The new Loxton Research Centre (LRC) adds another volume of compelling evidence of the power of the Riverland and Mallee community when shoulders are put to the wheel and the gifts of imagination, energy and passion are combined with attitudes of open mindedness, co-operation and ‘can do’.
The vision began more than seven years ago in 2009 when it was blindingly obvious the old LRC had run its race. It had run out of puff. Research activities and scientists had been syphoned off as programs and projects were consolidated and absorbed into larger research institutions including AWRI, CSIRO and universities around the nation where true ‘Centre of Excellence’ could be established and strengthened. The LRC, as we had known it, was in decline. It was tough for those still at the coalface but it was inevitable. The new imperative for all associated with farming was that operational scale had to be achieved in laboratories as well as on-farm if our producers and scientific institutions are to be globally competitive. The question on everyone’s mind was.… what next?
There was plenty going on in the background. The irrigator community was pulling together, building the case for South Australian irrigators to be fairly recognised by the MDB Authority for the decades of responsible river management, licensing restraint, water use efficiency and environmental custodianship.
Riverland Wine, a tenant at the LRC since 2007, was stitching together plans and arguments for all the region’s primary producers to combine some of their resources and transform the old LRC into the Riverland and Mallee Primary Producers Business Centre (RaMPP).
Federal Minister for Regional Development, Simon Crean visited in early 2012 and met with the planners. He enthused but could do no more than commend and congratulate. He remarked “if you can make it work here in the Riverland and Mallee, it could well become a model for regions around the nation”. Sentiment was positive. The broadacre community had recently joined the planning group. There were sporadic bursts of energy but the wheels fell off when it came to sensible seed funding. Most of the producers were still reeling from the impact of the drought and a decade of difficult market conditions. RaMPP stalled.
But then in 2013 the MDB Plan was finally revealed. South Australia’s leadership in the battle to ‘Save the Murray’ was rewarded. The SARMS program was unveiled and the LRC was thrown a lifeline.
The new LRC is stunning; it’s world class. The original building has been reskinned inside and out. It’s been generously and thoroughly rejuvenated. It’s impressive. The opening ceremony was a triumph. The ‘white elephant brigade’ was nowhere to be seen. Local, State and Federal politicians all expressed gratitude and admiration for what the community had achieved. Backs were slapped, the ribbon was cut and hundreds of people came and saw and were conquered. The ‘markets’ were another revelation. Smiles all round.
The RaMPP opportunity is now more alive than ever. Seed funding will still be a challenge but the concept is well established and the facility is operational. The old centre is pumping.
The ‘C’ words are key words in all of this: Consolidation, Collaboration, Community and Can do. The incentive is now there for all primary producers to collaborate on common issues and make it work for every horticulturist, agriculturist and value-add enterprise in the Riverland and Mallee!
Scroll to the bottom of the roundup and watch the video of the new LRC and surrounds.