DEVELOPING the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) strategy and building on its history of innovation is a key priority for newly appointed chief executive David Feinberg.
Mr Feinberg will join the AEGIC team in mid-September, filling the position that has remained vacant since May after former CEO Richard Price resigned.
AEGIC supports the trade and use of Australian grains internationally through grain quality and processing technology and market research innovation.
The organisation represents stakeholders throughout the supply chain including producers, plant breeders, marketers and traders, millers, processors and consumers, and works to enhance value back to growers.
Mr Feinberg will leave his job as general manager of Lupin Foods Australia.
He brings a raft of experience to the new position including more than 33 years working at CBH over two periods, where he managed quality systems, built business around the container business after the deregulation of wheat exports, managed operations and set up grower value teams.
Mr Feinberg has sat on various boards and industry representative bodies including a stint on the Grains Research and Development Corporation's western panel.
He joined the board of CBH subsidiary Lupin Foods Australia in 2008 and played a pivotal role in building the company.
Mr Feinberg said AEGIC's emphasis on enhancing the value of grain exports and focus on innovation meant it was a "perfect fit" for him.
"AEGIC is focused on enhancing grain export which really ticks my box as far as trying to 'de-commoditise' commodities," Mr Feinberg said.
AEGIC's strong innovation theme also appealed to him.
"I've always been involved in research and development, whether that be the way operations run, new technology or grain quality testing systems,'' he said.
"So having a platform in place that is innovative, focused on research and development, improves export capability and values pre-farmgate operations, this must give Australian grain growers a strong potential benefit.
"It was a perfect fit as far as I was concerned and I am very grateful to be given the chance to have a crack at it."
AEGIC was established as a national centre of excellence under the Australian Grains Industry National Research, Development and Extension strategy in 2011 as part of a five-year strategy.
Mr Feinberg said he aimed to clarify the extensive detail of the strategy in order to determine AEGIC's achievements so far and what still needed to be done.
"I'm told there is plenty of opportunity to step up the pace and really get into a lot more detail than was contained in that strategy," he said.
"I don't have a view about whether AEGIC is green, orange or red in terms of being on the pace but I understand there is a massive opportunity to enhance Australia's grain export values in a variety of ways.
"I think there are some fantastically talented people inside AEGIC and also around the stakeholder groups that just want AEGIC to be successful, so it is important to find a way to pull the teams together in a way that engages fully with all stakeholders.
"So you get a very broad inclusion model that ensures that if AEGIC is successful what that success looks like to the beneficiaries of it.
"It's not just about GRDC and DAFWA at the higher level, it is really about how we increase that value to growers and all the stakeholders."
Mr Feinberg said the Australian grains industry was still settling on the back of the deregulation of wheat exports and facing challenges in freight, global consumer demand and logistics. But he believes opportunities exist, particularly in food technology.
"I feel there is a lot AEGIC can do in terms of innovative approaches to food, including lupin foods, to create that pull-through demand," he said.
"I think with 750,000 tonne growing capacity generally throughout WA and not much on the east coast yet, there is potential to push this volume from about 1.5 million to perhaps 3.5mt across Australia.
"Although lupins are not part of the AEGIC strategy, I would be remiss if I didn't include lupins in that strategy given my previous knowledge."
Mr Feinberg said a change in consumer preferences across some commodities would present an opportunity for the WA grains industry.
"Consumers really need a sustainable benefit to enable WA producers to be internationally competitive," he said.
"There are massive consumer markets out there with changing preferences but there is a lot of stress on-farm and right the way through the supply chain, so I think there is a piece in the middle that I think AEGIC can respond to and try bringing those parties closer together.
"At the moment I think each of the intermediate bodies, including CBH, Bunge and Cargill, have a piece of the global market and they want to make sure it remains with their name on it, and it's highly protected as far as that relationship with the demand globally.
"But I feel that AEGIC may be able to provide an opportunity for the world to see Australia's grain in quite a different way.
"I think there's a massive amount of innovation that needs to happen."
Mr Feinberg said the Australian grain industry lacked a single high level brand and was often portrayed as fragmented in the international marketplace.
"I think that dry, clean and green image has been lost and we really need a new global proposition for global consumers," he said.
"But I think there are other opportunities there in terms of how Australia positions itself to de-commoditise, it's not just about a blend of protein and other attributes, it has to be about something different."
"So is it about trying to get incremental change in terms of yield? I don't think so. It's really about doing more with what we have."
Mr Feinberg said WA had to position itself in the place of the buyer and consumer in order to get a better price out of the marketplace.
"It's not just about the market we are selling to as a wholesale buyer, it is about how we tick the consumer boxes," he said.
"I think the world is changing, food manufacturers can't dish up a product that doesn't always have a quality the consumer wants.
"International consumers have a choice between Australian products and those from elsewhere, and our potential is to tick the boxes and develop an image that Australian products have an intrinsic value that they want to buy.
"That sends a signal straight back to the manufacturer and the supplier who sold that product and all the way back up the chain."
Mr Feinberg said AEGIC would continue to work with exporters to provide them with more valuable information than they could obtain from buyers alone.