UNE Business School and AARES NE Branch Seminar Series – “Challenges and opportunities for Australia’s food export value chains in the “Digital” – Asian century: How will we transition from dig and deliver to digital dinners?” with Associate Prof Ben Lyond, USQ

Associate Professor Ben Lyons

Rural Economies Centre of Excellence, University of Southern Queensland

Seminar Title: “Challenges and opportunities for Australia’s food export value chains in the “Digital” – Asian century: How will we transition from dig and deliver to digital dinners?”

When: Friday 20 September 2019, 11:00am – 12:30pm

Where: JP Belshaw Lecture Theatre (LT1), UNE Business School (W40)



Australia is a significant global player in world food exports especially in the wake of China’s rising urban and “urbane” demographics.  Australian agriculture’s Asian future has long been cast often on just simple macro number alone.  Much has been made of landmark bilateral trade agreements with key consumer markets like Korea, Japan and China. The share prices for companies with brands such as Bellamy’s, A2, Blackmores and Swisse dramatically rise and fall on the sniff of regulatory shifts in China.  In addition, for the past decade many observers and leaders have discussed the transition from mining to dining boom as the future for the Australian agribusiness sector and our rural economies.  From premium, consumer-ready beef delivered “jet fresh” from the Darling Downs to organic infant formula there have been many Australian successes but also many failures and in particular, the path for SMEs is fraught with challenges either commercial or regulatory. In this case study rich presentation, many drawn from his own experiences working in China and Asia for the past two decades, including the establishment of the weekly Cathay Pacific freight flight from Toowoomba’s Wellcamp airport to Hong Kong; Ben Lyons, Director of the Rural Economies Centre at USQ based in Toowoomba will provide analysis and commentary on what the key ingredients to export success in Asia are. Where do the future opportunities lie and what mistakes are easily made in this dynamic but often opaque trade opportunity?   Who are these Asian counterparts to Facebook and Google? Is it Alibaba or JD.com? Duoyin or WeChat?

Ben Lyons is Associate Professor and Executive Director of the Rural Economies Centre of Excellence at the Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, Australia. The Centre is a four-way collaboration between University of Queensland, CQUniversity, James Cook University & University of Southern Queensland focussed on rural economic research and impact into value chains, farm-level carbon offsets, sustainability, water security analysis, rural innovation and policy. The key funding agency is Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Q-DAF).

He is also the Co-founder and Chair of Fresh Supply Co – a block chain marketing technology company servicing the agro, food and beverage industry. Clients include perishable exports in Australia, Japan and New Zealand.

From 2015-2017 Ben was CEO of leading regional development agency Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) & subsidiary Food Leaders Australia (FLA)  – one of Australia’s premier advocacy agencies for inbound FDI and economic development in Australia’s largest food production region.  Worked with one of Australia’s leading family businesses and developed the first freighter route out of Brisbane West Wellcamp airport with Cathay Pacific.  Created and executed Australia’s largest private business charter to China with over 220 participants across five sectors departing from Toowoomba to Shanghai (October 2016).  Access China ’16 was a $AUD350m trade mission from Toowoomba to Shanghai that created a new revenue streams; generated two MOUs between local government and business chamber; and unprecedented international exposure for the region and businesses.  Ben also created “400M: AgTech & Investment” — the first AgTech “shark tank” investment event in Australia and is recognised as thought leader on Ag Tech in Australia.

He has recently led a review of Meat & Livestock Australia’s investment company MLA Donor Company (MDC) supply chain design, processing and production innovation portfolio. And from 2010-2014 he has portfolio management experience for Tiger Asia (US), Saha-Union (Thailand) and Chengwei (HK) investment funds previously being a VP-level Executive in Shanghai with P&L and execution responsibilities for 6 International schools, 2 High School programmes, 2 bilingual kindergartens and a college preparation business catering to over 8,500 students with annual revenues in 2013 >USD $200m, operating across Asia: China, Singapore, Korea and Myanmar. Oversight of school establishment and delivery project for Dulwich College International in Zhuhai, Suzhou, Shanghai,  Seoul, Singapore, Yangon and Beijing.

From 2005-2010 Ben spearheaded global marketing initiative and brand reboot for The Woolmark Company for the Australian wool industry across multiple key markets including the creation of a unique consumer campaign linking a Japanese fashion brand Onwards Kashiyama and Korean-based Cheil Industries with an Australian-based environmental programme.

Previously Ben lived and worked in China from the mid-1990s and is a fluent Chinese speaker and writer. He is also a former Deputy Chair of the Australian-China Business Chamber in China (2010-2015).

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