The International Business Innovation Mentoring Program (IBIMP) included in the Multi-Industry Export Program (MT21009) aims to support Australian vegetable, onion, and melon growers with one-on-one mentoring and direct strategy assistance that strengthens business innovation, value adding and international trade opportunities.

The program is designed to run for three years, from 2022 to 2025, and a limited funded positions available each year for this strategic focussed program. Growers can gain access to 12 months of service and assistance through support activities to achieve strategic milestones for the business once registered.

The primary objectives of the program are focused on:

  • Assistance with innovation and value adding opportunities post-harvest
  • Receiving strategic advice and support on international marketing, sales and branding strategies
  • Identifying potential export opportunities that significantly expand your business that improves your bottom line while improving risk management
  • Upskilling your business to export directly
  • Uplifting business, market and customer engagement skills
  • Leveraging data with commercial support that turns ideas into actionable business plans
  • Provide assistance from cross leveraging opportunities that promotes reciprocal trade strength
  • Entrepreneurship guidance to personal mindset development and growth
  • Overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 and getting back to business

A total of five growers have received the support from IBMP at the conclusion of year one of MT21009, including Arahura Farms, Dicky Bill, Moonrocks, Wickham Farms and Zerella Fresh.

Arahura Farms, Swan Hill, Victoria

Sean Croft is the General Manager for Arahura Farms. Sean and his family have been growing organic vegetables in Swan Hill for over 15 years, producing organic carrot, celery, beetroot, and other commodities for the Australian retail market as well as the export markets.

With the rapid change in the organic market landscape in Australia, Sean has engaged the IBIMP Program to provide support to his business for a breakthrough in the international innovation space.

“The organic market landscape in Australia is changing quickly. We identified the need for business advice, mentoring and innovation on how to adapt to the current landscape locally and internationally, with the hope to anticipate and tackle what is coming in the future, especially in the organic markets,” he said.

“Working with the IBIMP Program enabled us to get on the front foot with new product strategies for domestic and international markets utilising a fresh set of eyes and objective analysis from someone outside our business. We have been so busy on the day-to-day operation and this support was refreshing to help us to work through the challenges and opportunities”.

During the 12 months of support, the program delivered a few step changes for Arahura Farms, including the development of a diversification strategy for domestic and international markets, as well as the execution of new products developments that suit local and export markets. Other critical aspects were taken into consideration, such as international marketing and product positioning, international consumer and market insights and a refreshed, fit-for-purpose risk management plan for the business.

“The new products we are developing now, and hope to be in market in 2024, is an exciting time for our business. We now realise the importance of business innovation, through having an external support during our business transition and a guidance for the step changes we have needed.”

Arahura Farms is planning to execute their innovation road map for export markets in the next 12 months with their new product offerings.

“Export has always been on our radar, and we have been exporting periodically in previous years. The organic fresh produce market share in international markets has increased over the years, but it is still considered a niche market for organic fresh produce growers. The steep price for organic produce is the main hurdle for us. However, we are confident that we will be able to offer our new products to international markets utilising greater scale, once we have cemented the new offerings with Australian retailers, with the confidence in repeat sales is accomplished.”

“The support we received through the program brings a wealth of knowledge around product innovation, development, and R&D marketing. Having this support available to help guide us through a due diligence stage right through to packaging design and international marketing plan has been instrumental. I highly recommend the program and encourage growers that are seeking to diversify their business to enrol into the IBIMP program”.

Dicky Bill, Maffra, Victoria and Drinan, Queensland

Ryan and Tahirih McLeod are Directors of Dicky Bill, a vertically integrated farming and processing company that delivers value added fresh cut salad products to retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and food service companies both nationally and internationally.

Dicky Bill runs two operations across the country, with one operation based in Maffra, Victoria and another one based in Drinan, Queensland.

“We were going through a re-direction of our business, after a recent business ownership restructure when the IBIMP program was introduced to us. In fact, the support we received from the program came at a very pivotal time in business operations, having access to external business support as a peer and mentor, has assisted us greatly into rethinking the way we run our business and make changes in our product development,” Tahirih said.

Ryan and Tahirih McLeod and sons Jack and Connor of Dicky Bill

“Most of our conversations and discussions were difficult, but the program has greatly assisted us in defining what is important to the success and growth of our business for our domestic and international market customers. These discussions enabled us to develop clear strategic plans for execution, and have already seen significant positive outcomes.”

Dicky Bill has been supplying pre-packaged and value-added fresh cut salad products to domestic and international markets over the years. As the market landscape has evolved rapidly, the business has quickly adapted to the change in consumer preferences.

