ENTREPRENEUR and branding expert Craig Davis thinks Australian agriculture has “spoilt supermodel syndrome”.
The 'land down under' trades off its abundant natural beauty and features, believing the rest of the world is lining up simply to be associated with it.
But while that has taken us so far, Mr Davis said the new globalised economy has moved on, leaving Australia behind the eight ball in terms of agriculture exports.
His speech confronted Ausveg National Convention delegates in Cairns where he spoke on “brand Australia”.
He said 100 years ago 14 per cent of the Australian population was directly involved with agriculture. That figure is now around 0.6pc.
“No one knows a farmer anymore and Australian agriculture has lost its natural voice,” he said.
“That voice has been broken into thin reeds through politics, factionalism, bureaucracy and a general lack of engagement.
“Horticulture, it must be said, has a general reputation for being one of the worst offenders in this regard.”
We can’t be Asia’s food bowl but we can become Asia’s preferred premium food partner
Mr Davis has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world including Sony, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Toyota, Shell and Nokia.
He founded Brandkarma.com, the world’s first brand-centric social media platform.
He said unity is strength when it comes to promoting the positives of Australian produce, but even here the agriculture industries struggle to gain traction.
“There are 93 separate agribusiness bodies in this country. In Denmark there is one,” he said.
In being asked to speak at the Ausveg event, Mr Davis said he thought it was curious that the organisation said it represented vegetable and potato growers, in that potatoes are vegetables anyway.
“Already in the DNA of the organisation there is separation,” he said.
“Eighty-eight per cent of farmers in Australia say they want to have a really strong, national voice, but only thiry-three per cent can be bothered to join the NFF.
“I just don’t understand the lack of engagement.
“You’re losing the ability to address markets effectively, tell a larger Australian story and build real relationships with consumers here and overseas.”
He encouraged agricultural bodies to unite in order to present a uniform voice.
“Australian horticulture should lead this charge because you have the most to gain,” he said.
Connecting with consumers was one of the major tools for improving branding according to Mr Davis.
That means telling the farming story behind the crops grown.
“Knowing that someone, people, human beings care about what they produce, is very compelling for consumers,” Mr Davis said.
“Here’s a newsflash - you guys are artisans to. You need to start telling your story about love and care and craft.
“One quarter of Australians believe that it’s important for luxury or premium brands to be imported from overseas. Now that’s just nuts, that’s crazy.
“We produce millions of premium products every day - they’re called vegetables. But no one is thinking that way. Well, not enough.
“We need to think better rather than bigger.”
He also echoed sentiments from other speakers throughout the Convention speaking against the perception of Asia being an export cure-all.
“We can’t be Asia’s food bowl but we can become Asia’s preferred premium food partner. Think more like the up-market deli than the supermarket,” he said.
It should be more about extracting the most value through product development, brand building and targeting the most valuable consumers.
“While we may talk about being clean, green and safe, I think that’s just scratching the surface. We need to dig much deeper and get to the heart of Australian agriculture.
“This sector needs to be crystal clear on what we do, how we do it and why, the purpose, there needs to be a purpose.”