THE HEAD of one of Australia's largest plant breeders has said her company was looking to engage with end-use customers more than ever before to create products the market wants.
Tress Walmsley, Intergrain chief executive, said there was a strong focus on working with customers at the end of the supply chain, both locally and abroad.
"We recently visited a brewer in Vietnam and it was the first time they had ever been visited by a plant breeder, they welcomed the chance to tell us about what they wanted from barley," Ms Walmsley said.
"Being really engaged with the end use customer is something we think is critical in terms of allowing us to capture what their needs are, bring it back to our business and work on getting it into our varieties, for instance they are very keen on boosting malt extract levels, which is a big deal for their margins."
On the wheat front, Ms Walmsley said the company was looking to replicate the stunning success of the Japanese udon noodle market.
"We're looking to investigate opportunities for soft, lower protein wheat into the Chinese market, similar to Japan in that we're looking for noodle opportunities," she said.
"Hopefully if we can find a market it will be a way to add value for wheat growers in areas where they can't necessarily grow those high protein, high value hard wheats."
Ms Walmsley said Intergrain also took on board advice from maltsters such as their complaint there were too many new varieties coming out too fast.
"We understand their preference for consistency and are really comfortable with that," she said.
Ms Walmsley said she felt the Australian cereal breeding sector was in a good position at present, primarily due to the value capture system.
"The end point royalty (EPR) system we have is unique to Australia and 20 years after it was brought in it is working incredibly well."
"I think we are really starting to see the benefits filtering through to the growers in terms of there being businesses willing to invest in the space."
She said she wanted to clearly demonstrate to growers how the EPR investment was helping them.
"We want to be able to show them how their royalties are leading to new and better varieties."
Ms Walmsley said investment in breeding was critical in the current environment with big changes in the process through improvements in areas such as genomics and phenomics.
"There is so much there that is helping us assess what will make the biggest impact much quicker."
In terms of the Australian breeding landscape, Ms Walmsley said she felt there was a good mix of the public and private sectors.
"For instance we are working together with LaTrobe University on projects, so there is a good collaborative mix between the pre-breeding and breeding sectors.
"The strategic direction of the GRDC (Grains Research and Development Corporation) is also a positive, it has a good focus on the big picture stuff the industry needs."