Report: Going Dutch Could Drive the Future of Australia’s AgriFood Sector

The culture of collaboration that has propelled the Netherlands to become the undisputed pound-for-pound global champion of food exports can and should serve as inspiration for Australia’s agrifood sector, according to a new report from global consultancy KPMG Australia and online venture capital investor AgFunder, launched today.

Going Dutch – Opportunities of the Australian Agri-food Sector distills insights gathered in the Netherlands by those who attended the Agri Food Traction Tour earlier this year, a tour of Australian agrifood business leaders to the Netherlands in order to discover how a tiny European country pushed itself to be the world’s second largest agrifood exporter by value. The tour was arranged by KPMG, AgFunder, and the Netherlands Embassy diplomatic missions in Australia.

The new report finds that innovative technology, collaboration, and a values-driven ecosystem form the competitive pillars of the Dutch agrifood powerhouse, which remarkably manages to produce 810 times more export earnings per hectare, and nearly three times more agri-food export earnings than Australia.

“The Netherlands tour clearly demonstrated what can be achieved when all players in the food system combine to work collaboratively and intelligently,” said Michael Dean, chief investment officer of AgFunder. “Australia has all the ingredients required to be a global agrifood powerhouse, if we can heed the lessons the Netherland’s model provides and apply them to our specific circumstances.”

Top recommendations from the report include:

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  • Australia needs to move to a technology focus, building off the current product focus of its agrifood industry. The sheer investment into leading-edge technology development is what sets the Netherlands apart.
  • More needs to be done to foster collaboration between academics and entrepreneurs. The Dutch actively cluster complementary businesses and institutions, with companies such as Unilever and FrieslandCampina building corporate innovation centers at the leading agricultural research institution Wageningen University & Research.
  • The quality and diversity of Australia’s emerging talent is a core strength, but the country must focus on how to better network tomorrow’s startup and tech leaders and encourage them to engage with — and challenge — local agrifood producers to create new value through technology to export solutions as well as commodities.

Ben van Delden, KPMG Australia Partner and Agri-Food Tech Sector Leader believes the new report should serve as inspiration, and not intimidation.

“There are no core secrets to unlocking success. It’s just a matter of the right people connecting in the right spirit, and the government getting behind the entrepreneurial businesses that are willing to take a lead,” he said.

“The question now for Australia’s agrifood industry is what changes we need to make to create an industry that is just as focused on creating value from intellectual property and technology as it is on producing commodities? Of the many lessons we can take from the Dutch, the most useful and relevant is the power of collaboration. Whether it’s co-investing in geothermal wells to heat greenhouses, creating food processing and logistics precincts, or industry-led investment in research facilities — there is a default mindset of partnering to do things faster and with greater scale.”

“The only thing preventing Australia from taking a seat alongside the global leaders in agrifood exports is our mindset when it comes to collaboration and taking risk together. When we asked the Dutch what Australia needed to do to replicate Dutch collaboration, the advice was simple: just do it.”

Download the full report, Going Dutch – Opportunities of the Australian Agri-food Sector.

One thought on “Report: Going Dutch Could Drive the Future of Australia’s AgriFood Sector”

  1. This is a great article, and I absolutely believe that better innovation and collaboration could lead to Australian producers getting ahead in the global space.

    My only concern is the glaring oversight when it comes to some real constraints Australia faces in Ag; it’s climate and soils. The Nederlands, and most of Western/Eastern Europe, have incredibly rich, vibrant soils and a predictable climate which support Agriculture. Australia, on the other hand, has serious deficiencies in it’s soil nutrients that vary across the continent and a challenging climate (just look at the current drought ravaging NSW).

    I think better collaboration and innovation will get Australia some of the way, but we still need to overcome the production constraints resulting from poor soil and challenging climate. Obviously, the collaboration and innovation KPMG talk about will go towards improving and supporting this, but it’s still puts Australia well behind the starting line in the race to agricultural productivity and competitive advantage.

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