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Co-designing the future for Australian avocado exports

Posted 3 weeks ago

As a driving force for the growth of Australian avocado exports, Hort Innovation recognised that strategic input from across the supply chain would ensure the next iteration of its flagship trade program continued to deliver value to members. Involving Impact Innovation’s facilitation expertise and industry knowledge helped the co-design process achieve the desired outcomes.


  • 13 hours of interactive stakeholder workshops
  • 36 participants across the supply chain
  • 95% participant satisfaction with the co-design approach


The Challenge

Hort Innovation works with stakeholders in the avocado industry to achieve commercial outcomes from R&D activities and build trust in global as well as domestic markets.

Worldwide, demand for avocados as a nutritious food and versatile oil continues to grow. Although Australia is relatively new to exporting its fruit, the tonnage of exports has tripled in recent years. Countries like Hong Kong and Singapore are particularly keen for the rich, creamy flavour and superior quality of Australian avocados.

Industry dynamics have changed since Hort Innovation last revised its successful Avocado Market Access and Trade Development Project 2024-2029 (AV23003). For example:

  • Local production is expected to increase by 50 percent over the next 4 years.
  • More domestic growers are looking to export their produce.
  • Competition from other southern hemisphere avocado-producing countries is a constant reminder of the need for innovative strategies.

Hort Innovation responded to the challenge of sustaining export expansion efforts by deciding to co-design the next iteration of the Project with growers, investors, government representatives, marketers and other stakeholders in the same room at the same time.

Prior to the Avocado Co-design Workshop Facilitation (AV23009), stakeholder consultations had identified 5 pillars to address in the Project’s next iteration: market access support, export capability, export communications, trade/market development, and quality.

However, to encourage new ideas to be voiced, the co-design process would need expert facilitation by a non-stakeholder who also understood the nuances of the industry.

“New stakeholders bring new ways of thinking about common issues and we can all benefit from taking a step back from the familiar to consider different perspectives,” said Mimi Doan, Hort Innovation’s International Trade Manager – Export Capability.

“An independent facilitator would ensure we didn’t get stuck on old ground and keep us on target so we didn’t miss an opportunity or make less informed decisions.”

After inviting proposals from external service providers, Hort Innovation entrusted Impact Innovation to help it prepare a practical roadmap for the Project’s delivery partner, Avocados Australia Limited.

Impact Innovation had supported Hort Innovation with previous R&D initiatives and gained useful industry knowledge about the avocado industry from working with other clients in the APAC region.

cut ripe avocado half


The Solution

Impact Innovation’s co-design methodology comprised 8 activity sprints, beginning with the establishment of robust plans for project communications and meeting the monitoring and evaluation milestones.

The first sprint included reviewing the contemporary avocado export market and value chain dynamics to ensure the co-design activities were relevant to participants as well as the Project’s objectives.

The second sprint involved developing interactive in-person workshops to pinpoint the industry’s critical export priorities and challenges. To gather diverse perspectives and useful feedback, participants would be engaged with creative and critical thinking models such as Futurecasting and Human-Centered Design principles, as well as Impact Innovation’s Commercialisation Navigator®.

The workshops were also guided by the ISO Innovation Management Standards, to inform the Project’s future planning and decision-making.

In the third sprint, Impact Innovation developed a participant engagement plan with Hort Innovation. Key stakeholders, including Avocados Australia, were identified and invited to participate in the workshops. Strategic messages were crafted and communicated to attract participants committed to inclusivity and meaningful engagement. This focus on a collaborative mindset laid the foundation for all relevant voices to be heard and valued.

During the fourth sprint, logistics were confirmed for delivering 2 workshops – one in Brisbane and one in Perth as their states grow the majority of produce in the local avocado industry. A webinar to present the outputs and outcomes of the workshops was also scheduled.

The co-design workshops in the fifth sprint coordinated meaningful and productive interactions among participants about market access support, export capability, trade/market development, and quality. The guided discussions, brainstorming tools and practical group work fostered collaboration and trust.

In the sixth sprint, Impact Innovation compiled and analysed the data gathered during the workshops – the feedback and insights that revealed common themes and highlighted areas of agreement. These were drafted into a report in the seventh sprint.

In the final sprint, we revised the report with Hort Innovation and presented it to stakeholders via a webinar. This document included 21 synthesised recommendations for Hort Innovation to consider in the Avocado Market Access and Trade Development Project 2025-2029.


“The structured program and collaboration tools Impact Innovation used were crucial to gaining our stakeholders’ trust and having constructive conversations with them.”


The Outcomes

Impact Innovation’s co-design process helped to clarify and validate export possibilities for the industry, identify additional market drivers, prioritise the challenges, and offer practical suggestion to address them.

“This was the first time we had attempted to co-design the Project and we’re very pleased with the outcomes from the process,” said Ms Doan.

“The structured program and collaboration tools Impact Innovation used were crucial to gaining our stakeholders’ trust and having constructive conversations with them.

“Our members have also expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to make new connections, share their views and feel listened to – and to take ownership of a project their levies are funding.”

Another significant outcome was gaining useful, collated data to warrant seeking a bigger project budget to better meet the needs of the industry. The impartial final report articulated what matters most to the people working in it and offered fresh ideas for addressing challenges.

Impact Innovation’s collaborative and inclusive approach to co-design has helped Hort Innovation to position the Avocado Market Access and Trade Development Project 2024-2029 (AV23003) where it can capitalise on emerging opportunities and generate measurable value from exporting what will soon become the world’s most traded tropical fruit.


Learn about the Hort Innovation Avocado Fund’s R&D activities here:

Need expert help with co-designing your next R&D project? Your first step starts here.