Welcome to another edition of eChook!
Ideas Exchange 2016 was held at the end of September on the Gold Coast. Once again, it provided researchers, students, industry leaders and the CRC team with a pleasant, cohesive environment to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the Australian poultry industry.
The two-day event covered the topics of Poultry CRC Transition, Research Highlights and Industry Challenges. Dr Pat Blackall, the Research Manager for the Poultry CRC and the Chair of the Industry Committee for the CRC’s transition body, Poultry Hub Australia, talked about the achievements of the Poultry CRC over the past 14 years and the compelling reasons for the industry to continue the legacies of the Poultry CRC through Poultry Hub Australia. He quoted the summary of an industry meeting, which said that those reasons are “a formula in which the relationship with PHA will work so that the best bits of the CRC are retained for the benefit of the industry”. Yes, “the best bits of the CRC” will be retained, which include: the mature and genuine collaborative research network providing a critical mass in expertise and facilities; the education and extension framework tailored for the industry’s needs; and the mechanism to leverage resources for industry benefits. After Pat’s talk, Dr Dave Alden, General Manager for Research and Innovation of the RIRDC, presented on a funding model that will make it highly attractive for potential investors in PHA to leverage funding through RIRDC.
The research highlights session saw a number of great presentations showing the outcomes applicable to industry. The last session focused on industry challenges. Mr Danny Jones, an egg producer from Tasmania, discussed how the lack of clarity in standards and codes, the issues related to free range production, the influence of the supermarkets, anti-animal industry activism, and the lack of skilled workers will affect the sustainability of the egg industry in the future.
Dr Sheridan Alfirevich, Technical and Welfare Manager at Baiada Poultry, explored the ins and outs of poultry production without antibiotics. “The antibiotics used and usage practices are very different in Australia compared to overseas. There are significant concerns for animal welfare, food safety and sustainability for antibiotic-free production systems, but we should never give up looking for alternatives to antibiotics and trying to improve our farming and management practices”, Dr Alfirevich said in summing up her presentation. Other challenges facing the poultry industry are public education and extension.
Ms Jodie Redcliffe, a broiler farmer, gave a passionate speech about her approach to farming. “Farmers really need to communicate with the public more in the future. We are not doing anything wrong, in fact, providing quality animal protein to the consumer, which is clean and green. We cannot afford to bury out heads in the sand any longer. Farmers in the future have to view communication as part of their farming business”, said Jodie. Communication is indeed a key issue for a sustainable poultry industry, which faces a more discerning public on the one hand wanting clean, green and ethical production of food, and yet needing to meet an ever increasing demand for food on the other.
Dr Kylie Hewson, the External Program Manager for the RIRDC Chicken Meat Program, argued that an integrated program aimed at delivering real world solutions to industry should start with extension, and then focus on R&D, instead of doing research for the sake of research without having a specific problem to solve. It follows that to increase adoption of research results, it is much better to identify the problem first, research it and then develop a solution for it.
All in all, Ideas Exchange 2016 was well received by attendees, who expressed their wishes to have it continued beyond the Poultry CRC’s wind-up on 30 June 2017. They all agreed that Ideas Exchange is event like no other; it is a forum where researchers, industry leaders and students mingle together to share their ideas in a relaxed environment. This is where researchers communicate with industry about their ideas and industry leaders seek out research solutions in return.
Mr Robert Antonio of McLean Farms summed up Ideas Exchange 2016 when he said, “this is my first Ideas Exchange. So much interesting work has been done and I wish I attended them all”.