GRAINS Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) chairman John Woods has assured WA growers they will not miss out on investment opportunities as the national body completes the biggest business and strategic transformation in its history.
Mr Woods made the comments at the GRDC Research Updates, Perth, where he announced an $8.3 million commitment into three collaborative soils and crop nutrition research projects in WA.
The funding was welcomed by Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan, who at the same time questioned whether the State was getting its fair share of investment.
“While this funding announcement is a good start, we are committed to ensuring WA gets its fair share of Federal research dollars - particularly given our growers contribute the most levies to the Grains Research Development Corporation of any State or Territory,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“We are continuing to negotiate a long-term funding agreement with the GRDC that will ensure quality research is undertaken in WA and give our growers the fairest possible return for their contribution.”
Mr Woods has defended the GRDC, and said the Western, Southern and Northern regional zones each received about 26 per cent of national investment.
According to the GRDC 2016-17 Annual Report, $198 million was invested into 700 research and development projects across the three cropping zones.
In the same year WA funding was pinned at $51.5m, with $41.2m of that in direct investment with WA partners.
“If you just look at the past 12 months we’ve done an extension with Curtin University which is $6m of new money, we’ve done two infrastructure initiatives in the past six months with The University of Western Australia and Murdoch University in excess of $3m, we’ve now done the soil initiative which is $8.3m from the GRDC,” Mr Woods said.
“That is new money coming into WA, so that is absolutely committing to growing collaboration and growing capacity.
“On top of that 26pc, we have national and international investments which are not directly reflected.
“We’re happy to have the growers have a look at our commitment to the West and make their own assessment.”
Mr Woods said the past year had seen a major transition at the GRDC, driven by grower feedback.
The new strategic direction of the GRDC is outlined in its recently released draft 2018-2023 Research, Development and Extension Plan, which was opened for grower feedback until last month.
Mr Woods said the corporation had worked hard to improve transparency, responsiveness and value, with a key focus on increased profitability for growers.
“We’ve just been through the biggest strategic and business changes in the history of the organisation,” Mr Woods said.
“Clearly growers want us to reach more, you want us to move more transformationally into our investment portfolio, rather than just short-term tactical responses.
“Another area with the strategic plan is that growers want us to add higher value opportunities – we can’t continue to compete with the Black Sea on a 10pc protein basis - we need to differentiate our product and inform the market as to the value of Australian grain.
“There’s also opportunities where we should be able to grow niche products, higher value products so things like omega-3 canola and ultra-low gluten barley.
“Also I think we need to look at more value in your system, in your rotations and we need to be bringing better, higher value crops like the legumes that the East Coast enjoy into the West.”
Moving forward, Mr Woods said investment into WA would focus on soil nutrition, finding a profitable pulse crop and changing the way research was conducted around frost.
He said the GRDC was willing to take greater risks to achieve more transformational gains to reduce the effects of frost in WA.
“We have spent as an organisation and an industry, a lot of money on frost and we haven’t got some of the game changing opportunities that we thought we might yield,” Mr Woods said.
“The short-term tactical stuff is not working and we want to make GRDC and our relationship with the frost investment reach more, and seek new approaches and new ideas.
“Really what we’re saying as GRDC is that we absolutely need to change tack, increase the risk of that investment but aim for transformation and get outside our comfort zones.
“Whether that’s different germ plasm, whether it’s some sort of gene editing, we actually don’t know but we need to think outside the box.
“We will absolutely invest at least the same into frost going forward.”