Updated: Aug 22, 2021
All industry conferences were drastically affected in 2020, with most converting to on-line events and many postponed to 2021. As we recover, it is worth discussing the role of conferences and the new normal.
Early observations in 2021
The start to company roadshows and conference has been mixed, with limited international travel and the threat of rolling city lockdowns. The biannual San Francisco FoodTech Conference was held on-line last week and the Australian annual ABARE conference was on-line the week before. The Australian annual Nut Conference and evokeAg Conference set for March were delayed until 2022. If we look at other industries we can see that the buoyant mining industry had a face to face conference (Euroz) in Western Australian Rottnest Island with 60 (mainly WA) companies presenting and some interstate visitors.
At a high level it is safe to conclude that future conferences will be a blend of face to face and on-line options (Ref: zoho, evolve-events, smartmeetings). The degree of emphasis on face-to-face and on-line will depend on the geographic spread of clients and presenters, and the execution phase of decisions. Face-to-face conference have challenges to avoid waste, minimise travel/accommodation and lower cost. On-line have to work on keeping participants engaged with tailored product with two-way communications. Dropouts and freezes with bandwidth are limiting factors as well.
Role of conferences in agfood sector
We suggest that regionally spread out like agribusiness and food will gravitate back to a higher emphasis on face to face conferences. There are significant challenges bringing vital family farms, long and complex supply chains, and domestic/international investors along the journey to double production by 2050. Major capital and technology injections are required, and there are large leaps of faith with investing up front without long term off-take contracts. Agfood is also very tactile. The taste, feel and health advantages of new and modified products are best done in one location with social interaction.
For example: one of newer AgFood Opportunities investments is a 7.5% stake in Wingara (WNR.ASX). Its business model is based on lifting the quality of Victorian hay making to export grade oaten hay and growing export markets for frozen red and other meats. Linking Victorian and SE Australian broadacre and beef farmers with Asian and Middle Eastern customers needs are major logistical exercises, and involve substantial trading and supply risk. We suggest investors will want to see all of these groups, and a conference is an excellent way to see decision makers in an informal and formal settings. This can lead to a list of people you can relate to and then speak to by phone or zoom/teams at a later date.
The Australian AgFood Conference landscape includes the following (and apologies to those not included):
PAC Partners Agfood – ASX and Unlisted – Melbourne - 21 July
Grains Industry Association of WA
Bega Corporate – Dairy and Food
“The Australian/Visy” – Global Food Forum – Sydney - 1 June
Credit Suisse – Aust and NZ Nutrition
Bell Potter, Macquarie, Morgans, UBS, Wilsons have Australian ASX Listed Conferences with some agfood components
What is AgFood Opportunities Fund doing?
PAC Partners/AgFood Opportunities Fund are running their emerging and ASX listed agfood conference on 28th July in 2021 – this will be our 19th Conference.
We are running a Face to Face Conference in Melbourne and will have on-line options for attendees and storage of presentations for referencing.
We look forward to seeing many of you at the event, and will send details out shortly. Any suggestions and improvements welcomed.