MOVING the Australian red meat industry from a commodity trader to a premium supplier underpins the research and development juggernaut overseen by Meat and Livestock Australia.
In his report to this year’s annual general meeting, managing director Richard Norton said no apology was offered for “seeking to break through the barriers of inertia to deliver on the key performance indicators set by industry.”
However, key to everything in the R&D space is grassroots producers communicating their research needs and to that end, MLA has overhauled the way projects are proposed.
A regional consultation framework, now in its second year, allows producers a direct say in setting R&D priorities.
On top of that, MLA’s subsidiary donar company, MDC, has just launched a producer innovation fast-track initiative to allow innovative producers to co-invest in new technologies.
Cattle producer leaders say this direct avenue for farmers to engage sets the red meat industry’s R&D aside.
“The reality of the Australian beef industry is that setting an RD agenda from an office often misses the things that producers really need,” Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer Margo Andre said.
“Whereas before the process either was, or appeared to be, inaccessible, producers now have direct line of sight to where their money goes.”
In the past financial year, R&D funds at MLA contributed to 1,060 projects and the total spend on those was $104.2m.
There were 458 research contracts with a total life value of $246 million that were continuing into 2017-18 and 475 new projects contracted at $48.3m
That’s around double most other research development corporations (RDCs).
The largest investment under MLA’s watch supported beef processor Kilcoy Pastoral Company to develop a fully integrated and automated data capture/management and product handling system.
The project called in Scott Automation and Robotics to develop a system capable of emptying and fully assembling pallets through to end-of-line delivery into chilled and frozen storage.
It draws on automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to complete tasks such as pallet loading, handling and wrapping, transportation of goods, tracking of cartons and products, barcode scanning, right through to container loading and is built around for large robots.
The largest levy-funded only project was around beef dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) supply chain grading, creating a platform to scan full sides of beef at line speed and feed directly from the existing main chain.