100th Monkey Vignerons

Charles Darwin once stated, ‘it’s not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent but the most responsive to change’.

The 100th Monkey Vignerons is a paradigm shift in the behaviour of growing, buying and selling wine grapes in Australia. This new shift is founded on leading change via innovation, building competitive advantages, affiliations and teamwork.  This new Riverland enterprise and its website have been launched this week.  It is a cluster of four family businesses.  The foundation members are Ricca Terra Farms, Karelia Station, Liebich Family Vineyards and Sherwood Estates.

100th Monkey Vigneron members love it when they can see questions forming on the lips of people hearing their distinctive name for the first time. According to legend, scientists who were studying monkeys in the early 1950s on the island of Koshima in Japan began dropping sweet potatoes in the sand for the monkeys to eat. The monkeys liked the spuds but frankly the sand was a bit of a turn off. They observed a young female solve the problem by washing her potatoes in a stream. She taught her mother and her playmates, who in turn showed the solution to their families. At one point, the scientists had counted 99 monkeys washing their sweet potatoes before eating them. Later that day the 100th monkey was observed washing its food. By nightfall, the practice spread so rapidly that nearly every member of the tribe was washing potatoes before eating them. It seemed that the 100th monkey was the critical number in the population required to change the behaviour of the majority of the group. 

 Just as the sandy spuds made life difficult for the monkeys trying to stay fed, the well-worn model of the wine industry has been doing the same for grape growers for decades. Grape growers, particularly in the Riverland, find themselves at the bottom of a ‘sandy’, oversupplied chain, which makes it increasingly difficult for them to remain sustainable in an industry where they remain price takers. As the saying goes, “if we always do what we’ve always done we will always get what we’ve always got.”

 A farmer growing grapes and selling to a winemaker has been an uncomplicated transitional process for the past 100 years. Rarely does the grower fully understand the market that the winemaker trades within, nor does the winemaker appreciate the challenges of the farmer. Leading change by bridging the gap between the grower and the winemaker will be a legacy of the 100th Monkey Vignerons.

The foundation members of the 100th Monkey Vignerons have lived and contributed to the Riverland community for more than 100 years. Celebrating, building and fostering past, current and future community is at the heart of the 100th Monkey.


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