Bringing global value-adding expertise to our door
RDA Murraylands and Riverland launched the Experts in Residence program last year, at the Loxton Research Centre where producers and researchers meet to tackle problems and spark innovation.
RDA lined up a panel of eight high profile global and national experts in value-adding principles and practices – with topics ranging from food safety to supply chain accreditation, consumer trends to packaging, and protecting IP.
Local businesses took up the opportunity, booking a total of 52 confidential appointments with the experts, all completely free of charge.
“The vibe in the hub was electric,” says Program Manager Sandy Iosefellis. “People who usually work in isolation were connecting – really interesting conversations were developing.”
Dave and Heidi Setchell from the Mallee Caper Company and Mallee Date Company spoke to Sylvia Estrada-Flores, a food chain intelligence expert.
“We talked about the best way to handle our produce post-harvest to retain its quality. We discussed our options for storage, going through the supply chain from when you pick the produce to when you hand it over to the buyer.”
Dave and Heidi have changed their picking practices as a result of the discussion. “Rather than fitting it in around other things, we now prioritise the time of the day we harvest, and what happens to the fruit after that.”
For producers with niche products – like the Setchells with their dates, jujubes and capers – it can be hard to find guidance on best practice. Going straight to an expert can be far more efficient than doing the research in house.
“We had a number of things we’d been meaning to look into for a while. That’s the nature of small business – you’re so busy doing what you’re doing, other things go on the backburner. We set aside one morning and had access to all the expertise we needed.”
“I want to congratulate the RDA on the Experts in Residence initiative and thank them for their support,” says Dave. “They’re doing a great job in the region.”
Experts in Residence will return in August 2018, with a state government grant secured through the Business Excellence Fund. This time, the focus will be on helping businesses to drive commercial outcomes from new thinking. A case management approach will be taken, with follow-up meetings available.
Loxton Research Centre aims to be an industry-led space, and Sandy encourages producers to speak up about what they want to happen there – “our community can drive the agenda so it meets our needs.”