New and emerging rural industries gain traction

A WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITY: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation managing director John Harvey.
A WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITY: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation managing director John Harvey.

WINTER crops, beef and lamb are well known staples in the Riverina agricultural sector.

Demand for camel milk in Australia currently outweighs supply.

John Harvey

But what about emerging rural industries? Is there a future in quinoa or camel milk?

New research is investigating the prospects of innovative and alternative industries. 

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) has been headquartered in Wagga since late last year and is at the coalface of investigating new opportunities for primary industries. 

RIRDC managing director John Harvey said current research includes rice, chicken meat, honey bee and pollination, thoroughbred horses and ginger. 

One of the interesting industries that is being investigated is camel milking.

“Demand for camel milk in Australia currently outweighs supply,” said Mr Harvey. 

“The new-found popularity of the product is driving the expansion of existing camel dairies and development of new enterprises in Victoria and Queensland,” he said.

Mr Harvey said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a major increase in Australian camel milk production in the next five years. 

“It is transitioning from a cottage industry to a commercial scale,” he said. 

Native plants, such as wattle seed, Kakadu plum and seaweeds, as well as newer additions to Australian agricultural flora such as quinoa, hazelnuts and coffee also hold potential. 

Mr Harvey said agriculture contributed $63 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product in 2016 and 20117. 

He said the industry was now working to achieve a $100 billion contribution by 2030. 

“Agriculture is also the biggest employer in rural and regional Australia employing around 300,000 people,” he said.

The importance of the Riverina’s rice industry was also highlighted. 

“Rice is one of our largest research programs and is based in the Riverina,” he said.

The aim was to increase the crop’s sustainability and profitability. 

“A key focus (is) on water use efficiency and varieties that deliver increased yield and improved eating quality,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the grain quinoa is earning a reputation as a staple in the world of super-foods. 

“Quinoa is an emerging industry that has received a great deal of local attention of late, thanks to a RIRDC funded project focused on identifying the best quinoa lines and management guidelines for local growers,” he said. 

The first Riverina quinoa trial is being led by NSW Department of Primary Industries at the Leeton Field Station.