Event insights: Disruptive forces in agriculture

20 February 2020

Jodie Knowlton, Partner, Business Services |
Andrew Jones, Partner, Tax |

BDO recently hosted the first Agribusiness Australia event for 2020, kicking off with Queensland Chief Scientist, Professor Paul Bertsch, leading a thought-provoking discussion on disruptive forces in agriculture, including food and fibre production.

The use of advanced biomanufacturing to produce cotton, protein and everything in-between, could deliver an industry worth more than $7bn to Australia, and be of significant benefit to Queensland. This will bring with it a fundamental shift in the value proposition of traditional primary production. While this technology is in its early days of existence, is the Queensland agricultural community ready for its effect?

As part of this primary production shift, Professor Bertsch discussed a range of industry predictions for the years ahead. 

Use of vertical farming techniques 

Vertical farming is no longer a start-up and is now a proven way of undertaking agriculture that significantly reduces climate risks and encourages more sustainable practices. Technology will continue to improve in this space to drive further efficiencies.

Produced meat cuts will become “like caviar”

Professor Bertsch commented that conventionally produced meat cuts are unlikely to disappear, instead becoming “like caviar” – a premium commodity. This presents opportunities to growers and producers alike that transition into premium breeds and products. 

On the other hand, meat products made from alternative protein creation pathways (e.g. plant-based and miro-organisms) will likely be present in lower value meat products, such as mince and processed meats. This will encourage commercial food manufacturers to build relationships with new supply partners to customise raw material, which complement manufacturing processes. Due to these alternative creation pathways, proteins are expected to be five times cheaper in 2030, and ten times cheaper by 2035, than traditional animal protein production. 

Significant impacts for regional communities

Another prediction discussed was that alternative protein and fibre creation pathways could significantly impact regional communities. The discussion challenged the business model of the ‘traditional’ smaller or more fragmented primary producers. Those that are unable or unwilling to move to new business models may risk becoming unviable. We believe that the industry needs to support the education of farmers as to the options available to provide support on how to make the transition and consider alternative land use plans for these primary producers.

Social acceptance of protein substitutes 

Acceptance of plant-based proteins has increased across the world, especially in the younger generations. This seems to be driven by their opinion that this option is healthier for themselves and better for the environment. 

The idea of cultured food, created by genetically modified bacteria, seems to be well accepted, but for how long? Broad resistance to genetically modified food is on the rise in many regions. Whilst cultured foods are not equivalent, they rely on a production pathway that depends heavily on genetic engineering. This raises questions about how production at scale will gain community trust. 

One thing is clear, ‘traditional’ primary producers will need to stay relevant and competitive in a dynamically changing food and fibre supply and demand environment. 

For more information on trends affecting the industry, please contact a member of our Food & Agribusiness team.