Research and consultation as part of the South Australian Grain Industry Blueprint’s development identified six key themes which form the pillars the Blueprint is built around.
Click on the icons to find out more about each pillar.
This pillar identifies genuine opportunities to develop new or expanded markets for South Australian grain. To capture these opportunities, the South Australian grain industry must move beyond operating in supply chain mode and instead adopt a value chain approach which involves each participant having a deep understanding of markets and consumer demands.
There is a unique opportunity for SA to establish itself as the origin of choice for baking and soft wheat. If successful, the industry can recapture lost export markets and embed South Australian grain in new Asian markets where there is an emerging middle class which is demanding food products more aligned to western tastes.
Equally, there is an opportunity for SA to become the origin of choice for the feed grain market, both domestically and internationally.
A new approach is required to capitalise on these wheat and feed grain opportunities, including the willingness to breed and grow different varieties to meet these market demands.
There is also an exciting opportunity to position SA as a leader in plant-based food and create other markets through investing in pulse, oats and oilseed projects, turning niche initiatives into large, accessible and profitable markets for SA growers.
Expanding the South Australian pulse industry is a key initiative of the Blueprint. This recognises the opportunities and importance of pulses in the cropping rotation for South Australian growers, who have a wealth of experience in growing pulse crops. Pulses also offer growers more flexibility in the types of crops that can be grown across a range of soil types and rainfall zones.
One of the greatest opportunities for the South Australian grain industry is to increase demand for grain within the state to capture additional value during processing.
A domestic customer pays a premium to divert grain from the export market, particularly in SA where the international market is the natural pathway for grain. Once established, domestic customers depend on local producers for their grain supply. Put simply, domestic markets are reliable customers who pay a premium. These are significant motivators to grow the domestic market in SA, which is why a key target of this pillar is to double the state’s domestic grain consumption, taking it to almost 40% of total grain production.
When considering the development of SA’s domestic market, there are lessons to be taken from the growth of the domestic market on the east coast of Australia. However, there are also significant differences to factor in, most notably the greater population density and different climatic conditions on the eastern seaboard.
It is important for SA to develop its own point of difference and build on existing strengths in the feed grain market. SA is already the second-largest producer of poultry meat and the largest producer of pig meat in the country. With chicken and pork demand estimated to increase significantly over the coming years, SA is well-positioned to take advantage of this expected increase in feed demand. Beef consumption is also expected to increase globally, which represents an additional opportunity.
This includes the container grain trade, which is an export market that is more mature in eastern Australia, yet one that SA can clearly participate more fully in. The Blueprint is targeting a tripling of the state’s container exports to 15% of its total grain exports.
Other value adding processing opportunities are identified in this pillar, building on some of the initiatives from the Market Opportunities Pillar.
If reached, the targets in this pillar will transform SA from an export-focused state to an industry where 40% of the state’s production is consumed domestically. In addition, another 15% would be exported in containers, meaning more than 50% of total state production would be away from the bulk grain export market.
All of these opportunities are designed to maximise the return for South Australian growers.
Biosecurity and market access
This pillar recognises the importance of developing world’s best practice for the supply of quality managed grain, which is critical to the ongoing viability of SA’s grain sector.
Globally, the grain production environment is becoming increasingly competitive. Australia competes against countries that often have a much lower cost of production and shipping costs sometimes negate historical advantages relating to our close proximity to markets.
Australia, and South Australia in particular, has an excellent reputation for providing clean, green agricultural products and working closely with trading partners to ensure their needs are met. By continuing to uphold high grain hygiene standards, South Australian grain growers will continue to differentiate from global competitors and maintain access to a large range of markets across the world.
The exciting opportunities identified in the previous pillars will be meaningless if SA cannot maintain market access due to grain hygiene issues. All domestic and export markets for Australian grain have a low to nil tolerance level for chemical residues and contaminants.
As different logistic pathways and new storage infrastructure develops in SA, it will be important to ensure grain hygiene standards are maintained. All industry participants have a responsibility to ensure grain meets market requirements and is within physical, chemical and biological tolerance limits.
In addition, end users of South Australian grain will continue to demand even greater assurance of the integrity of their food and its provenance. The industry must ensure its current programs and resources are prepared to meet these future requirements or create the programs, structures and resources that will.
It is critical to the future of our industry that we also proactively manage and maintain Australia’s plant health status. A biosecurity incursion, caused by insects, plant pathogens, weeds and other crop-damaging organisms, can have a major impact on grain production if not managed efficiently and effectively.
Biosecurity is a shared responsibility between government and industry and all participants in the grain supply chain have a role to play.
Ultimately, by ensuring the industry is responsive to the requirements of destination countries with a focus on quality assurance, traceability and food safety, ongoing market access can be assured for SA grain into the future.
Innovation has a key role as a driver of productivity growth.
Growers have always been early adopters of technology and have always been prepared to innovate in their approaches to production, agronomy and farming systems. They have demonstrated a willingness to look abroad for new ideas and accept recognised research as a guide to future developments. As a result, crop water-use efficiency has doubled in the past 15 years and, combined with other yield improvement initiatives, on-farm innovation has added significant farm gate value.
