Collaboration. It is one of those often-used words that comes with the best of intentions. The translation to reality can be somewhat harder to realise.

At the evokeAG conference in Melbourne last week, the theme of collaboration was consistent across the many presentations, expert panels, and displays on show. With many deeply involved in agri-food technology and innovation, the theme was apt.

The conference opened with a quote from anthropologist, Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Almost everyone appeared to be in fierce agreement that for Australian agrifood technology and innovation to achieve its ambitious productivity and profitability targets, we need to work together across the whole industry to optimise efficiency.

In modern agriculture, producers combine the latest developments in soil, plants, animals, engineering, technology and meteorology sciences to attain maximum productivity from arable soils.

The greatest challenge for a start-up business with a great new idea or ground-breaking technology is the financial cost and resources required to launch a niche product and take it through to worldwide adoption.

There are significant efficiencies in the research and development sectors to be realised if we can work together at an industry level instead of in sub-sector silos that separate, for example, grains from horticulture, or animals from plant production systems.

And while products may be diverse, agribusinesses often share common ground in terms of market geography and demographics. There is much to gain in working together with researchers, suppliers, funders and customers in order to achieve the productivity, profitability and sustainability goals of our sector.

Like all things, striking the right balance is key.

Protecting the vision, drive and competitive edge of those generating the latest ideas and products, while at the same time building capability and networks to deliver advancement on a macro scale. Meeting the need of feeding nations today, while looking ahead at what we will need to be addressing in 10, 20 or 50 years.

Finding the best way for competitors in the same category to communicate with the same audience in a cooperative and complimentary way, for the benefit of their businesses and – importantly – end use customers, is still a nut to be properly cracked by many.

Here’s to the intention to do so in a collaborative, mutually beneficial way.

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