Growing Innovation – June 2017 edition

“It’s really satisfying to make a difference”

Industry development officer: Ann Furner, prune industry

As part of Hort Innovation’s project Innovation and adoption for the Australian prune industry (DP15002), Ann Furner holds the integral role of industry development officer (IDO).

In this position, Ann focuses on communicating the relevant learnings of current R&D to the prune industry, effectively bridging the gap between the world of science and the reality on the ground in Aussie farms.

It’s a responsibility Ann takes very seriously, and one she engages with great dedication and passion. “Having an IDO is a really good way to share information and build knowledge within the industry,” Ann said. “And my role is exciting!”

Adoption in action

Finding and sharing information is only the first step – it’s supporting the on-farm adoption of this information within industry that’s ultimately an IDO’s purpose and pleasure. And this is what Ann is ultimately most proud of. She’s been an integral part of a number of adoptions and shifts within the prune industry that have arisen from her work.

“Last year we had an incredible grower and industry representative from California come over, Joe Turkovich, and he held a thinning demonstration for Australian growers. Since then, we’ve seen maybe up to around 70 per cent of growers using thinning as one of the many tools to improve size and sugar levels in the fruit, which equals a better return to the growers,” Ann said.

“It’s really satisfying when you see the role making a difference like that, because ultimately that’s what it’s about.”

Variety is the spice of life

One of the most exciting adoptions Ann is currently involved in is the introduction of new prune varieties to the Australian market. “We’ve recently been sharing research about new prune varieties, with two trial blocks each with five different varieties currently underway. These sites were established prior to me becoming involved, and now I’m currently involved in evaluating established trees . The blocks feature new prunes from around the world, including Californian and South African varieties, which is also incredibly exciting”.

Ann expects that next year, come time for new prune blocks to be planted in Australia, there’ll be quite a number of these new varieties going in the ground and inevitably onto the shelves.

A global approach

As well as local projects, strong global relationships connect Ann to important regions for prune farming and research across the world – namely California, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Serbia and South Africa. Ann said these networks help the Australian industry build on its own R&D efforts. “It means we can rely on others, too, and gather information from across the globe to share among our growers,” Ann said. “There’s a great value in being connected to the international prune community. It’s fantastic to be able to bring that knowledge to my own industry here in Australia.”

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