MRD economic development project officer, Sharon Morrell, with Regional Executive ANZ North West Victoria, Jason Marr. Both are ready for next Friday’s conference at MAC.

By JOHN DOOLEY

 ANZ Bank, in partnership with Mildura Regional Development (MRD), will present the 2019 Sunraysia Agribusiness Conference at the Mildura Arts Centre (MAC) next Friday, August 30.

It promises to be a highly informative event for agricultural stakeholders in the district. This year’s conference forms part of a State Government initiative #DIF – Digital Innovation Festival, which MRD was invited by the Government to stage some events in Mildura this year.

#DIF is seen as a unique initiative to develop, demonstrate and promote technology and innovation across every sector of the economy and society.

The Agribusiness Conference will utilise the MAC’s auditorium for the keynote speaker’s presentations, with the foyer area being set up with technology displays, industry information kiosks and an on-site virtual reality (VR) dome, provided by digital techno ‘Ignition Immersive’.

The VR dome will allow up to 10 people at a time to enter, and once inside, they will experience a variety of practical demonstrations of virtual reality marketing and training technology. 

Regional Executive ANZ North West Victoria, Jason Marr, said this was the second time the bank has run the conference, saying they were pleased to partner with MRD again to stage the event.

“The main aim of the conference, and what we are trying to do as a bank, is to bring more than just banking products to the region,” he said.

“We want to bring insights from industry experts from across a range of different fields together and bring all the growers and service providers into one room and give them an ability to have access to these industry experts.

The conference will feature four keynote speakers including Mark Bennett, ANZ’s Head of Agribusiness, who was raised on a dryland cropping property in northwest Victoria. 

Also speaking at the conference is Matthew Fealy, a 2017 Nuffield Scholarship recipient, whose area of expertise includes how the use of robotics and automation in horticulture has the opportunity to revolutionise the industry.

The subject of mental health will also be discussed with ‘The Unbreakable Farmer’, Warren Davies, in attendance.

Resilience, persistence and determination are the words to describe Warren, who has seen dark days and has fought back from the brink to survive. 

Following the keynote speakers, a panel discussion and Q&A session, a panel of industry experts from the Victorian Farmers Federation, Cann Group Ltd, Horticulture Innovation Australia, Lower Murray Water and MADEC will tackle some of the major challenges faced by the local ag sector, such as labour requirements, water price and security.

Mr Marr said the ANZ also wanted to shed some light on what industries are doing well and why.

“We want to highlight the investment that is coming into Mildura, and Sunraysia more broadly, and what’s driving that,” he said.

“We will also be looking at what more we can be doing to continue that growth towards the $100billion output for agriculture in Australia, which is what the government is aiming for.

“Technology plays a huge role in the ag sector these days, and becoming more efficient is key, because our cost of labour makes it very hard to compete on a global scale, and so we need to produce better quality products and produce a higher margin so our growers remain profitable.”

Mr Marr paid tribute to MRD Economic Development Project Officer, Sharon Morrell, who is co-ordinating the #DIF project’s involvement with the conference. 

Ms Morell said that MRD was being assisted by Business Victoria Local Events program to host this year’s events.

“As part of #DIF we are running three separate events over two weeks,” she said. “In addition to the Agribusiness Conference, a virtual reality Master Class will be held at SuniTAFE on September 3, and a luncheon with internationally-renowned ‘business-disruptor’ and behavioural change agent Dom Thurbon will be held at the Mildura Quality Hotel Mildura on September 6.”

The conference commences at the Mildura Arts Centre on August 30, at 2pm. To purchase an entry ticket and register attendance visit www.milduraartscentre.com.au/Whats-On/Other/Sunraysia-Agribusiness-Conference.aspx. 

Individual tickets are $15, which includes afternoon tea and drinks and finger food at the conclusion of the sessions.