Reflecting on the past, present, and future

Column by TSBE Food Leaders Australia General Manager, Bruce McConnel: Historically, our region has been one that has absolutely led the way in the production of bulk commodities. Whether that is traditional beef, grains, or cotton, we grow a product, bundle it up into a quality bulk commodity and it is sent out across the world cost effectively.

Right now though, we are seeing a change where, as we utilise our natural resources to the best of our abilities for the maximum economic gain, we are looking at other ways to do it, and what we are seeing is that our region is significantly value adding to those commodities.

Down in Goondiwindi, we are seeing the team at Human Bean Co create an air-puffed faba bean for human consumption. New varieties of wheat have been pushed through to gain milling. We are containerising our commodities and products to send to our processors and breweries in China. Simply put, we are trying to add as much value to our products as possible.

Into the future, I believe what we will see is new crop industries. We already have the intensification of our crop growing occurring with our protected horticulture environment, such as the Asterion Medicinal Cannabis, planned to be built near Wellcamp Airport. We will see a whole variety that we can fully value add, right through to the point just before human consumption, then ship it out to the world.

We now have the ability to use the new infrastructure across our region, such as the Toowoomba Bypass, Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport and the upcoming Inland Rail to get that production internationally. And we are continuing to expand opportunities as we become a major logistics hub. The recent announcement from flag carrier of Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, now expands export capability drastically, with weekly flights doubling out of Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport. The airport currently exports approximately 80 tonnes of freight on a weekly basis on the existing service, and there has been capacity to support more frequent services for some time. This new service will take total capability to more than 120 tonne per week. This is a major coup for Toowoomba and shows a continued growth for Toowoomba being Australia’s key inland port.

Our region has done its part to earn the title as a key growth location for agriculture.

What we are also finding that is currently occurring is our increased adoption of agricultural technology, and this new entrepreneurial landscape, that is bringing new change to us daily, will drive what our region does more than it ever has previously.

From having the ability to forecast crop yield, to being able to remotely manage our entire properties from one location will mean that the cost effectiveness of production will continue to be better, and this improvement will lead to further possibilities for farms managers.

We are seeing a movement over the last few of months around creating accelerated pathways for students, and people changing careers, to move into agriculture and food industries, securing our future of quality talent driving forward our innovative agricultural technology and farm productivity to deliver the best of the Darling Downs produce globally.

Another element that needs to be celebrated is our amazing relationships across sectors. With such a strong level of diversity throughout our region, as we all face similar challenges in our fields, the agricultural industry has been able to work closely with those in oil and gas sector, resulting in benefits for all involved.

We move solutions between the two sectors, whether that is soil management, connectivity solutions, upgrade infrastructure, roads, and power, which means the agriculture and energy sectors are working together to ensure  benefits for all parties. This makes our region unique.  

Not only do we have a broad agricultural sector, from horticulture in the Southern Downs and Lockyer Valley to intensive livestock industries, grain, pulses and cotton farms that we have in the Toowoomba and Surat Basin region, but diversity of other industries ensures we have an incredibly unique stamp to hold up against other areas. This will drive growth and economic longevity more than anywhere else.

Our region is a really exciting place to be right now, and this will only grow substantially with time.