Tuesday, 07 March 2017 19:14

KPMG partners on food industry research centre initiative

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Professional services firm KPMG Australia has been chosen as one of the lead partners of the newly formed Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), which has raised over $160 million in cash and in-kind commitments to fast-track the growth of Australia’s food industry through digital technologies.

The naming of KPMG follows an announcement on Tuesday that the Food Agility CRC has received $50 million of federal government funding through the Co-operative Research Centre Programme.

Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Senator Arthur Sinodinos announced the funding allocation yesterday.

“We believe the Food Agility CRC is at the core of innovation for the industry, and are very excited to be playing an active role,” said Ian Hancock, head of Management Consulting at KPMG Australia.

“Today’s federal government funding announcement is a strong signal that food is a major manufacturing sector of the future, and that there is commitment to global advancement through a digital technology path.”

The bid consortium that applied for and secured the federal funding is led by the Knowledge Economy Institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), together with QUT and Curtin University.

According to KPMG, collaboration with the Food Agility CRC aligns with the firm’s investment in building capabilities around the Internet of Things (IoT) and AgTech sector, both new practices the firm launched this financial year.

Piers Hogarth-Scott, KPMG’s national IoT practice leader, said, “Smart food and fibre is a key focus sector of our Internet of Things practice. Our investment in the Food Agility CRC supports our strategy of helping clients unlock the substantial economic, environmental and social challenges facing the industry in Australia.”

Ben van Delden, head of KPMG’s AgTech practice, described the launch of the Food Agility CRC as ground-breaking.

“I’ve recently returned from the Australian Agri-Food Trade Mission to Israel. One of the highlights for me was seeing unprecedented ‘collaboration in action’ between farmers, universities, industries and government.

“Australia can learn from this and it seems we are now on this path with the Food Agility CRC’s collaboration model bridging the gap between stakeholders.”

KPMG says the Food Agility CRC’s programmes will seek to deploy real-time big data market intelligence and predictive analytics to help farmers produce the right products at the right time, and link food producers with consumers in new ways.

Plans include the development of more innovative financial products based on producers’ better management of environment risk and uncertainty, using digital technology.

The firm says investment in the food industry could be stimulated by building confidence in data-enabled productivity gains, and the Food Agility CRC will help build a future workforce by leveraging advances in robotics and training teams in agri-economics and digital technology to boost productivity, sustainability and market-led thinking.

Professor Bronwyn Harch of QUT will be Food Agility’s Research Director.

“Our research framework is designed to deliver commercial value, to build capacity across the food value chain, and optimise the research investment”, Professor Harch said.

“Our research programmes will create digitally-enabled solutions by focusing on three critical components: hardware, software and liveware. That means: addressing the sensor and communication technologies that underpin data across food value chains; transforming poorly designed, utilised and connected data into information and insights for decision making; and ensuring best practices are integrated into the workflows of governments, industry and consumers, and building a capable workforce.”

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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