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Collaboration and Commercialisation in Agribusiness

Posted 4 years ago

This National Agriculture Day (20 November 2020), we are celebrating the innovators working hard to create a better future for our families and our environment.

Innovation in agriculture is often driven by necessity. Environmental challenges, a growing population and a unique landscape creates a constant need for Australian farmers to produce higher quantity, better quality food and fibre with fewer resources.

According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, as of March 2020, Australia’s agricultural sector was valued at $59 billion. Australian farmers invest $3.3 billion per year in research and development (R&D), searching for ways to make our food and fibre systems more competitive, prosperous and sustainable. Commercialising this R&D presents incredible opportunities within local markets and for worldwide export.

Many successfully commercialised innovations in the agriculture industry emerge as a result of productive collaboration, either between industry partners or between research and industry.

But collaboration can be fraught with pitfalls that can de-rail the most promising projects. While there are many benefits, there are also some important elements to consider before collaborating with external partners on a commercialisation project.

1. Avoid the talkfest
It is important to ensure all parties fully understand the problem to be solved. However, there comes a point when talking will not progress the collaboration project any further. Work needs to be done. Prevent collaboration from turning into a talkfest by setting clear goals, creating a commercialisation action plan and setting deadlines for tasks early in the process. This is especially important in the agribusiness sector, when seasonal farming commitments can require breaks in the commercialisation timeline.

2. That’s not my job…
Remember that commercialisation action plan? Each task should have someone responsible for driving it and reporting on its progress. Unassigned tasks will not get done, slowing down your project and potentially resulting in conflict between the collaborating parties. Making individuals accountable will keep your project on track, especially when collaborators are not based in the same geographical location, which is often the case in agribusiness.

3. Know your piece of the pie
Shared resources, skills and knowledge mean a commercial product is likely to be ready for market much more quickly than if you were going it alone. However, shared input means shared outcomes. How will future revenue and IP be allocated between the parties involved? Understand how this will work, involve a legal consultant and make sure it’s all in writing before you commence.

When done correctly, collaboration can have spectacular results. BioHerbicides Australia (BHA), an Impact Innovation client, partnered with the University of Queensland (UQ) on a project to create a range of bioherbicides designed to kill woody weeds on pastoral land, parklands and tree plantations without the need for invasive mechanical clearing or potentially dangerous chemical spraying. The partnership has now been in place for over five years, with BHA locating its production facilities on the UQ’s Gatton Campus to better facilitate ongoing collaborative projects. Strategic collaboration with the UQ Gatton School of Agriculture and Food Sciences and ongoing biological research is providing BHA with continued product development opportunities.

Collaboration is critical when it comes to creating change. Many challenges and opportunities exist for Australian agriculture, but through collaboration, this innovative community of change-makers will continue to build an increasingly efficient and sustainable farming industry.

More information about National Agriculture Day can be found here: https://www.agday.org.au/