“The support from the program has provided us with the confidence to initiate supply conversations with multiple retailers, both domestic and international, around our innovative product range, EZherbs, as well as our existing leafy lines. The continued guidance throughout the negotiation process was invaluable, when the advice and guidance came from someone with extensive experience, knowledge, and an understanding of the retail space. It enabled us to implement the building blocks for future proofing the business, from robust process and product development to frequent reporting on what actually matters, so we can better respond to business and industry pressures.”

The one-on-one delivery mechanism intimately supports business owners through the process and enables future aspirations and goals to be incrementally realised. The step changes within the Dicky Bill’s operations underscores the commitment of business owners to drive change, especially in the context of expanding their international footprint. The program’s personalized approach provides invaluable support to business owners, facilitating the realisation of their long-term aspirations and international growth goals.

“Being in an intense horticultural industry means our daily involvement in the business is relentless. However, being able to take the time to strategically focus on the future, embrace critical thinking, and challenge the status quo has been refreshing with support of the program,” Ryan said.

Moonrocks, St George, Queensland

Moonrocks, a generational farming business based in Western Queensland, has been growing for nearly 25 years and is now in its sixth generation of succession. The business has undergone a continuous evolution, transitioning from cropping to horticultural product offerings. Today, its primary focus is on the production of broccoli, onions, garlic, and an expanded range of value-added garlic products.

Led by Andrew and David Moon, the Moon Family is dedicated to advancing their business through innovation, risk mitigation, and diversification strategies, with a strong emphasis on expanding their international market presence.

Andrew and Darren Moon, Moonrocks

“We initially engaged with the program with the aim of refreshing our business mindset during a difficult time in farming with inflationary pressure and changing market conditions. At the start of the program, we conducted a GAP Analysis to identify the bottlenecks in our business.” Andrew said.

Moonrocks has made substantial investments in s pre- and post-harvest technologies for their onion and garlic product lines. They sought to ensure that their business vision aligned with their capabilities, capacity, innovation, market demand, and risk management.

“Sitting down with Trent and our Moonrocks team to work through our strategic objectives, priorities, and product development plans has been incredibly rewarding. Our day-to-day operations keep us busy, and it’s invaluable to pause, reflect, and plan with external support,” added Andrew.

Moonrocks is committed to vertical integration and expanding its portfolio of value-added offerings.

“The technical product support provided through IBIMP has given us the confidence to expand our product range under the G’Day Garlic Brand, including peeled garlic and onion products, for our customers. We are advancing daily with increased domestic penetration and actively exploring international markets.”

“The technical product support, R&D marketing advice, product positioning strategies, risk management insights, and critical thinking gained from this program have helped us with a number of transformative changes in our business, which will materialise in the coming years.”

“We believe that more programs like this one should be made available to our horticulture industry. We extend our gratitude to AUSVEG to design this program and Hort Innovation for their investment into this model. It has benefited our business substantially and we look forward to the realisation from the support provided.”

Zerella Fresh, Parilla, South Australia

Renee Pye, Zerella Fresh

Renee Pye is the General Manager of Zerella Fresh. Zerella Fresh, based in Parilla, South Australia is a second-generation family-owned business that grows, packs, processes, wholesales and distributes potatoes, carrots, and onions. The business, which owned by the Pye Family, has a vision on continual development and evolution of their business into new opportunities.

“The IBIMP program has been a great value to our business. It has helped us in getting our heads out of the weeds, looking above for new and exciting opportunities within our business. Having the opportunity and someone external that has the experience really opens your eyes to other innovations and value adding opportunities that can help our business be sustainable long term,” she said.

“Growing fresh produce puts us in the business area of tight margins. In this competitive landscape, every aspect of our operations must be optimised to ensure profitability. We also operate at the mercy of unpredictable environmental factors. These challenges can affect our production, quality, and supply chain. To succeed in the global market, we must not only manage these factors but also adapt to them effectively.”

Zerella Fresh is currently in the process of developing a range of value-added products, which they anticipate will enter international markets within the next 12 to 24 months.

“The entrepreneurship guidance has been a game changer for me personally, profoundly reshaping our mindset and exploring dynamic development. We are actively capitalising on emerging opportunities, especially those with a strong export potential, and have already observed tangible growth as we passionately pursue these avenues.”

Find out more

There are currently four remaining spots for vegetable, onion, and melon levy-paying growers to undertake the IBIMP program in 2023-2024. For registration and further information on this program, please contact Trent De Paoli at