2013 Scholar, SA
Farmers in general don’t have a good understanding of supply chains beyond the farm gate according to South Australian farmer Lachie Seears. However rather than just words, Lachie has backed his concerns with action, using a scholarship to research supply chains around the world. Lachie, a mixed cropping and livestock farmer from Lucindale, was particularly keen to investigate value-adding opportunities.
“I really wanted to gain an understanding into the processing supply chain, and any value-adding opportunities for the pulse industry. In particular I wanted to see what happens to our commodities once they leave the gate and before they hit the plate, as I think farmers in general don’t have a good understanding as to what happens to things once they leave their farm. They see it leaving their property on a truck and then they see it in a supermarket and farmers don’t really have a full understanding as to the time it’s taken, the amount of dollars invested and just the risks that are associated once it leaves the farm,” he explains.
Lachie believes by taking an interest in what happens post farm-gate, producers can build stronger links with the consumer.
“I think if we have a good understanding of what the consumer wants, we can then ensure that what we are doing on-farm is what they want once it gets to the end. To investigate this, I had to first look at what happens with domestic processing of pulses, and then from there I just kept following up that supply chain, before I ended up in Egypt talking with people that are consuming our pulses as a staple of their diet,” he says.
Lachie broke his individual travel into two major sections, engaging with processors and consumers, but then also spending time looking at competitors as well.
“As an example, engaging with the processors and consumers saw me end up in the Middle East, particularly Turkey and Egypt, where I saw our pulses arriving in bulk shipments and saw what happens to them that sees it end up being eaten for breakfast in a hotel or in peoples own homes,” Lachie says.
The biggest key learning Lachie has taken from his Nuffield travel is to develop and value relationships with people along the supply chain.
“It’s investing in them and being prepared to ride the ups and downs of the commodity markets as time goes by – for me as a farmer, I don’t see that I make all of my money in the big years. I’m prepared to ride the ups and downs, but I want to have a market that I can supply to every year."
Given the importance Lachie places on meeting stakeholders and understanding networks, he believes Nuffield has been the perfect vehicle to achieve his goals.
“Absolutely, it’s a great network and it gives you a launching platform to then talk to so many people around the world – it’s been a great starting point to a journey that’s only just beginning,” he concludes.