vendor claims. This, in turn, will increase the stringency of standards regulating the manufacturers’ claims about their foods, including health benefits and nutritional content.

One World

Improved preservation technologies, Free Trade Agreements and faster distribution channels are globalising food value chains and opening up markets that were previously inaccessible. The emergence of more globalised value chains means that product development, distribution and sales is now a 24 hour business. These trends, coupled with increased migration, are exposing consumers to a range of foods and beverages from different regions and cultures. Further facilitating this exposure are major global retailers like Amazon and Aldi who have no loyalty to local produce.

While these changes provide significant opportunity to sell novel products domestically and abroad, a smaller world also introduces a number of threats. New competition – often from high quality suppliers in developing regions – will make differentiating products and services more important than ever before. One potential disruption is that Australia’s exports fuel the growth of the Asian food processing industry to such an extent that they will develop competitive food safety and quality solutions that eliminate opportunities for Australian businesses. Further, as people and products travel further and to a wider variety of locations, biosecurity risks will also become more critical in business and national planning.

Finally, the increasing volatility of this ‘one world’ (climate change, geopolitical instability and the changing landscape of international governance) will result in greater susceptibility to price and supply shocks.

Smarter Food Chains

Food production will need to double by 2050 to meet the rising demands of a growing population and growing income.77 78 Coupled with the supply constraints discussed under A less predictable planet, and the high levels of food waste and food loss, value chains are being forced to become more efficient. This doesn’t always mean simpler, with many value chains becoming more complex and non-linear to improve agility and resilience.

Enabling the transition toward smart food chains is the rise of digital solutions, big data and data analysis. Advances in the amounts of data that can be stored, analysed, interpreted and used as input in decision making are driving more efficient value chains and production processes with more streamlined logistics and reduced food wastage.79

F&A value chains will also become shorter, with processing occurring on-farm and processors acquiring primary producers. To further relieve logistical and operational costs, and create scale, many F&A industries will become more decentralised with clusters of multiple producers, processors and transporters emerging. As stronger collaboration ties develop within these clusters, their level of agility – to respond to changes in product type and amount – will increase.

In retail, the demonetarisation of society is already pushing the adoption of online tools for shopping and payment – changing the way consumers purchase and receive food. E-commerce offerings for food is growing rapidly with 2015-2020 CAGR estimated at 14.5% in major markets,80 particularly in China which was home to US$48 billion in total online food sales in 2015 and according to a Nielsen survey more than half of Chinese consumers are willing to buy groceries online81. While this trend is already occurring across many food and beverage products, it is yet to take off for fresh food offerings where customers place high value on being able to see, touch and smell their food prior to purchasing. In the long run, the growth of such digital services may push larger retailers to become distributors rather than retailers.

A.2 Australia’s comparative advantages and related disadvantages

Clean and green

Australia’s clean and green brand is well regarded but is not unique and is poorly differentiated.

Australian F&A has established a strong global reputation for producing consistently safe, sustainable and healthy foods, supported by a highly regulated and transparent food chain and a pristine natural environment (see Table 2). These characteristics position Australia well in light of increasing food safety concerns – particularly in many Asian regions.

Australia’s strong legal framework and comparatively low prevalence of food-borne illnesses signals consistent safety and is reassuring for consumers. Completely surrounded by water and with high biosecurity protocols, Australia has an absence of many of the most undesirable pests, diseases and weeds, allowing products to be sold at a premium price in overseas markets. Studies have found the profits of beef, dairy and sheep enterprises would be 8 to 12% lower, pig enterprises 15% lower, and cropping enterprises 7% lower without an effective biosecurity system.82

One study rated Australia’s ability to respond to food safety and other emergencies ‘Superior’ and found no gaps in the Labelling of Food and Indication of Allergens.83

The untouched and unique Australian environment also acts as a differentiator amongst foreign markets where local pollution and environmental degradation are clearly evident. When a range of factors were considered, from air quality, to agriculture, to biodiversity, Australia was ranked 3rd out of 80 countries for the perception of the natural environment, behind only the United States and New Zealand.84

Table 2 – Customer association of desirable attributes for key countries promoting a clean and green brand









Good value








High quality
































Source: Adapted from Reputation Institute, Country Reptrak Study, February-March 2013.

