News – something new has started 10 Jul 2014

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) today launched a new online tool which allows farmers to investigate almost 100 options for diversifying their enterprise.

The search tool, located on the website is free and easy to use. After simply entering their postcode, farmers see a ‘shortlist’ of industries that may be viable in their area. More specific search information, such as rainfall, soil type and climate zone can be used to refine the search. Farmers can also search for a particular plant or animal that may be of interest.

For each plant and animal the website provides essential information such as production status, growing region maps, risks and challenges, regulatory considerations, publications, resources, and contact information for industry bodies.

“Every day we get calls from farmers seeking information on an extremely wide range of new opportunities, from quinoa to snails,” said Craig Burns, Managing Director of RIRDC.

“In response to this need, we’ve set up to provide information on hundreds of industries, from ginger, beekeeping and goats, to wasabi and olives, and everything in between.

“Previously, farmers would have had to do extensive internet searches to unearth this kind of information. Importantly, the new tool may identify industries that a farmer may never have considered as opportunities.

“While the primary driver for diversification is to increase income, other benefits are improving resilience, spreading risk and even reducing environmental impact.

“ is a place to start. It will open up conversations across the kitchen table.”

One family who had those conversations were the Ahmeds from Werribee, Victoria.

From egg producer to retailer of gourmet food and sustainable (paper pulp) packaging for the entertainment and on-farm markets, Brian Ahmed and his family used the deregulation of the egg industry in the 1980’s as their platform for diversification.

“I needed to show my family, in particular my parents, that our business had to be diverse to ensure long term sustainability,” Mr Ahmed said.

Brian’s early research on running a business had taught him that diversification was important for long-term sustainability, and his experience has proven the advantage of not having all his eggs in one basket.

Dedicated goat producer, dairy farmer and mother of three, Corinne Annetts agrees. She never thought her love of making goat cheese would lead her to a profitable business. However four years on, Corinne has managed to grow a successful skin care business based on goat milk products.

“Having a website like as a place to begin will help others like myself who are keen to explore the opportunities for sustainable rural businesses”, Ms Annetts said, founder of Sunhill Skin Essentials and runner-up of the NSW Rural Women’s Award (2012) from New England, NSW.

As well as the capacity to investigate diversification options, the website will contain a set of questions which farmers should ask themselves before considering diversification.

“Diversification can be a valuable strategy for a farming enterprise, and overall, it supports a more profitable, sustainable and dynamic rural sector,” Mr Burns said.

“ should be considered a starting point in a farmer’s journey towards diversifying their enterprise, not the destination. Farmers need to fully understand the implications of becoming involved in a new industry before they invest.”

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