GRDC Research, Development and Extension Plan 2018-23

The GRDC’s purpose

The GRDC’s purpose is:

To invest in research, development and extension to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

The purpose is carefully crafted around core terms:

  • Invest—the GRDC will invest to deliver a return on investment to its core stakeholders; it will not provide grants
  • Research, development and extension—the GRDC will make investments in research, development and extension (RD&E) activities in line with the objectives of the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989 (PIRD Act)
  • Create—the GRDC will invest to develop innovative approaches to constraints and opportunities and facilitate their adoption
  • Enduring—the GRDC will invest to drive long-term, sustainable impact on grain-growing businesses and their profitability
  • Profitability—the GRDC will focus on grower profitability, not just productivity
  • Australian grain growers—the GRDC will invest to deliver value to its primary stakeholders, Australian grain growers. While not all growers will benefit from every investment, the GRDC will aim to deliver impact to all growers commensurate with the levies they contribute.

The purpose of the GRDC is unashamedly focused on the profitability of growers and aligns with the Australian Government’s policy to ‘improve the net farm-gate returns for agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food and fibre industries’.1 Benefits associated with this investment are realised more broadly through:

  • improved economic and social outcomes in rural and regional communities
  • improved environmental management underpinned by sound RD&E
  • enhanced contribution to the broader Australian economy from the agriculture industry.


The resources available to the GRDC for investment in RD&E predominantly arise from levies paid by grain growers and contributions made by the Australian Government. Total GRDC income, including grower and government contributions as well as revenue from interest and returns from the protection and commercialisation of intellectual property, averaged $214 million per annum over the past three years (from 2014–15 to 2016–17).


Grower contributions to the GRDC are made via levies based on the net farm gate value of 25 crops:

  • wheat
  • coarse grains—barley, oats, sorghum, maize, triticale, millets/panicums, cereal rye and canary seed
  • pulses—lupins, field peas, chickpeas, faba beans, vetch, peanuts, mungbeans, navy beans, pigeon peas, soybeans, cowpeas and lentils
  • oilseeds—canola, sunflower, safflower and linseed.

Grower contributions to the GRDC increased from $51 million in 2006–07 to $139 million in 2016–17, commensurate with an increase in the gross value of production (GVP) of the grains sector from $5.1 billion to $18.1 billion (Figure 1). Grower contributions over the past three years have averaged $122 million per annum.

Figure 1: GRDC revenue and RD&E expenditure and grains industry gross value of production


The Australian Government’s contribution is determined annually, based on the three-year rolling average of the GVP of the 25 leviable crops. Government contributions are capped at 0.5% of GVP and have averaged $68.9 million per annum over the past three years.

Investment partners

Effective partnerships with co-investors enable the GRDC to leverage resources and research capability; share market knowledge, technologies and intellectual property; and reduce the risk associated with individual investments.

Most GRDC co-investors are also research collaborators. They include state government departments, CSIRO, universities, cooperative research centres, and private sector bodies. The number of effective linkages between the GRDC and agribusiness participants, including farm advisers and agronomists, is also increasing. Partnerships with agribusiness have tended to focus on the identification of R&D priorities and facilitation of the adoption of R&D outputs by grain growers.

The GRDC co-invests with other rural R&D corporations (RDCs), particularly in addressing cross-sectoral issues defined under the National Primary Industries Research, Development and Extension Framework. This includes collaborations related to the Rural Research and Development for Profit (RRD4P) program and other collaborations where mutual benefit is likely.

In developing approaches to co-investment with other RDCs, the GRDC takes into account that many Australian grain growers are also producers of other agricultural commodities (e.g. cotton, livestock or horticultural produce) and invest in RD&E in those commodities through other RDCs. The GRDC looks for opportunities to partner with relevant RDCs to target R&D outcomes that are returned across the mixed farming system.

The GRDC also recognises that partnering across commodities can generate economies of scale that in turn benefit grains levy payers. Examples of this include biosecurity surveillance with other plant-based industries and investments informed by cross-sectoral strategies on soils and climate research.

These collaborative investment decisions are informed by the identification of common interests through engagement with other RDCs via the Council of Rural RDCs, cross-sectoral collaborations strategies and other forums.

Cross-sectoral partnerships that the GRDC currently leads or is involved in include:

  • Cross-sectoral strategies under the National Primary Industries Research and Development and Extension Framework, on plant biosecurity, soils, climate research and water use
  • Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership
  • Managing Climate Variability program
  • Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative
  • AgVet Collaborative Forum.

The GRDC also builds strong relationships with international partners, both to broaden the resources available to the Australian grains industry and to access international RD&E expertise and/or capacity not available in Australia.

