Hort Innovation’s current investment of the prune R&D levy has a focus on delivering quality communication and engagement activities to strengthen the industry. Read more about the specific initiatives assisting the uptake of new information, technologies and practices in the R&D snapshot below.


After you’ve read about the prune industry’s current levy investments and outcomes in this edition of Hortlink, check out Hort Innovation’s prune grower page. The grower page remains your one-stop-shop for industry information, including:

  • Important updates regarding the prune Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), as available. Developed in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, the SIP is a document outlining the priorities for strategic investment in the industry. It is to be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the prune Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest updates regarding the prune SIAP, including details on the panel’s recently appointed chair, Alison Kelly, and summaries from all SIAP meetings to date. The SIAP last met in September last year and is due to meet again in August/September this year, at the same time as the Australian Prune Industry Association Conference.
  • The 2015/16 prune industry annual report, detailing activities from the previous financial year.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the prune industry.

Any questions?

As well as the prune grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Management Lead Will Gordon is always available to answer questions on the prune program on 0427 920 924 or at



Innovation and adoption for the Australian prune industry (DP15002)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Beginning at the end of November 2016, this project has taken over from previous industry development project Australian prune industry – stage 2 (DP14000). Like its predecessor, it funds a dedicated industry development officer (IDO) to provide growers and other industry stakeholders with information and know-how on R&D, new technologies and best-practice management. The ultimate goal of the project is to drive the adoption of new technologies and practices, and to support decision-making within businesses.

The IDO is also involved in the evaluation of new prune varieties and work into prune quality assurance.

What’s the latest update? ­As under project DP14000, Ann Furner continues to be the IDO for the prune industry. Recent activity in the new project has included:

  • Preparation of an IDO work plan for 2017.
  • Continued liaison with prune growers to understand industry concerns and needs.
  • Creation of content that has been delivered through The Vine magazine and prune industry e-newsletters (both produced under project MT15031, described below), including articles and reports off the back of attendance at the International Prune Association Congress in Chile during November.
  • Release of the Dry Right Quality Assurance Program in December 2016, with training workshops following for dehydrators. Processors were to conduct the first round of on-site inspections early in the 2017 harvest, and gain feedback from dehydrators on how the program has been working on-site. A manual relating to the quality assurance program is available from Ann, whose details are below.
  • Continuation of trials, including ongoing evaluation of trees as part of varietal trial sites – and the organisation of field walks to one of the sites. During 2017, new trial work will include looking at the health benefits of low-temperature drying of prunes.

Throughout the year, Ann will be organising several field days, information sessions and other extension activities.

Ann can be reached on 0467 681 007 or at, and more information on her role can be found in Hort Innovation’s profile at the bottom of this page.

Australian dried fruit communications program (MT15031)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2016, this project continues to maintain and improve communication to Australian dried fruit growers and other industry stakeholders. By keeping the industry up-to-date on R&D, news, events and other critical information, its ultimate goal is to facilitate the uptake of R&D by the industry and support decision-making in dried fruit businesses.

This project is a multi-industry project. Carried out for the benefit of more than one levy industry, it has funding from a combination of industries along with Australian Government contributions.

What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:

  • Quarterly magazine The Vine (a joint magazine between the dried fruit and table grape industries)
  • The Dried Fruits Australia website, (recently redeveloped)
  • Fortnightly e-newsletters.
2016 IPA Congress Tour (DP16700)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This project supported industry attendance at the International Prune Association Congress, held in Chile on November 6-9, 2016. This attendance was for the purposes of building relationships, receiving updates, exchanging information and holding discussions on:

  • The global prune supply/demand situation and outlook
  • Best-practice production techniques and new/emerging techniques
  • Recent research coming out of producing countries
  • Promotion initiatives designed to increase prune consumption.

Findings and outcomes from the event were shared with the Australian industry via articles in the January-March 2017 issue of The Vine magazine, providing a better understanding of the global prune industry and the improved outlook for prunes (with reasonable balance in world supply and demand reported on at the event). The issue can be read here.

Presentations from the event can also be accessed from the International Prune Association website here.

Full details of this industry project can be found in its final report, available to order at Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.

Congress image

A tour prior to the International Prune Association Congress was a chance to visit orchards and gain international knowledge and insights (above)

Drying techniques from Argentina

Solar drying tunnels (left) and prunes sun-drying on raised racks with bamboo mats (right), as seen in Argentina as part of the study tour ahead of the International Prune Association Congress



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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