A Word with the Chairman

GROUND Cover congratulated GRDC Board Chairman Grant Latta on his reappointment for a further year. We used the opportunity to chat with Mr Latta about the meaning of commercialisation for an R&D corporation, the benefits and challenges of globalisation, future opportunities, learning from the overseas experience and organisational changes on the horizon.

R&D yardstick

Our research efforts will continue to ensure our growers are more competitive and that we deliver tangible benefits back to the grower. As in the past, we will continue to focus primarily on opportunities on the farm, but there will be select opportunities along the value chain.

What is meant for the GRDC to be 'more commercial'?

The GRDC needs to be adept at commercial issues and to deal with matters of commercialisation of technology and our intellectual property. It is a means to an end. Increasingly, research requires us to form alliances with commercial partners and to enter into various commercial arrangements to ensure that we deliver the benefits from that research.

Globalisation?

It is important that we embrace globalisation. Innovation and R&D will be critical strategies that we must pursue if we are to maintain and increase our competitive position in the global world. We are seeking to form strong alliances with the leading research providers throughout the world. Some will be in Australia, such as the CSIRO, but many will be overseas.

Being a world market player

Australia for a long time was naive in the field of world trade. But I think we've learned and become much more skilled at 'kicking downhill and with the wind'. Frankly, agriculture throughout the world is a distorted market. We're not going to be able to change that, but we can learn to use it to our competitive advantage. We are very competitive ex the farm gate, but we now must ensure that we are also competitive all along the value chain.

We need to ensure that we are not only world's best at farming, but at grain handling and at processing, building international brands and establishing a permanent presence in key markets.

Value adding

First of all, it is important that we understand that pursuing research opportunities along the value chain would also include the inputs into production. Working with growers and marketing organisations such as the AWB, we must design or develop unique varieties, technologies or products that have appeal to overseas markets, and wherever possible establish a branded presence in various select markets.

Going on the international trade scene is no game for the weak and I'm convinced that, for us to succeed on the global scene, organisations like the AWB are critical. You need scale, skills, networks, knowledge of your markets etc.

Changes to GRDC organisation

The GRDC is going through significant change within the organisation and within our panels for two main reasons - to be more strategic and more responsive. We have to make sure we're more fleet of foot and more flexible.

Over the last 10 years the GRDC has done a great job. But the traditional way of doing business needs to be revisited and streamlined. We have to be open for business every day and we have to use our unique links through our regional panels to the growers and the research community.

(We couldn't resist asking) Any feedback on Ground Cover?

Wherever I go, it's amazing the number of growers who can quote an article from one of the recent editions. I think it is a good basic paper that gives vital information to growers.

Thank you Grant Latta.

And don't forget, Ground Cover is always open to comment and constructive ideas.