Protecting agricultural and food technology innovation in Australia and New Zealand

Protecting agricultural and food technology innovation in Australia and New Zealand

Protecting agricultural and food technology innovation in Australia and New Zealand



Australia and New Zealand share a strong and close economic and cultural heritage. Both countries have proven track records in agriculture. Now, Australia and New Zealand are about to enter a phase of rapid translational agriculture development into agribusiness. This transition to agritech innovation provides unparalleled opportunity to capitalise on a rapidly growing market, not only in Australasia but the entire Asia Pacific region.

Seeking intellectual property rights in Australasia

There are many reasons to seek intellectual property (IP) rights in Australia and New Zealand:

  • Strong systems for IP protection and enforcement
  • The development of high end value processed agricultural products and foods
  • The creation of a conductive environment to access market capital
  • A transportation hub to the Asia Pacific region
  • A specialised “delicatessen” and “plant nursery” for Asia

Australasian agriculture

The innovative processes developed within the global agricultural and food technology industry exemplify human ingenuity and highlight the importance of agribusiness. However, there are challenges facing world agriculture in terms of supply constraints brought on by climate factors, transport and other input costs and diminishing availability of arable land. This, together with demographic changes, are contributing to an ever increasing demand for agricultural products sourced from Australia and New Zealand. Australasian agriculture production is safe, clean, green, sustainable and ethical, providing considerable demand for produce and processed foods by world markets. Plant-based products such as grains, fruit and vegetables alone make up 45% of Australia’s agricultural produce and this is driving significant innovation by plant breeders and plant geneticists.

The business case

There is a great opportunity for businesses to invest in pre- and post-farm gate technology and be part of a growth in the agribusiness industry expected to reach upward of A$1.7 trillion by 2050 in Australasia (ANZ Insight, Issue 3, October 2012). Foreign investment in Australian agriculture stood at $3.6 billion in 2011-2012 – Just 2.1% of total foreign investment in Australia. The agribusiness industry is developing into  a great opportunity for business to invest in pre-and post-farm gate technology.

Protecting IP in the agricultural and food technology industry will enable stakeholders to benefit from exciting new developments and innovation from farm machinery and computer driven water management systems to new crop varieties and genetically enhanced farm animals and plants. Strong Systems of IP Protection including branding create a conducive environment to access market capital. There are multiple systems of IP protection available to capture the intellectual capital generated by agricultural development and these systems can encourage investment in innovation. These systems include patents, Plant Breeder’s Rights, design registrations, trademarks and copyright. Commercial contracts can also be used to ensure royalties are recovered and strong and enforceable custom provisions also complement these rights.
Australia and New Zealand are set to become a major distribution and transportation hub to supply the Asia Pacific region by well established and safe sea and air routes. Complementing strong IP laws are equally effective custom provisions. Protecting IP in Australasia makes perfect business sense for any stakeholders in the agribusiness sector seeking to capitalise on the quality of Australian and New Zealand produce and the next phase of translational agricultural research leading to high end value processed and functional foods.

Further opportunity exists for the horticultural industry as Australian and New Zealand plant breeders and geneticists invest to develop a global and regional plant nursery.

The delicatessen and plant nursery concept

The concept of Australia and New Zealand as the food bowl of high quality produce for Asia is unrealistic. However, with a developing agritech industry comes new high end valve products.

High quality produce, a skilled and innovative workforce and proximity to Asia will enable Australia and New Zealand to become a global hub for value added agriculture and food products-the specialised “delicatessen” of the Asia Pacific region. Additionally, the horticultural industry in Australia and New Zealand will further enable these two countries to be global and regional “plant nurseries”.

The Australian and New Zealand IP registration system covering patents, plant varieties, designs and trade marks enables strong protection for innovation in the agricultural and food technology sector.

Seeking advice

At Davies Collison Cave (DCC), we have dedicated and experienced IP professionals which specialise in protecting IP associated with agricultural and food technology. IP can be protected as an integrated framework defined by business goals. With DCC to assist in protecting IP in this industry sector, individuals, small to medium businesses and corporates can gain a competitive advantage in all facets of agricultural and food technology including food processing, packaging, branding and export which will enable greater access to, and security in, rapidly growing domestic and international markets.

Australia and New Zealand are open for agribusiness. DCC can assist in providing an IP framework to protect innovation in this exciting growth area.
This article was prepared by the Agribusiness team of Davies Collison Cave which specialises in providing advice to individuals, small to medium businesses and corporates in all aspects of agriculture and food technology.

The Agribusiness team includes:

Dr John Hughes, Partner
Mark Roberts, Partner
Dr Paula de Bruyn, Partner
Dr Gavin Recchia, Partner
Dr Alex Tzanidis, Senior Associate   
Dr Amanda Lee, Trainee Patent Attorney