Related disadvantages

While global trust in Australia’s clean and green reputation offers an advantage, this reputation is also vulnerable. One major risk is the disparity between the perception (3rd) and performance (35th) of the environment ranking.85

Further, although Australia has high food safety standards when compared to many Asian export markets, it was only ranked 14th out of 17 OECD countries, outscored by competitor nations within Europe and North America.86 Industry interviews suggested this was largely due to poor R&D support from government, the patchwork of auditors and poor information flow across the country.

Local safety scares have provided insight into the potential impact on foreign trade. For example hepatitis cases linked to frozen blueberries in February 2015 and salmonella found in locally produced salads in 2016 were extremely damaging for the companies involved. If similar breaches were to reach export markets, the impact would be damaging to the entire Australian food industry.

In an assessment of 124 countries threatened by a biosecurity invasion, Australia was classified as ‘high risk’ and ranked 15th for the potential cost of an invasion (US$7.8 billion) based upon the likelihood of arrival and establishment of a new pest.87 With the USA and China identified as the biggest threats to global biosecurity due to their existing pests, Australia’s high levels of trade with these nations and comparatively pest free status significantly increases the risk.

Also detracting from the clean and green advantage is that these attributes are also connected with other countries such as the USA and France (see Table 1).88 While Australia often has the strongest association with these attributes, the relative advantage is not as strong as many within the industry believe.

It is important Australia presents a unified and differentiated brand to the world that clarifies Australia’s strengths. Similarly positioned competitor, New Zealand has done this with the strong international marketing campaign, 100% Pure New Zealand.

Unique geography

Australia’s abundance and diversity of agricultural land offers many opportunities but also presents relatively unaddressed challenges around transport costs.

As an island continent situated in the Asia Pacific region, Australia has a unique set of favourable geographical features distinct from all of its competitors. Australia’s large amount of land covers a range of agroecological zones including tropical, subtropical and temperate farming regions.89 This allows a wide variety of products to be produced within Australia, both in processed and unprocessed forms, allowing complete paddock to plate provenance. While climate change will challenge growing and farming conditions globally, Australia’s large and diverse landscape also provides some level of resilience to these emerging production challenges.

Further, Australia’s position in the Southern Hemisphere allows the supply of counter-seasonal produce to the Northern Hemisphere, where the majority of Australia’s export markets are located.

By 2030, China will have one billion people with the purchasing power of an average Australian.90 Geographic proximity to this substantial source of growth over the coming decades offers a substantial advantage. Reduced shipping times allows the delivery of fresh produce in optimal condition. Australia also enjoys proximity to Asia in other forms, with strong cultural and economic ties through the transfer of people and established trade routes. Asia is the destination for 63% of Australian food exports, with eight out of ten of the top export locations situated there.91

Related disadvantages

While geographic size offers an advantage, it can be costly, with the transport of goods across Australia often inefficient and expensive due to the long distances and small dispersed value chains and domestic markets. The Australian domestic freight task measured almost 600 billion tonne kilometres in 2011-12 (one tonne moved one kilometre) with 35% carried by road, 49% by rail and 17% by coastal shipping, with air freight less than 0.01%.92 Fonterra reported the cost of collecting raw milk from farms in New Zealand was NZ$0.02 per litre (~$A0.02 per litre), while in Australia the Australian Dairy Industry Council suggested that farm milk collection charges average $A0.025 – 0.03 per litre, 25 – 50% more expensive than in New Zealand.93

Anecdotal evidence has suggested there is a large disconnect in many Australian F&A industries between producers and processors, limiting the adaptability and mutual benefit which comes from collaboration and cohesive action. Consultations suggested that increased trust and communication between these two parts of the value chain is needed to improve efficiency across the supply chain and limit issues associated with scale.

