DIFFERENTIATED and niche industries could play a key role in revitalising dwindling regional communites, said Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) chairwoman Daniela Stehlik.
Professor Stehlik was in WA as part of the RIRDC board's annual field visit, touring Manjimup, Margaret River and other regional towns to look at RIRDC investments and speak to industry groups.
She said the visit gave the board an opportunity to better understand the opportunities and challenges faced by farmers in new and emerging rural industries, such as the truffle and sheep milk industries.
The RIRDC is the primary funding source for research and development to help establish new rural industries and to address national rural and multi-industry issues through government-industry partnerships.
It works with niche or emerging industry members to identify issues, investigate relevant international research, fund domestic research projects and work in partnership with private enterprise to grow the particular industry.
Nationally, the corporation works with 40 industries, including rice, honey bees, essential oils, tea tree oil and wildflowers and native plants, and funded 11 research programs in 2014-15.
It sponsors the Horizons Scholarship and the annual national Rural Women's Award.
In WA, RIRDC was involved in funding research into the quinoa market in WA and is focusing on developing the alternative milk industry and the truffle market in the State's south west.
The Manjimup and Pemberton areas produce the majority of Australia's truffles.
Professor Stehlik said alternative milk from sheep and camels was an important emerging industry as more people experienced intolerance to cow milk.
She said these "niche emerging industries" played an important role in revitalising regional areas.
"It's really exciting to see where these industries can head and how they build into the community," she said.
"Where there are differentiated industries that can grow vertically and horizontally, we are seeing the local communities also grow."
She said RIRDC's role was vital in developing smaller industries where is could be difficult to attract capital or the attention of large R&D bodies.