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Did you know that an abalone can produce 10 million eggs in a single spawn? Yep, 10,000,000 at a time. One of the surprising stats Sue and I learned during the 22nd AgFood Conference in Melbourne in May.

It was interesting enough that both of us wrote it in our notes, but the bulk of what we took down was true insight into what the future of agfood investment might look like, especially in the context of climate adaptation and massive change around demand for quality product, especially proteins. As Quinton Hildebrand from Ridley Animal Nutrition noted, it’s not just human demographics driving demand for high quality protein – even the animal food sector is moving to more premium products.

There were a number of other themes throughout the day – and too much really valuable insight to recap it all here – but here are some takeaways:

  • There is a huge amount of capital looking for a place to land. Tom Russo from Elders told the room he was aware of one single fund manager looking to invest $11 billion in agfood. Elders has its own in-house agtech committee to decide which projects the brand should support.
  • Sustainability is not a separate pillar of business, it must be integrated. Ben Fargher from Cargilll says profit and sustainability can go together: “ag has always done it concurrently”.
  • We need to think more broadly about what sustainability really means. The UN lists 16 measures yet in ag we find it hard to talk about anything other than carbon.
  • Freight infrastructure is critical, but it’s hard for transporters to make the numbers work. Lindsay Australia does it by finding ways to ensure the trucks and trains that bring produce out of key growing areas also bring materials into those areas so there are no empty loads. The brand is the biggest on seller of Visy packaging into the hort sector.
  • People care about sustainability – but not so much that they want to pay for it. Bega’s Peter Finlay said, “community expectations are far ahead of consumer willingness to pay”.
  • Tash Greenwood from CBA said we’ll start to value farm data as an asset, in the same way as we value the chaser bins in the paddock.
  • There were questions about whether Australian ag is becoming uninsurable.

It was a really thought-provoking day, and we were fortunate not only to connect with some familiar faces but also meet lots of people we have never crossed paths with before.

And if you are still wondering what all this has to do with abalone spawn, there were several speakers representing ‘the blue economy’, including David Wood from Yumbah Aquaculture who shared that gem of a stat.

If you want to know more about what we heard or who we met, or you’re interested in raising your brand’s profile among the movers and shakers of agfood investment, drop us a line.

Kendi Burness-Cowan