Hundreds of Murraylands and Riverland businesses have benefitted from the AFTD Program
A report just released has revealed that hundreds of Murraylands and Riverland businesses have benefited from an innovative Agri Food Tourism Development (AFTD) program over the past three years.
The report outlines the achievements and impacts the federally-funded project has had on small businesses and producers in the region, with significant shifts in business practices and diversification supporting drought resilience across our biggest industry sector.
Engaging with more than 370 local businesses through the project uncovered ways to assist operators and producers to grow the capacity of their business through diversification and increase the value of their produce.
More than 200 businesses in the region received one-on-one active support to identify opportunities to benefit the future of their operations and our region’s economy. From bringing in food and agritourism experts, to providing producers with communication collateral, running workshops and trade events, the program was extensive.
RDAMR Director Business Development Julie Bates says the program’s success can be attributed to the positive collaboration between various local organisations, including Destination Riverland, Murray River Lakes & Coorong Tourism Alliance, Riverland Wine, and local councils.
“This program is a great example of what can be done in the region when organisations and businesses come together for a common goal. Due to this, the outcomes and results of the program have been greater than we could ever have hoped for,” Ms Bates said.
With increased consumer demand in the market for knowledge of food provenance, the AFTD program made the most of consumers wanting to know the stories and personalities behind the products.
“This program leveraged these opportunities, and there was never a better time to boost and diversify the skills and offerings of our local producers and experiences. Despite a challenging environment (including COVID-19, fruit fly and flood) the program was a great success, with strong support from all parties,” Ms Bates said.
“Results were immediate in some cases, with businesses creating online shops, developing new agritourism experiences, redesigning shopfronts, opening new national markets, growing the region’s reputation and more.”
“Not only has it assisted our producers in increasing business sustainability and profitability, but it has helped shine a light on our bespoke, unique and world-class products from the Murraylands and the Riverland. It has empowered producers to think outside the box, about new innovations and ideas that support industry growth.”
“This includes some of our more traditional businesses integrating agritourism experiences, making the most of our rural opportunities. We live in one of the best rural and regional areas, so why not take advantage of this. We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Successfully delivered activities included:
- Delivered world-renowned chef tour of Riverland and Murraylands,
- Supported two Chef Day events,
- Created 35 producer biographies and marketing collateral,
- Developed an Agritourism Idea Generation Film,
- Ran agritourism capability-building workshops,
- Developed agritourism features in 4 x Visitor Guides,
- Piloted ‘Experience the Source’ program,
- Supported 20+ food and wine events,
- Delivered local produce showcases and tastings,
- Managed PR campaigns to build a profile of produce and agritourism experiences,
- Business Capability Building with 1:1 mentoring.
Stage One of the program focused primarily on Riverland towns, including Berri, Barmera, Loxton, and extending to Swan Reach. Stage Two was delivered in Murraylands and Riverland towns such as Tailem Bend, Murray Bridge, Mannum, Blanchetown, and Waikerie. Stage Three was open to participants across the whole region.
The AFTD program supported the RDAMR’s recently completed MR Plan, which focuses on innovative ways to bring together community, industry, and government, develop a vision, and enduring regional voice.
RDAMR Chief Executive Ben Fee said the plan was developed through the Regional Drought Resilience Planning process, with a focus on building resilience in the agriculture sector, the scope grew to encompass all industries within the regional ecosystem.
“The AFTD program is the perfect example of what our RDAMR values and ethos are, to build connections, inspire producers, and give them the confidence to seek out new ways of value-adding. More importantly, it’s creating new opportunities for growth that will support further economic expansion across our region,” Mr Fee said.