Funds boost for research groups

The West Australian

WA grower groups have access to funding via a newly established Agricultural Sciences Research and Development fund, which enables them to conduct their own research across the full supply chain and boost export opportunities for WA agriculture and food products.

Announced at the Dowerin field days by Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman, the new $22.1 million fund will help the State's agricultural and food sector compete for new export opportunities, particularly in the Asian markets.

As part of that fund, $17.4 million will be allocated through two rounds of grants to the incorporated grower groups for research and development, to accelerate the adoption of science innovations that boost profitability. These grants range from $20,000 to $500,000 and the first round is expected to be open by the end of 2015.

A further 1.9 million will go toward Pathways to Improved Competitiveness (involving $20,000 to $100,000 industry consortia grants) which will fund research that identifies opportunities and constraints in repositioning WA produce in premium, high-value markets.

The remainder of the fund will include a $1.2 million allocation toward transforming the Grower Group Alliance into an economic development body with a strong supply and value chain focus. A further $1.6 million will be spent on project management, governance communication and promotion.

Grower Group Alliance project leader Rebecca Wallis said grain-focused grower groups currently received the majority of their funding from the Grains Research Development Corporation and other funding bodies. "This new fund is not intended to be duplication. Rather it will enable our grower groups to do more research and development, that would ultimately benefit growers and the industry," she said.

She said most grower groups typically did not conduct research beyond the farm gate (a notable exception being South East Premium Wheat Growers Association) but this funding would enable growers to explore opportunities across the whole supply chain and potentially access new markets.

The ministers also announced that two regional food centres would be established in Albany and Manjimup to support local agriculture and food businesses.

Mr Baston and Mr Redman said the $4.5 million Food Industry Innovation project involved $3 million for a premium food centre at Manjimup and $1.5 million for a specialised food centre at Albany. The premium food centre at Manjimup would help businesses to upscale and co-ordinate production and promotion of high-value, low-input products, with a particular focus on the organics industry.

The specialised food centre at Albany would support collaboration between a broad range of agriculture and food businesses from across the South West, Wheatbelt and Great Southern to reduce costs by sharing inputs, such as knowledge, skills, technology and infrastructure.

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