BEING forced to change the way it communicates the quality and value of Australian grain to customers in Asia due to COVID-19 has resulted in a business leadership award for the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC).
Earlier this month AEGIC was announced as the winner of the Perdman Asian Engagement Excellence category at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) WA Pinnacle Awards.
The new category recognises organisations that have achieved outstanding results through key initiatives, demonstrating leadership and commitment to excellence in Asian engagement.
It was acknowledged that AEGIC had worked tirelessly to innovate, research and improve the Australian grain industry and how it connects to international markets, with the company employing technical advances such as virtual crop inspections, targeted webinars and information portals.
Asian grain buyers and users need to keep track of the Australian grain crop and inspect supply chains in action, with delegations previously travelling to visit farms, receival sites, ports and research companies.
AEGIC chief executive Richard Simonaitis said when international travel was interrupted, the company quickly pivoted to producing monthly crop inspection videos to bridge this gap and preserve vital customer engagement.
"It was a great opportunity to not only survive, but thrive and get great reach and penetration into our markets," Mr Simonaitis said.
"This complex project is a collaborative effort between farmers and industry organisations who provide video and photo content, with strong leadership from AEGIC as the co-ordinator, producer and distributor.
"It allowed us to engage with industry and the contribution that collaborators made to develop the material that we were then able to post on virtual engagement platforms really brought the industry together."
Each round, AEGIC wrote, produced and distributed three videos covering Western Australia, South Australia and eastern Australia, with subtitles in six languages (18 videos total).
Using highly targeted distribution lists covering almost 2500 international contacts, the company provides the videos to flour millers, brewers, maltsters, government agencies, traders and other stakeholders across 10 Asian countries.
"This was a new initiative in 2020-21 and was universally acclaimed by both Asian grain customers and the domestic industry," Mr Simonaitis said.
"Feedback from Asian customers clearly demonstrates the positive impact we are having on Asian stakeholders - 96 per cent would recommend our crop inspection videos to a colleague or a friend."
AEGIC's customer engagement strategies also usually involve travelling to Asian markets to deliver seminars, technical workshops, conferences and meetings, as well as hosting delegations in Australia.
With travel restrictions in place, the company adapted to virtually engaging with customers.
AEGIC has delivered 22 grain quality webinars targeting customers in China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Together those 10 markets represent more than 15 million tonnes of demand worth $4.7 billion.
Mr Simonaitis said working remotely had allowed them to increase the number of events and meetings they are able to deliver.
"AEGIC's webinars provided Asian customers with seasonal and grain industry updates, as well as the benefits of using Australian grains for food, animal feed and brewing," he said.
"It also provides crop breeding briefings about new and upcoming grain varieties, technical and practical information on how to use Australian grains and the opportunity to raise questions and discuss issues.
"These initiatives have been received extremely well by our Asian stakeholders - 92pc would recommend our webinars and crucially, 82pc say that attending our webinars has increased their willingness to buy or use Australian grain."
In 2020 and 2021 AEGIC also increased efforts to provide Asian customers with technical support material to help them in their work.
That included a COVID-19 hygiene materials for food safety, an Indonesian grains portal, feed grain information packs, a technical guide for milling whole grain wheat flour and lastly, noodle assessment technical instruction videos.
"The highly successful ongoing initiatives of virtual crop inspections, targeted webinars and technical support and information products are delivering significant value for Asian customers and the Australian grains industry," Mr Simonaitis said.
"They demonstrate AEGIC's Asian engagement excellence and leadership and the positive impact we have on our stakeholders."
As part of their AIM WA award win, AEGIC also nominated Regional Men's Health to benefit from a $20,000 training prize.
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