FOR MANY years improvements in grains industry research and development centred on productivity gains, but now it is all about profitability at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
It may seem just a matter of semantics, but the GRDC executive believes the change to a pure profit-focused model will change the organisation for the better.
GRDC chairman John Woods said he was hoping to see tangible benefits delivered to growers in terms of greater productivity and improved pathways to market.
He said the GRDC had been working on partnerships to help deliver these outcomes.
“The GRDC has been actively engaging with international researchers to ensure that new technologies developed elsewhere are delivered to Australian farms as quickly as possible,” Mr Woods said.
He also pointed to the GRDC’s one-off $15 million allocation for research and development infrastructure as a sign of its commitment to working with others in the research sector.
In terms of extension Mr Woods said the GRDC was committed to expanding its rural footprint.
The board has considered and approved a strategy to build the capability of the GRDC’s regional offices by recruiting additional staff who have the necessary skills, knowledge and mindset to actively manage its investments and engage with growers and researchers, ensuring that investments are delivering returns for growers, he said.
Mr Woods said he felt the hub-and-spoke model used by GRDC to deliver extension was working.
“Feedback received from levy-paying growers since the GRDC’s adoption of the hub-and-spoke model points to strong acceptance of the model,” he said.
GRDC managing director Steve Jefferies said the organisation needed to change the way it operated to deliver a better return on grower and government investment.
He said the GRDC had been restructured to optimise opportunities.
“In tandem with the adoption of a continuous investment cycle, the new structure positions the GRDC to deliver innovation with the power to transform the profit drivers of Australian grains production,” Dr Jefferies said.
He said services such as the regional advisory panels and the regional cropping solutions were part of providing solutions to growers at a local level.
Dr Jefferies said research priorities mean investments ranged from short-term, solution-orientated projects, such as compiling trial results to improve understanding of plant available nutrients, to long-term projects on issues such as water use efficiency, genetic bases of heat tolerance in wheat and the development of new chemistries to combat difficult weeds.
Blue sky research is also being undertaken on topics such as automation, robotics and industrial products, such as bioplastics.
Dr Jefferies said it was important to look at potentially transformative research.