We welcome Muhammad Masood Azeem, who has joined the Centre for Agribusiness as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, supported by the office of UNE’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Research. Masood joins us from the University of Western Australia, and is currently working on analysis of the Armidale food shoppers’ survey data (with Rene Villano, Stuart Mounter, Garry Griffith and myself), regional economic analysis (with Shawn Leu and Ed Lefley), and the formulation of a survey on Australian farm to fork enterprises. Masood has shared an overview of this activity with us via YouTube.

A group of Centre staff met with NSW DPI Group Director for Economics and Analysis Tim McRae and Armidale-based DPI Manager for Economic Strategy and Policy local economist Dr Robyn Hean to discuss collaboration on measurement of regional economic factors related to agricultural and agribusiness productivity.  This coincided with the meeting of DPI’s executive, held in Armidale, and I was pleased to meet a number of DPI staff and stakeholders at an informal evening gathering.  A lasting impression from this meeting was the commitment to the application of science in boosting productivity and competitiveness in NSW agriculture.  We UNE staff were proud to be part of UNE’s continuing role in that process.

The SMART Region Incubator continues to thrive, hosting a variety of events, with the team working hard to welcome and assist our new members.

Be sure to take a look around the web, and sign up for regular updates on events and news in the regional startup space.

In association with the SMART Region Incubator, Matthew Wysel has been developing an information platform that will function as a meeting place for the UNE SMART Data Community. Known as “BANKS”, the platform is built to share data and network information amongst producers, researchers and entrepreneurs, as well as providing opportunities to engage students in mechanisms of data production, enrichment and commercialisation. Matthew will commence a PhD project with the Centre on the subject of how such information platforms can be implemented as knowledge and data communities. Here, Matthew outlines the SMART Data Community and identifies ways in which such a data platform might connect people, data and products.

David Hadley, consultant David Anderson and I have been working on rural transport issues in partnership with staff from Gwydr and Moree Shires’ roads administration.  The task is to examine the real costs and benefits of road upkeep, particularly in the dual contexts of regional challenges such as isolation and access to social services; and opportunities such as access to high value markets for crops.

David Hadley has also recently completed the NSW government funded investigation of opportunities associated with glasshouse production in regional areas of the state. We’ll have more to share from David about the outcomes of this project later this month, and you can hear this via our social media channels.

Boyd Blackwell recently attended a workshop with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in Canberra on their modelling work to review the social and economic impact of water withdrawals on communities in the Southern Basin.   This draws on earlier work by Boyd, UNE’s Jim McFarlane, and University of Tasmania colleague Andy Fischer for the Enduring Community Value from Mining project funded by the CRC for Remote Economic Participation, Ninti One Ltd in remote Australia.

In my own travels, I visited Canberra in early May to present a research proposal to MLA and the Sheepmeat Industry Council, and we await the outcome of that meeting.  The proposal seeks to examine financial performance in the Australian sheep meat supply chain, associated with changing marketing and retail arrangements.

Last week I was in Adelaide to speak at the Farming Together National Forum, and also to attend meetings at the South Australian parliament regarding commercial conduct and performance issues in the food and agricultural supply chains.

The 2017 Forum was put together for growers interested in forming or expanding a farmer-based group. The day-long forum featured first-hand successful farmer collaborations and experts offering how-to advice.

Back here, the warm Winter weather continues. Some are saying beef prices have peaked but mutton and merino lamb prices continue to leave last recent levels behind, and news on Northern hemisphere conditions adds caution to crop price predictions.

As a salute to our industry, inspiring stories complied by FIAL on Food and Agribusiness Innovations are now available for all to read. I wish you all success with your own innovations out of town.

Derek Baker

UNE Centre for Agribusiness

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