Though proximity to Asia is widely cited as a considerable advantage, the magnitude of this advantage is highly dependent on which Asian country, or region within a country, is the destination. Transport distances, the existence of established trade routes and market intelligence levels vary significantly across Asia and even within countries (e.g. Chinese regions). Further, advanced preservation techniques are opening these markets to more distant competitors, diminishing the advantage.

World class research

Improved commercialisation and increased effort in food processing developments will help Australia profit from the nation’s world leading research in agricultural systems.

Australia boasts strong education and R&D sectors, which provide the local talent critical for continual innovation and solution development. In particular, Australian R&D is world leading in a number of pre-farm gate fields including animal production, plant biology and environmental management (see Table 3). Furthermore, in the 2016 global innovation rankings conducted by Cornell University, INSEAD and WIPO, Australia ranked 11th for innovation input.94

The nation’s food research sector is also backed by government priorities. Food has been named as a National Science and Research Priority for Australia, with emphasis ranging from global and domestic supply chains, to enhanced food production through novel technologies.

Table 3 – Australia’s global rankings for a selection of F&A research fields

Subject Area


Pre or post farm gate

Agriculture, land and farm management


Pre-farm gate

Environmental science and management


Pre-farm gate

Soil Sciences


Pre-farm gate

Animal production


Pre-farm gate

Horticultural production


Pre-farm gate

Fisheries sciences


Pre-farm gate

Crop and pasture production


Pre-farm gate

Agriculture biotechnology


Pre-farm gate

Food sciences


Post-farm gate

Physical chemistry


Post-farm gate

Analytical chemistry


Post-farm gate

Organic chemistry


Post-farm gate



Post-farm gate

Source: Custom analysis from InCites Analytics by Thomson Reuters (2016)

Related disadvantages

Despite the government advocating increases in post-farm gate R&D, Australia’s research strengths are primarily focused pre-farm gate, and include agricultural biotechnology, plant science and biosecurity. This balance has the potential to limit Australia’s ability to capture value-adding opportunities across the value chain.

Further, while Australia’s business spend on food and agribusiness R&D has grown over recent years in absolute terms, it is still well below that of other key sectors as a proportion of gross value-added (see sector snapshot).

The translation of Australia’s high level of innovation input is also an issue. Global innovation rankings placed Australia only 26th for innovation output (11th for input).95 These difficulties are magnified by the relatively low percentage of graduates in science and engineering, for which Australia ranks 79th in this index.96 Further, for businesses seeking to collaborate with the research community, many feel it is difficult to identify the most relevant research organisation to engage. In combination these factors may hinder Australia’s comparative advantage in R&D into the future.

Established sector with a global mindset

Australia’s F&A sector is globally facing with a strong base but is not well positioned to respond to future market opportunities.

Over the last couple of decades, Australia’s agriculture sector has outperformed most other sectors and was key, along with mining, to avoiding recession during the Global Financial Crisis. Having long been a significant contributor to Australia’s economy, the food and agribusiness sector has extensive water and transport infrastructure in existing agricultural regions, contributing to productivity and food security. The existing value chains – with the associated knowledge, experience and skills – provide a strong base for capitalising on new opportunities and building added value.

Further, Australian food businesses are already global-facing with established trading partners and a widely held understanding that sustainable future growth needs to come from the export market. Australia has food exports of over $30 billion per year, almost three times more than the value of food imports.97 Also, the extensive network of FTAs aids competitiveness and signifies Australia’s valued status as a trading partner to importers.

Related disadvantages

The long term stability arising from an established industry does bring disadvantages. As discussed in the Megatrends, the world is rapidly changing demographically and technologically, meaning Australia needs to be dynamic and agile. Australia’s high proportion of F&A exports means that businesses are more exposed to currency fluctuations and other international affairs.

Despite high volumes, Australia’s historically commodity-based markets have low margins, with high labour costs decreasing competitiveness and significant competition in saturated markets driving down prices.

