How to Host a Revolution…Just Ask the Hunter Valley
In May 2016 Hunter Valley hosted the 2016 Australian Wagyu Conference catering to a sector that is quietly leading a revolution in the Australian Beef Production Industry.
The conference theme of Revolution certainly captured the spirit of change sweeping the beef industry in the face of Wagyu’s accelerating popularity with consumers and the extraordinary prices and high yields it is delivering to producers.
Against this market background, conference organisers were seeking a prestigious and highly professional conference and exhibition venue in an aspirational country location.
The Hunter Valley more than answered this brief; as one of Australia’s most beautiful and well-developed regions in terms of tourism and conference infrastructure, it offered conference organisers a wide choice of boutique accommodation, luxury resorts and nature retreats, fine dining restaurants, interesting townships, golfing and spa experiences plus an array of cellar door experiences.
The Hunter also presented relevant context for the conference. Beef production is a well established and dominant agricultural industry in the region; the area is known for its innovation and is influenced by its proximity to major international and domestic markets. These factors have meant that the region was able to offer delegates access to some of the world’s top producing Wagyu operations for post-conference technical visits.
Attracting potential overseas buyers and investors was also a key objective and, by scheduling the conference in the easily accessible Hunter Valley, the event was well placed to boost participation by international delegates.
Revolutionary Thinking and Research
Revolution suggested that the conference program would somehow challenge the status quo. The event delivered this by headlining some of the world’s top innovators and research findings.
The industry shift towards the breed and thirst for up-to-date research, farming methods and technical innovations was reflected in attendance figures; the 2016 conference attracted more than 400 delegates from Australia and overseas markets, the largest attendance in the event’s 15-year history.
Leveraging a Food and Wine Destination
While the conference had a strong focus on research and development, it was also an opportunity to promote the ‘eating quality’ associated with Australian Wagyu beef which is known for its marbled fat content, breeding stock and finishing methods.
The Hunter Valley offered an ideal opportunity to present Wagyu in the context of an internationally renowned food and wine destination. Tasting dishes were prepared by award winning local chefs, premium local produce was incorporated into tasting plates and the Wagyu was matched with an array of excellent Hunter wines.
Delegates also enjoyed access to a broad range of pre- and post-conference activities and experiences. Those who travelled by car were rewarded with some of the state’s most beautiful touring routes, including the drive through World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park with its high plateau, subtropical and remnant volcanoes.
Closer to the conference venue, delegates were able to enjoy an eclectic range of attractions ranging from local artisan markets, galleries and boutiques to steam trains and beautiful heritage villages, Morpeth and Wollombi.
A Sell-Out Field Tour
A key success of the conference was the post-conference field study tour program. More than 130 delegates participated, an unprecedented one third of all those attending.
In developing the itinerary, organisers elected to follow a trail of best practice – the tour extended as far north as Tamworth, distributing benefits along the way to that region and its producers.
Two properties, Delta Wagyu and Kuro Kin Wagyu, were located in the Hunter region; the Delta session included cattle inspections of 10 different mobs plus a data collection demonstration using latest technology. At Kuro Kin, management of a large-scale Wagyu cross-bred operation and seed-stock business was the focus.
On day two of the tour, the group moved to the Jack’s Creek/Warmoll food operation at Breeza in the Liverpool Plains region. In 2015, Jack’s Creek won the World Steak Challenge beating more than 70 producers from 10 nations to be named the producer of the world’s best steak.
Best of Breed – the 2016 Wagyu Conference Delivered Many Benefits
For the Hunter and Tamworth Regions
- The 2016 Australian Wagyu Conference attracted more than 400 delegates to the Hunter Valley, generating strong economic returns for the tourism and hospitality sectors as well as the local beef production industry
- Local producers were able to connect with and showcase their products and operation of the complete beef production and distribution chain to international and national representatives.
For the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA)
- The AWA hosted a highly rated program attracting its largest-ever conference attendance, including increased international representation from overseas export markets
- An unprecedented one third of delegates participated in the field program. This was facilitated by the participation of some of the world’s best Wagyu operations, conveniently located in the Hunter and neighbouring regions
- The quality and professionalism of the event and the appeal of the host destination reflected well on the reputation of the both the association and the industry. Organisers were able to attract globally recognised leaders in the research and development of Wagyu who shared innovative ideas and insights to the benefit of their members.
For delegates and industry
- Delegates benefited from the innovate approach of a sector which aims to revolutionise the Australian cattle breeding industry
- An informative program, networking opportunities and field days gave practical and generous insights into best practice in Wagyu production; the collective aim was a sustainable industry in which all those involved share the benefits of exceptional yields
- The conference venue and the Hunter Valley delivered an experience that catered beautifully to their business and accommodation requirements, providing a relaxed and collaborative setting for networking. The contemporary country destination offered strong appeal to this audience, proving to be fun, interesting, relevant and with diverse experiences.