The increased investment is seeing local wineries expand capacity and upgrade their facilities to meet increasing demand for Australian wine.
It has also led to a substantial expansion of table grape, almond, avocado, wine grape and citrus plantings, supported by improved commodity prices and access to new markets.
Industry collaboration is starting to improve the bottom-line profitability of farmers.
Australian farmers have long worked together in an effort to share best practice and innovation and this has become an emerging trend in Sunraysia in recent times.
Locals report stories of citrus-growing farmers sending fruit to another producer to pack and market on their behalf. In return, the first farmer packs and markets the other farmer’s avocados.
Smaller wine grape producers are also pooling their grapes resulting in volume premiums from domestic wineries.
Importantly, combining supply also enables farmers to consider exporting to markets such as China where distributors, supermarkets and e-commerce providers are looking for a continuous & consistent supply of large volumes from fewer suppliers.
Of course there are potential inhibitors to growth and for Sunraysia one of the biggest challenges is the region’s high cost of production - namely labour and access to affordable water.
“I think if the Sunraysia is to do any more growing than it's doing at the moment, we need better stabilisation in the water industry,” Ryan Marr, owner of Trentham Fresh Avocadoes and Mangoes said.
“I think we need more supply. We've actually got diminishing supply at the moment not only due to a bit of a dry spell we’re going through, but the basin plan is taking some of the available water for horticulture so it's going be really tricky over the next few years to see how that plays out.”
It goes without saying quality remains paramount in meeting both domestic and international consumer expectations. This is particularly important in markets like China, for example, where Sunraysia grapes sit on-shelf beside South African grapes which retail for a quarter of the price.
Thankfully the continued importance of quality is well-recognised among local growers.
“When we had this idea of starting this business we knew that if we always grew a quality product there’d always be home for it which is why we always try and give the customer the best experience,” Marr said.
“When we're harvesting our own fruit we try and get it off the tree into the packing shed to the customer as quick as possible, the fresher the better.”
On top of diversifying their business in terms of commodity & geography progressive farmers are also embracing new varieties and genetics which are helping to lift profitability due to benefits such as pest resistance, higher yields, drought tolerance and reduced crop maintenance – helping de-risk their businesses.
Jason Marr, Regional Executive North West VIC, ANZ