Complex and extensive regulatory standards are also restrictive, blocking or slowing the introduction of new products and approaches with high costs and compliance requirements. For example in 2013 it was estimated that the Australian Front of Pack labelling star rating system would cost the industry $200 million, in addition to the $72 million already invested in the Daily Intake Guide on packaging.98 In the food and groceries manufacturing industry, modelling has shown a $100 million reduction in regulatory burden would be expected to increase GDP by $243 – $485 million.95 For the average farm business, the cost of red tape was estimated at 14% of net farm profit.95

Adding to the complex nature of regulation is the equally complex landscape of representative bodies and government initiatives. Navigating the fragmented and overlapping industry support bodies and accreditation schemes that exist at all three levels of government as well as for various industry segments is near impossible for most SMEs and is impractical for a small country like Australia. Coordination and streamlining of this environment is required to prevent these organisations fighting for the same pools of funding and ultimately diminishing the assistance they can provide to the businesses they are set up to service.

High proportion of SMEs

Australian SMEs rank amongst the most innovative in the world.

With the rapid rate of technological expansion and changes in consumer demands globally, agility is increasingly important to stay ahead of competitors. Australia’s relative abundance of F&A SMEs (99.9% of all F&A businesses99) can leverage this, out manoeuvring larger competitors and targeting small niches with higher margins.

Further, Australian SMEs are innovative by OECD standards, ranking 5th out of 29 OECD countries in business innovation.100

Related disadvantages

While an SMEs small size is one of its greatest advantages, it also brings challenges. Difficulty in generating scale can be a significant impediment on profitability, growth, and even survival. This effect is particularly significant in the F&A sector, with many small family owned farms dispersed around the country. Many of these businesses have no desire to export, with 90% of F&A businesses receiving no income from exports in 2014/15.101

When SMEs do look to export they find relevant market insights lacking. An understanding of consumer trends and how to gain market access is essential and many SMEs do not have the resources to dedicate to export goals.

For SMEs looking to scale up or access the world class R&D in Australia, raising sufficient capital is also a major obstacle. Compared to large corporates, external financing is limited and at a higher cost. While lack of access to additional funds was labelled as one of the biggest barriers to innovation for between 16 – 20% of SMEs, for organisations with over 200 employees only 10% saw it is as a major challenge.102

Figure 11 – Percentage of F&A enterprises with 0–19 employees


Source: CSIRO analysis drawing on individual country reports (2017). Note: Data for European countries is for food manufacturing only.


A.3 Industry consultation

The development of this Roadmap was industry-led with Australian F&A companies and multinationals providing direction and input across all chapters. While contributing parties primarily consisted of F&A businesses (of varying sizes), peak bodies, governments and individuals with significant experience across the sector were also consulted.

In addition to the significant input from CSIRO experts, over 40 individuals from external organisations were consulted, including representation from the following organisations:

Agribusiness Gippsland


Australian Food and Grocery Council

Australian Meat Processor Corporation



Flavour Creations


Food Agility CRC

Food for Health

Food Innovation Australia Ltd.

Food SA

Foods from the Earth

Grains Research and Development Corporation

High Performance Consortium


Modern Olives

Mondelez International

Natural Evolution



Sundrop Farms



The Yield

Treasury Wine Estates

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter


A.4 Co-contributing funding schemes for Australian SMEs and start-ups

Many of the activities recommended in this report require investment in R&D. The table below lists national and state based funding schemes available to Australian SMEs and start-ups that support innovation and commercialisation.103

TABLE 4 – National and state-based funding schemes



Eligibility / Notes




SME Contribution

Innovation Connections


< $50k

1:1 cash

  • $1.5m – $100m turnover, 3+ years in business.
  • Grants available for researcher, business researcher and graduate placements.



< $105k p.a.

1:1 cash

  • $1m – $100m turnover.
  • Projects delivered by early-career researchers.

CSIRO Kick-Start




  • < $1.5m turnover.
  • Research/development/testing with CSIRO.

Accelerating Commercialisation


< $1 mil


  • < $20m turnover.
  • Funds commercialisation, not research and development.

ICon Proof of Technology grant



1:1 cash and/or in-kind

  • < $2m turnover.

ICon Accelerating Innovation grant



1:1 cash and/or in-kind

  • < $2m turnover.



