Far North Queensland horticultural producers have taken the first step to capitalising on new market opportunities with a visit to see how the value-adding space works.

Funded by the State Government’s Training in Emerging and Innovative Industries Fund (TEII), which is being delivered in the region by FNQ Growers, the group visited several food service businesses on the Tablelands and Cairns, as part of a tour including the Far North Food Incubator, Malanda Dairy Centre, Coffee Works, Mareeba, and the Barrier Reef Brewery, Stratford.

TEII Project Manager Leanne Kruss said adding value to raw agricultural products was one way of achieving increased profitability.

“The current consumer trend of preference for locally produced and Australian foods fits with creating value,” Ms Kruss said.

“It can be in the form of marketing a unique product, filling a market niche, simplifying the supply chain or providing a service or lowering costs.”

Ms Kruss said value adding required growers to take a different approach but it was vital producers were well informed before making the change.

“Turning farm products into food products adds significant value but before starting down this road, producers should understand where the road will lead them,” Mr Kruss said.

“This involves risk and requires a new skill set.

“Creating alliances that can combine resources to achieve common goals reduces this risk.”

FNQ Food Incubator founder and developer of Fang’s Chilli Sauce, Clinton Fang, said there was huge potential for the region’s horticultural producers in the value-adding space.

Mr Fang, who started the incubator with the aim of establishing a shared facility that other people can use to produce value added products, encouraged the region’s producers to set aside some of their produce to value-add.

“If you are doing something completely different or value added, even if it’s two to five per cent of your business, then this gives you an opportunity to look at different markets – like the 640 million people in Asia,” Mr Fang said.

Ms Kruss said the study tour was a resounding success and allowed producers to make connections at the incubator.

“The team of business and marketing advisers and food technologists at the incubator offer an ability to reduce the expense, anxiety and personal financial risk to growers who have an innovative idea for a new food product and want a state-of-the-art facility to trial and plan before large scale up.”