Great Southern brand

By Chris Thomson | posted on July 18, 2018

A REGIONAL brand to promote Great Southern beef, sheep meat and grain is well on the way to becoming reality.

The regional branding project run by the Stirlings to Coast Farmers group, alongside a company called AgLive, is enlisting digital technology to track the history of individual livestock as they move from gate to plate.

SCF CEO Christine Kershaw says the trial, involving 20 farmers, is building up a digital chain of custody to inform customers exactly where animals come from and the full history of their lives.

“This in turn has potential to bring farmers and consumers closer together through a locally branded product where meat quality and animal welfare go hand in hand,” Dr Kershaw says.

“Consumers want to connect with farmers and where their food comes from.

“What better time for us to do exactly that with full traceability becoming easier with this new technology?”

She warns that developing a Great Southern brand is not as easy as it seems.

“It’s really easy to put a logo on the side of a box and call it a brand,” she says.

“But not everything, especially in export markets, needs a regional brand – ‘West Australian’ is often enough.”

Dr Kershaw says the beef and sheep brand is being developed under the aegis of a co-operative being set up for SCF’s member farmers.

“The co-op will be for grain, beef and sheep, co-ordinating aggregated supply contracts through the region,” she explains.

“We’re looking at small, containerised, specialist grain blends that we can sell for high value.

“We’re developing a brand with the co-op itself as a reliable supplier of fully traceable product.”

Separate to the emerging co-op brand, Dr Kershaw says SCF is looking to develop a regional food brand to use the Great Southern to market specific grain, sheep and beef items.

Interestingly, the humble noodle is at the vanguard of that plan.

“Our farmers grow a top quality product for export, and Japanese millers add value by making it into a noodle,” Dr Kershaw explains.

“We have a project, which is in the third year of trials developing an agronomic package to say: ‘Yes, we can develop this good quality noodle wheat’.

“But we have an opportunity to put a regional brand around that, selling it through the co-operative to the specific high-value Japanese market.”

She says a delegation from Japan is likely to visit Albany later this year and a regional noodle brand is likely to be announced around that time.

The Great Southern is WA’s second largest agricultural region by gross value of production, with $1 billion of mainly grains and livestock coming from the region each year.

“This area here around Albany, with the high rainfall, has not been properly recognised as the food hub that it is,” Dr Kershaw says.

“The extended seasons and reliable rainfall means you can have a mixture of farming enterprises that you can’t have in the Wheatbelt.

“There is an opportunity to brand this region as a source of clean, green produce.”

Photo: Anthony Probert