< $15k

1:1 cash

  • < $30m turnover, < 20 employees, 1+ years in business.
  • Preference for companies not previously engaged in research.

BISI Innovation Voucher


< $25k


  • < 100 employees.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships


< $50k

1/3 cash

  • < 200 employees, 2+ years in business.
  • Research performed by KTP eligible graduates.

Innovation Voucher program


$10k -$50k

1:2 or 1:1

  • < $200m turnover, 1+ years in business.
  • Contribution 1:2 for SMEs below $5m.

Business Transformation Voucher


< $50k

1:1 cash

  • 1+ years in business.
  • Can include developing new business models or R&D.

BioSA Industry Development program


$50k-250k repayable


  • Early-stage/start-ups.
  • Bioscience and related industry sectors.

SBDF Start-up business grant


< $20k

1:1 cash

  • To contribute to starting a new business or buying a business.

SBDF Business Expansion grant



1:1 cash

  • < 20 employees, 1+ years in business.

Innovation Vouchers


< $20k

At least 20%

  • < $500k turnover, < 200 employees.

A.5 Further reading

The following publications provide deeper insights into some of the specific trends and concepts covered in this Roadmap or important matters considered outside the scope of this report:

  1. Business Council of Australia (2015). Building Australia’s Comparative Advantages: A 21st Century Agrifood Sector.
  2. KPMG (2015). Nutraceuticals: The future of intelligent food. Where food and pharmaceuticals converge.
  3. Sanchez, D. (2015). Genetically modified crops: how attitudes to new technology influence adoption, ACOLA.
  4. Australian Food and Grocery Council (2016). State of the industry 2016. Sustaining Australia.
  5. AlphaBeta (2016). Valuing the SDG prize in food and agriculture. Unlocking business opportunities to accelerate sustainable and inclusive growth. Business and Sustainable Development Commission.
  6. Commonwealth of Australia (2015). Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, Canberra.
  7. National Plant Biosecurity Status Report (2014). Plant Health Australia, Canberra.


This report is the fourth of a series of roadmaps that are being developed by CSIRO.


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7 Hajkowicz, S. and Eady, S. (2015). Rural Industry Futures – Megatrends impacting Australian agriculture over the coming twenty years, CSIRO and RIRDC.

8 Commonwealth of Australia (2014). Agricultural Competitiveness Issues Paper, Canberra.

9 Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (2013). National Food Plan, Our food future, Canberra.

10 ABS (2016). 8155.0 - Australian Industry, 2014-15, Data Cube: manufacturing industry ‘Table 1 Manufacturing industry by ANZSIC class’, Canberra.

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13 Business Council of Australia (2015). Building Australia’s Comparative Advantages: A 21st Century Agrifood Sector.

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16 Hajkowicz, S. and Eady, S. (2015). Rural Industry Futures – Megatrends impacting Australian agriculture over the coming twenty years. CSIRO and RIRDC.

17 FIAL (2016). Industry Growth Centre: Food and Agribusiness Sector Competitiveness Plan.

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19 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Ageing 2015.

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22 Alzheimer’s Disease International (2015). World Alzheimer Report 2015 – The Global Impact of Dementia, London.

23 Golley, S. (2015). Understanding the choice to go gluten or wheat-free, CSIRO blog, 6 November 2015.

24 Prescott, S. et al (2013). A global survey of changing patterns of food allergy burden in children, World Allergy Organization Journal, 6 (21).

25 Euromonitor International

26 WAO (2011). WAO White Book on Allergy, 47-53.

27 Australian society of clinical immunology and allergy inc. (2013). Allergy and Immune Diseases in Australia (AIDA) Report 2013.

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103 For more information on the funding schemes available to Australian SMEs and start-ups see CSIRO’s SME Connect Program


For further information

Dr Martin Cole
Science Director, CSIRO Agriculture and Food
t +61 2 9490 8465

James Deverell
Director, CSIRO Futures
t +61 2 9490 8456

Simon Hanson
Director, SME Connect
t +61 3 9545 2752