Industry representation

The GRDC works closely with Australian grain growers and their advisers to ensure that identified priorities are effectively addressed through appropriate investment in RD&E. The GRDC engages with Australian grain growers through several mechanisms, including but not limited to:

  • representative organisations as declared under the PIRD Act
  • the GRDC’s advisory panels
  • a range of GRDC-supported delivery and communication channels, such as Regional Cropping Solutions networks, Grower Solutions Groups, grower and adviser updates, and technical workshops on specific issues.

Grain Growers Limited and Grain Producers Australia Limited are the industry representative organisations declared by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The GRDC meets with its representative organisations at least once every six months and provides a formal opportunity for them to review the GRDC’s performance and direction annually. The representative organisations were involved in the development of this RD&E plan.

Broader industry interests are captured through the GRDC’s participation in and interaction with a range of industry bodies, such as:

  • Australian Grains Industry Discussion Group
  • Wheat Quality Australia and the Wheat Quality Classification Council
  • Barley Australia
  • Pulse Australia
  • Australian Oilseeds Federation
  • Grains Industry Market Access Forum
  • Farming Systems Groups
  • working groups focused on specific issues (e.g. pesticide application, glyphosate sustainability or mouse management)
  • crop-breeding groups.

Consultation process

In developing this RD&E plan, the GRDC undertook extensive consultation to ensure that the RD&E priorities of key stakeholders were clearly identified and effectively incorporated into the GRDC’s strategic RD&E investment approach.

Initial workshops were held by the GRDC Board, staff and regional advisory panels to agree on the GRDC’s purpose and identify potential key investment targets (KITs).The findings were tested in workshops with the industry representative organisations. Further initial input was solicited from research collaborators, via survey.

The feedback from the initial consultations informed the development of a discussion document that, in turn, informed the basis of an industry-wide dialogue that encouraged feedback on the GRDC’s purpose, proposed KITs and portfolio balance, or any other aspect of the plan’s development.

KITs were finalised following the industry-wide consultation. Based on this consultation, the GRDC separated the 30 KITs into 10 primary, 10 secondary and 10 tertiary investment targets, reflecting the relative levels of emphasis that the GRDC will initially place on developing business cases for investment in each KIT. This does not preclude continued investment in activities aligned with secondary and tertiary KITs as business cases and investment strategies are developed.

The GRDC's purpose is: to invest in research, development and extension to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

Stakeholder priorities


Growers’ investment priorities for this RD&E plan were identified through a number of mechanisms, including workshops with GRDC advisory panels and representative organisations as well as feedback from the industry-wide consultation undertaken at the beginning of 2018. Ongoing interaction with panels and representative organisations will be an important aspect of the GRDC’s approach to maintaining the alignment of R&D investments with grower priorities.

The GRDC’s regional advisory panels—comprising growers, advisers and researchers, as well as GRDC executives—are particularly important. The panels have been an integral part of the RD&E investment process for almost two decades. Their key functions include:

  • identifying and monitoring regional grains industry issues and national issues that are relevant to the region
  • interacting and exchanging information with grower groups, Regional Cropping Solutions networks and other interested parties
  • identifying and developing priorities for RD&E investment
  • keeping growers and advisers informed about the GRDC’s strategic direction, investment portfolio and research projects
  • assisting the GRDC to monitor the effectiveness of the investment portfolio.


The national Science and Research Priorities were established by the Commonwealth Science Council in 2015, to support research excellence that builds on comparative advantages and maximises the benefits of RD&E to Australia.2 The priorities relevant to the grains industry are:

  • Food—optimising production and processing, enhancing food safety and minimising waste
  • Soil and Water—making better decisions in the context of potentially conflicting demands between development, the environment and landscape management
  • Transport—developing low cost, reliable, resilient and efficient transport systems that meet the needs of businesses and enable sustainable mobility, while lowering carbon emissions and other pollution
  • Environmental change—building Australia’s capacity to respond to environmental change.

The Science and Research Priorities are consistent with the Australian Government’s Rural RD&E Priorities, which were adopted in 2016.3 The Rural RD&E Priorities are:

  • advanced technology, to enhance innovation of products, processes and practices across the food and fibre supply chains through technologies such as robotics, digitisation, big data, genetics and precision agriculture
  • biosecurity, to improve understanding and evidence of pest and disease pathways to help direct biosecurity resources to their best uses, minimising biosecurity threats and improving market access for primary producers
  • soil, water and managing natural resources, to manage soil health, improve water use efficiency and certainty of supply, sustainably develop new production areas and improve resilience to climate events and impacts
  • adoption of R&D, focusing on flexible delivery of extension services that meet primary producers’ needs and recognising the growing role of private service delivery.

