Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast (RDALC) received funding of $70,000 in Round 1 of the Premium Food and Wine Co-Innovation Cluster Program to form a potato industry cluster tasked with identifying opportunities for growth and building a long-term investment model to retain cold storage facilities - supporting the economic viability of the local potato growing industry in the region.
In order to build long-term growth and sustainability in the local potato industry, it was recognised that growers needed to be better equipped to overcome the impediments associated with transport, logistics, distribution and cold storage. In addition, growers needed to be able to better capture opportunities to diversify into new global markets with their current products and undertake research and development to provide new products to new and emerging markets.
The cluster aimed to address these challenges through the development of a collaborative producer group, which could take action on securing cold storage facilities and identify alternative market opportunities. As part of the project, an industry profile was developed and a review was completed on existing facilities to better understand the requirements of local growers and the upgrades needed to support future growth. Additional elements of the project saw the engagement of a dedicated project officer, implementation of training and the production of a short promotional film ‘Paddock to Plate – How do your Potatoes Grow?’, highlighting the importance of the industry and helping to raise awareness of the process involved in potato production.
“Farmers tend to foster a ‘go it alone’ mentality, however, the growers in this initial group became responsive to working together moving forward, and the initial stages of collaboration brought to the fore other issues affecting the industry within the region.” - Mike Ryan, CEO, Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast.
Local potato growers successfully collaborated to bid for the McCain’s Safries facility, which closed in 2013. As part of this, RDALC played a key role in fostering information sharing and collaboration amongst local growers. While the bid was unsuccessful, processing potato farmers in the Limestone Coast region worked together to secure a 5 year storage contract with Midfield Meats, who purchased the facility.
“The benefits of clustering and developing a joint approach were recognised as an effective way to tackle common issues within the industry.” - Mike Ryan, CEO, Regional Development Australia Limestone Coast.
RDALC have provided financial training for potato farmers in the region, to better plan for the next 5 years. The financial training has addressed some of the risks growers are facing in the industry, such as supply chain challenges, succession planning and rising costs affecting yield.
To support cluster activities going forward, RDALC have invested in training two positions, Manager Business and Economic Development and Cluster Project Officer, in cluster development skills, to ensure this area of expertise can continue to be offered to the region.
For more information about RDALC’s Cluster project visit their website: www.rdalimestonecoast.org.au.