New research aimed at boosting industry and community understanding of the challenges posed to agri-business developments by an expanding urban fringe and changing rural demographic has been released by 2015 Nuffield Scholar and NSW primary producer Bernadette Mortensen.
The report investigates the viability of agri-businesses in a changing landscape, and the effect of urban sprawl on existing land uses, as well as the role of policy and legislation in shaping the next wave of agri-business growth.
With support from Woolworths, Mrs Mortensen was motivated to undertake her Nuffield Scholarship after experiencing first-hand the challenges that land use and planning processes can pose to agri-business development.
As an avocado and free-range chicken producer on the NSW central coast, Mrs Mortensen has had to grapple with complex planning processes to ensure the viability of her business, and was keen to use her Nuffield experience to improve industry and community understanding of the challenges and opportunities posed by our changing urban and rural landscapes.
‘‘My Nuffield research set out to investigate rural expansion and diversification and the motivations behind objecting to or approving developments, and looked at solutions to build better engagement between farmers, communities and governments to prioritise the importance of food production and meet community expectations,’’ Mrs Mortensen said.
‘‘It found that a renewed approach to communication, flexibility and understanding in planning and farm diversification was needed, in order for farmers to remain financially viable and to feed a growing global population.’’
Mrs Mortensen’s research confirmed that many other agricultural countries faced similar challenges when the viability of farming was impacted by segments of the community that had limited understanding of the resources needed to produce food, and an assumption that scale and intensification automatically led to poorer environmental, community and animal welfare outcomes.
The report recommends that government and agri-business improve co-operation, and focus on improving mapping and data collation around existing land use, developments and approved technologies.