Research community

The research community is not simply a provider of research expertise to the GRDC—it is an integral part of the innovation system. Understanding the importance of RD&E expertise and communication capability in achieving its purpose, the GRDC maintains strong connections with research partners, including state government departments, CSIRO, universities, cooperative research centres, other rural RDCs, and investment partners from the private sector. Effective partnerships enable the GRDC to remain aware of new ideas and technologies; leverage resources and research capability; share knowledge and intellectual property; and reduce the risk associated with individual, sole-funder investments.

The GRDC is informed by the Grains Industry National RD&E Strategy, which was developed by research providers and the GRDC in 2011 and updated in 2017. The strategy aims to deliver greater efficiencies in the management and delivery of RD&E resources, and identifies agencies’ core RD&E strengths as well as regional centres of applied RD&E capability. This RD&E plan draws on the Grains Industry National RD&E Strategy to identify future R&D capacity requirements as part of an overall capacity-building focus, as well as identifying potential key collaborators for each RD&E priority or KIT.

Industry supply chain

Grains ‘industry good’ functions deliver benefits across the grains industry, including the entire supply chain—input suppliers, producers, transport operators, marketers and processors. Industry good activities or functions often create valuable information (e.g. wheat classification) and require some form of collective funding by the entire supply chain to ensure that value is both created and captured.

Industry good priorities are currently funded by different combinations of cash and in-kind support, and include:

  • wheat classification
  • malt accreditation
  • grains market access management
  • international market intelligence.

Most of these functions are associated with maintaining the international competitiveness of Australian grain and are important functions that underpin market access and grain grower profit as well as delivering wider benefits across the Australian grains industry.

Corporate governance

The GRDC is a Commonwealth statutory authority under the PIRD Act. It was established in 1990, to plan and invest in RD&E that assists the Australian grains industry to:

  • increase economic, environmental and social benefits to members of primary industries and to the community in general by improving the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of grain
  • achieve sustainable use and management of natural resources
  • make more effective use of the resources and skills of the community in general and the scientific community in particular
  • improve accountability for expenditure on R&D activities.

The GRDC does not undertake RD&E in its own right; rather, it partners with other organisations that have the necessary capabilities. The GRDC is not an industry representative body and does not participate in agripolitical activities.


The GRDC Board, headed by the Chair, oversees corporate governance, sets strategic direction and monitors the ongoing performance of the corporation and the Managing Director.

The GRDC Board operates in accordance with the requirements set out in the PIRD Act and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The Board is accountable to the Australian Parliament through the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, and to Australian grain growers through the representative organisations.

The GRDC Board has between seven and nine directors, who are appointed by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources on the recommendations of an independent selection committee, as specified in the PIRD Act.


The GRDC has five business groups with subgroups as follows:

  • Managing Director’s Office—Legal; Human Resources; and Corporate Affairs
  • Deputy Chief Executive Officer’s Office—Finance; Information Technology; Economics; Governance and Reporting; Business Operations; and Business Development
  • Genetics and Enabling Technologies—Pre-breeding; Data Analytics; and Bioinformatics, Modelling and Data
  • Applied Research and Development—Agronomy; Farming Systems; Soils; Nutrition; and Crop Protection
  • Grower Communications and Extension—Extension; and Communication.

Investment planning and assessment is performed by cross-functional teams involving input from relevant business groups across the GRDC, while individual investment contracts are negotiated and monitored by managers within relevant groups.

Regional focus

The GRDC manages RD&E investments and delivers services to meet the needs of each region and the industry, through a network of four offices: a national office in Canberra and regional offices in Adelaide, Perth, and Toowoomba (Queensland). View contact details for each office.

To strengthen alignment between GRDC staff and grower stakeholders, the GRDC has accelerated the recruitment of staff to its regional hubs in Perth, Adelaide and Toowoomba. Regional hubs are important in providing greater interaction with growers, improved transparency of decision-making and more effective collaboration with co-investors. They provide a regional point of communication for all stakeholders.

Other regional staff are also being recruited, particularly to provide extension activities where close association with grain growers, grower groups and advisers is essential to effective adoption of innovative technologies and practices.

Governance framework

GRDC operations, planning and reporting are governed by a series of requirements set out in legislation and contracts. The following have an important influence on GRDC strategy and investment activities:

  • the PIRD Act
  • the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which applies a common scheme of governance and accountability to all Commonwealth entities
  • the statutory funding agreement between the GRDC and the Department of Agriculture, which is the contractual arrangement with the Commonwealth under which the GRDC receives funds (both government- and grower-derived).

The key elements in the GRDC’s planning and reporting framework are shown in Figure 2. These documents are available for download from the GRDC’s website.

Figure 2: Planning and reporting framework

RD&E = research, development and extension

Please note: GRDC assessed the Australian grains industry landscape and sought feedback from stakeholders to inform the development of the 2018-23 RD&E Plan. Figures and assumptions used in the plan were the best available data in 2018.

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