Farming systems groups have played a key role in driving on-farm practice change through localised research, development and extension. There are 18 of these groups in SA which have a direct reach to approximately 75% of broadacre farmers. These groups will continue to be a key influencer in accelerating the adoption of innovative research and technology on-farm, as will consultants, ag bureaus and other related groups.
Growers’ willingness to consider innovative new technologies has been driven by the need to remain commercially viable and environmentally sustainable, particularly in Australia’s challenging and variable growing conditions. Hence, a very pragmatic target of this pillar is for growers to have access to the latest tools and technology to reduce input and labour costs associated with production by 5%.
It is clear that growers are prepared to incur additional production costs if greater productivity or environmental benefits occur as a result, however this is a modest goal which reflects the intensely competitive environment growers operate in. It also underscores the necessity for South Australian growers to have access to the latest technologies to remain competitive with interstate and overseas growers.
By 2030, SA’s grain industry will need to incorporate the latest innovations in areas such as agtech (including robotics, automation and gene technology), record keeping, information gathering and decision making. This will be critical as growers contend with escalating climate change challenges and rapidly advancing competitors such as the Black Sea.
This pillar also identifies the necessity for SA’s grain industry to work collaboratively with State Government and other institutions to position the Waite Research Precinct as an “Innovation and Translation Neighbourhood” and, in the process, help establish SA as a leader in agtech, plant breeding, food science and sustainable farming practices.
As championed by the South Australian Chief Scientist, there may be the possibility to “integrate a Frontier Technology Capability Centre at the Waite Research Precinct to support small to medium enterprises and business leaders to harness the capability of emerging technologies to add value in competitive global markets and introduce expertise into traditional research areas to enhance the delivery of innovation and impact.”
In order to effectively drive innovation, it is important to find avenues to connect developing technologies and science to end users. This will drive faster adaptation and adoption that can address key industry challenges, including climate change. All industry stakeholders need to be part of this process, including universities, research and development organisations, technology companies, farming systems groups, private farm consultants, the retail sector, government and growers.
Building Industry Capacity
This pillar tackles the perennial challenge of attracting and retaining talent within the industry, which is essential if the grain sector is to reach its potential and thrive. The industry supports more than 23,000 jobs across the South Australian grain value chain and this will need to grow to support projected growth outlined in the Blueprint.
A cohesive long-term approach is necessary to build industry capacity and capability. This includes engaging school students from an early age and developing genuine education pathways for agricultural careers from school through to vocational and tertiary studies. This will involve investing in the state’s existing agricultural education institutions as well as developing additional vocational options.
There is a significant opportunity to upskill and deepen the skills of the existing grain industry workforce in order to increase the chances of retention, which could be supported through existing investment in skills.
The value and contribution of vocational education and training (VET) qualifications in meeting the skill needs of the grain industry in terms of potential productivity grains and skills recognition cannot be underestimated. This is why a key target of the Blueprint is for industry and the education sector to partner to identify key VET priorities.
As previously identified, agtech will play an important role in driving future industry prosperity through the development of cutting-edge innovations and technology. In addition, if agtech is genuinely perceived as an innovative sector, it will naturally attract leading minds who can apply their knowledge and skills to the industry’s greatest challenges. This also has the potential to generate a different type of engagement with the wider community, enabling the industry to meet community expectations and garner broader support.
As outlined in the EXCITE Strategy, initiatives which support citizen science, community engagement and input on all things science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) such as Inspiring SA, Science Alive and National Science Week form an important platform for STEMM engagement. The South Australian grain industry needs to be part of that discussion. This will lead to greater engagement with industry, communities and regions.
There needs to be a corresponding investment in infrastructure if the South Australian grain industry is to meet the growth targets outlined in this Blueprint.
During the past decade there has been investment in South Australian grain infrastructure, but it has come in smaller parcels — on-farm storage, additional elevation capacity, larger truck configurations and innovative bulk loading facilities. There have also been numerous standalone investments, ranging from processing outlets through to new innovative port facilities. The state’s major bulk-handler Viterra has also invested significantly at many of its sites, increasing both inward elevation capacity and storage capacity. However, more large-scale grain infrastructure investment is required.
Priorities for this pillar include attracting at least $500 million of public/private investment in grain-related infrastructure in SA in the next decade. This will involve working closely with industry and Infrastructure SA to develop a compelling business case that outlines the profit opportunity that exists from investing in grain infrastructure in SA.
Ongoing investment is needed to keep up with the industry’s growth ambitions and to continue to put downward pressure on production costs so growers remain competitive nationally and internationally.
Finally, the counter-cyclical nature of grain production in Australia provides a natural advantage over Northern Hemisphere production. Therefore, the final priority in this pillar is to determine whether SA should have the practical capacity to ship its entire average export by the end of June following harvest to maintain this natural marketing advantage over grain originating in the Northern Hemisphere.