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March, 2019|
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Creating connections

by Tim Lester, Executive Officer

Last week I had the pleasure of being introduced to Devenish Nutrition, a global agri-food company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While Devenish does not sell any products to consumers, they are the company behind the development of an innovative chicken feed that results in omega-3 enriched chicken meat and eggs.

Omega-3 fatty acids have multiple benefits for your body and brain, improving eye health, heart health and help in the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety. Omega-3 is commonly found in oily fish.

There were many aspects of this story that resonated. One was about the importance of working to address the needs of your customer’s customer, and so on along the value chain. In this case, as a supplier of animal nutrition products and services, Devenish works with the chicken producer, who in turn is working with a retailer. Then there is the person who buys the product in order to feed themselves and members of their family. They are the ultimate beneficiaries of this innovation, but the entire value chain has to be engaged to deliver it.

A second aspect related to working in partnerships. A clinical trial delivered by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland that demonstrated the link between regular consumption of the omega-3 enriched products and potential health benefits. A key here is to understand your own strengths and partner with others who can complement them.

A third element was the use of systems and science. A systems approach demonstrated the connections and the science found answers and provided necessary evidence along the way.

Of course we have wonderful examples of innovation here. The world’s first gluten-free barley, KebariTM, developed by the CSIRO with long-term support from the Grains RDC, is now being commercialised into products suitable for people with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity. Australian Wool Innovation, in partnership with a leading Chinese textile manufacturer The Nanshan Group, have created a 100 percent Australian Merino fabric that is resistant to wind and rain. Forest and Wood Products Australia, working with architects, engineers, building surveyors, fire agencies, insurances companies and more, informed changes to Australia’s National Construction Code which permit fire-protected timber construction up to 25 metres for all classes of building. This creates new opportunities for mid-rise building designer, developers, builders and occupants. There are undoubtably many more.

The Rural RDCs are specialists in strategic partnerships that deliver valuable solutions to complex problems. We are a connective tissue in the complex web that is Australia’s rural innovation system. Our futures work, Vision 2050, indicates just how critical it will be to work at scale, cross boundaries and understand the full system – as Devenish describes it “from soil to society” – to build on our strengths and drive step-change improvements in the future.