Through Round 1 and 2 of the Premium Food and Wine Co-Innovation Cluster Program the Murraylands Food Alliance (MFA) received $170,000 to accelerate collaboration, increase competitiveness and boost the capabilities of their members. Funding received through the Cluster Program provided much-needed support to get the Alliance off the ground and commence planning and implementation activities.
The MFA is made up of the largest food producers, processors and manufacturers in the Murraylands—collectively producing more than 48 per cent of the region’s gross regional product and employing more than 3,300 staff. Together, these food companies have a combined sales revenue of $1.5 billion.
Bringing together the region’s food industry in this way required a change in approach to the way businesses traditionally operate. From the outset of the cluster’s activities, increases in productivity and competitiveness across the value chain were highlighted as a key area of focus. These issues were thematically grouped across four key priorities: People, Place, Innovation and Growth.
In working towards priorities, the cluster engaged with university researchers and other specialist providers to look at issues like transport and logistics, workforce innovation, energy production and how to reduce the environmental footprint. Of these projects, workforce development was noted as the biggest barrier to future growth and seen as critical to the region’s long-term success. As such, this project focused on strategies to attract, engage and retain a local and skilled workforce and how to be use migration as a solution to addressing this need.
Other projects looked into ways to address knowledge sharing, improve supply chain innovation and support regional promotion. In addressing these challenges the cluster focused on mapping industry capabilities, forming an identity and exploring national and international market development opportunities to improve production and productivity.
“The Murraylands Food Alliance was formed out of a collective desire to advance the productivity of the region’s food industry and increase the competiveness of our products.” - Jo Podoliak, Chief Executive, Regional Development Australia, Murraylands and Riverland.
Through the work of the cluster, Alliance members are seeing changes to their operations and the region – with the group able to better influence critical areas beyond what would be possible individually. At the same time, members are seeing positive social changes to the region through collaborative projects with the Rural City of Murray Bridge (RCMB) and involvement in community initiatives. These projects are helping boost the image of the region and strengthen its identity as a producer of premium foods grown in a clean environment. In establishing an identity that promotes the collective contribution of the cluster’s members to the regional economy, MFA is now well placed to promote its success and leverage to attract and retain a skilled workforce in the local community.
The MFA has encouraged business confidence and members have been able to gain valuable knowledge through sharing information and working together on similar production process problems. This shared experience has allowed businesses to better collaborate on ideas to increase efficiencies in their own production and overcome challenges. The outcomes of the cluster now have the potential to boost regional investment and increase productivity.
“It’s clear that businesses see great value and opportunity in working together. A critical part of our success was gaining an understanding of each other’s operations and then looking at what our common issues and opportunities were.” - Jo Podoliak, Chief Executive, Regional Development Australia, Murraylands and Riverland.
MFA members look forward to continuing to build on the success they’ve seen through collaboration and increasing the competiveness of the Murraylands Region. Over the next five years, members of the cluster have indicated they have positive expansion plans with current estimates indicating a combined growth rate of 22.7 per cent. This will see MFAs direct output from the region increase from $910.5 million to around $1.1 billion. With such strong growth, MFAs key focus on People, Place, Growth and Innovation, will continue to be key priorities.
The recommendations and outcomes of the cluster’s earlier projects, such as workforce development, will be reviewed within each of the MFA’s member organisations. Further work on promoting the Murraylands Food Industry and in particular the MFA will continue to be a priority in order to raise awareness of the region’s food industry.
Further information on the Murraylands Food Alliance can be found by visiting: www.murraylandsfoodalliance.com.au.