Agribusiness Gippsland and the East Gippsland Food Cluster are now officially united to form Food & Fibre Gippsland, a single entity to support the region’s $7 billion food and fibre industry.
The new organisation was officially launched at Farm World last month.
The amalgamation follows extensive consultations with members and other stakeholders across industry, government, research, education, and community around the benefits of joining forces.
Endorsed by Consumer Affairs Victoria in early March, the new incorporated entity of Food & Fibre Gippsland signals the beginning of a new era for the sector and the region, with a focus on collaboration, innovation and engagement.
The first board to take Food & Fibre Gippsland forward includes four representatives from each of the boards of Agribusiness Gippsland and East Gippsland Food Cluster.
Board members are Stuart Quigley, Nicola Pero, Kate Wallis, Brian Davey, Damien Gannon, Andrew Bulmer Sallie Jones and Barry Rogers.
East Gippsland Food Cluster chairman Andrew Bulmer said the existing ethos of both organisations would flow into Food & Fibre Gippsland, which would continue to be a member-based, not-for-profit network striving to support the best outcomes for the food and fibre sector and the Gippsland community.
“The principles of collaboration and innovation are vitally important, as well as being able to effectively respond to and embrace very diverse needs and aspirations across the sector,” Mr. Bulmer said.
“Whilst the amalgamation has been going through its approval processes, everyone has been forging ahead with some brilliant initiatives and projects – so it’s great to now bring them under one banner as we continue to source and respond to more opportunities.”
Mr Bulmer is a co-deputy chair of the first Food & Fibre Gippsland board.
Mr Bulmer told Gippsland Farmer the two organisations were “a voice for the same thing across Gippsland” and it made sense to bring them together.
“Instead of a turf war, we are bringing the best of both worlds and creating one organisation.”
Agribusiness Gippsland chairman Stuart Quigley is another Gippslander with extensive industry experience and will also be co-chair of the first Food & Fibre Gippsland board.
Mr Quigley anticipated the key focus areas of collaboration, innovation and engagement would lead to a reinvigorated energy across a wide cross-section of Gippsland food and fibre businesses.
“When producers, processors and other stakeholders can connect, network and share via their membership with Food & Fibre Gippsland, they may then view each other as collaborators, with the potential to leverage each other’s strengths and resources to support better outcomes for their own businesses as well as the sector as a whole,” he said.
Dr Nicola Watts, who has been chief executive of the East Gippsland Food Cluster since 2011, will continue as interim chief executive of Food & Fibre Gippsland until June 30. The position has been advertised.
“With the collaborative force of this amalgamation, we really have a golden opportunity to work together right across Gippsland to proactively shape sustainable future development of the food and fibre production and processing sector” Dr Watts said.
Peter Schutz, executive chairman of Food Innovation Australia Limited’s (FIAL) – Australia’s Growth Centre for food and agribusiness, is filling the independent chair role in an advisory capacity until a recruitment process is concluded.