It’s no secret the vegetable industry has a large R&D program! To see exactly how Hort Innovation is investing the industry’s levy, below you’ll find a complete rundown of all new, ongoing and recently completed projects across the industry’s four key pillars: Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management; Market & Value Chain Development; Consumer Alignment; and Drive Train.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

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

  • Important updates regarding the vegetable Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), as available. Being developed in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, the SIP is a document that will outline the priorities for strategic investment in the vegetable industry. It is to be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the vegetable Strategic Investment Advisory Panels (SIAPs) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest updates regarding the vegetable SIAPs. There are separate panels appointed for the Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management (FPRUM), Market & Value Chain Development (MVCD) and Consumer Alignment pillars of the vegetable industry. The grower page includes panel members, details of the panels’ recently appointed chair, Bob Granger, and summaries from all SIAP meetings to date.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the vegetable industry.

R&D SNAPSHOT: FARM PRODUCTIVITY, RESOURCE USE & MANAGEMENT

As well as the below project updates and Hort Innovation’s vegetable grower page, for more information on what’s going on within the FPRUM pillar of the vegetable industry, contact Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Byron de Kock on 0417 622 773 or at byron.dekock@horticulture.com.au

Review of current irrigation technologies (VG14048)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? Wrapping up at the end of 2016, this project was designed to give Australian vegetable growers an understanding of available and emerging irrigation practices and technologies, and to support the uptake of more efficient water practices.

With a focus on producing resources and education tools for growers, some of the outputs of the project have been three videos highlighting current and progressive technologies available here, here and here. There was also delivery of 19 workshops across the country, attended by over 225 growers and other industry stakeholders, and a review document of current irrigation technologies.

Full details can be found in the project’s final report, available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.

Soil condition management – extension and capacity building (VG13076) and Extension of integrated crop protection information (VG13078)

Status: Ongoing projects

What are they all about? Project VG13076 is the industry’s well-respected Soil Wealth project, while VG13078 is the equally important Integrated Crop Protection initiative. Together, the projects are responsible for delivering essential information on soil, pest and disease management to help vegetable growers implement practical, economically sound, sustainable practices within their businesses.

Key program topics include reduced tillage approaches; compost and soil biology; correct nutrition; the role and use of cover crops, including for natural weed suppression; control methods for specific pests and diseases; and integrated pest management (IPM) for environmentally sensitive pest control.

What’s the latest update? To support the uptake of improved management practices, both programs deliver information through a range of channels, including direct engagement with growers and horticulture advisors; demonstrations of new innovations on grower properties; workshops; farm walks; webinars hosted by relevant experts; social media; and the delivery of resources such as factsheets, videos and web content.

For full information on both projects, visit www.soilwealth.com.au.

Upcoming events in both projects, including farm walks, webinars and more, are listed here, while all resources available through the projects, including fact sheets, case studies and videos, are available here.


Learning about management practices at Manjimup WA

Growers learning about land management practices at a demonstration site in Western Australia, as part of the Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection programs


Using autonomous systems to guide vegetable decision making on-farm (VG15003)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is all about the application of intelligent sensing systems, robotics and precision agriculture automation in Australia’s vegetable industry. It is developing, evaluating and ultimately supporting the commercialisation and adoption of such technologies, with the end goal of increasing industry productivity, particularly in relation to brassica, lettuce and baby leaf growing.

Applications will help improve crop performance and resource use – including through the precision application of inputs – and assist in decision making by providing timely and accurate information such as predictions of optimum harvest time and the estimation of yield and product quality.

The project is linked to Evaluating and testing autonomous systems developed in VG15003 in Australian vegetable production systems (VG15059), which is responsible for expanding evaluation of technologies across a range of growing regions and crops.

What’s the latest update? In addition to laboratory work, the project is progressing the study of a range of sensing systems using the well-known Ladybird and RIPPA robots in both trial-farm and commercial-farm settings (read more about the robots here).

These sensing systems for on-farm decision-making include:

  • Imaging sensors for detecting crop and weeds
  • 3-D point cloud sensors to observe plant structure
  • Hyperspectral sensors that can provide information outside the visible spectrum – which may, for example, help identify water stress and damage before changes are visible to the human eye
  • Thermal cameras for detecting water stress
  • Soil probes for mapping soil properties such as moisture and conductivity.

Work is also progressing in relation to mechanical weeding, with a mechanical weeding mechanism developed that uses a tine to remove weeds detected using the ‘VIIPA’ (Variable Injection Intelligent Precision Applicator) perception system.

As with project VG15059, the project has also continued to showcase the applications of the RIPPA robot to vegetable growers – including functionalities such as automated driving, automated soil mapping and data collection – as part of demonstrations on commercial farms.


RIPPA and Ladybird

The RIPPA (left) and Ladybird (right) robots being used in projects VG15003 and VG15059


Vision systems, sensing and sensor networks to manage risks and increase productivity in vegetable production systems (VG15024)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning at the end of 2015, this project is all about the application of automation, robotics, vision systems and sensing technologies (specifically hyperspectral imaging and wireless sensor networks) in the vegetable industry. It has a particular focus on rapid yield assessment and earlier problem detection, to increase on-farm productivity and manage risks.

The project’s work involves collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Queensland University of Technology and CSIRO.

What’s the latest update? With a number of avenues of research, recent work in the project has included:

  • Ongoing trials and data collection working towards the development of vision-system tools for rapid yield assessment in vegetable crops. Looking at capsicum, two protected-cropping trials have been completed, with three more planned for later this year. In this vision system work, cameras are capturing 3D data of capsicums to ‘train’ and evaluate vision-based algorithms. The first field-grown trials in this area were planted in September last year, with data collection beginning in December.
  • New trials working towards early problem-detection using hyperspectral imaging. Initial research is looking at the development of tomato spotted wilt virus in capsicum, with the goal of using hyperspectral imaging to detect disease symptoms before they are visible to the human eye. Being conducted in tightly controlled conditions, these initial capsicum trials are being used as a proving ground for the research methodology before more complex plant problem scenarios are approached, and before in-field research can be conducted. The researchers note this a complex and highly experimental type of investigation.

Capsicum plants

Capsicum plants being used in the hyperspectral imaging trials as part of project VG15024. Under controlled conditions, the leaves will be imaged to build a ‘spectral signature’ of tomato spotted wilt virus, to progress hyperspectral identification of the disease.


Improved skill for regional climate in the ACCESS-based POAMA model (VG13092)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? POAMA is the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal prediction system, and ACCESS is a new national modelling system for applications ranging from weather forecasting to climate change projections. This project represents a component of work, evaluating improvements to the ACCESS model and allowing the vegetable industry to feed into its development. The overall aim is to provide improved spatial and temporal forecasting in regions of interest to vegetable growers.

What’s the latest update? The next version of the modelling system, ACCESS-S1, is due to become operational this year. Recent work in this project has focused on evaluating the performance of the new system for rainfall, maximum temperature and minimum temperature forecasts on seasonal and multi-week timescales in nine key regions of importance to vegetable growing. The researchers note that there is still scope for improvement in the forecasts.

The effects of using anhydrous ammonia to supply nitrogen to vegetable crops (VG15062)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? Anhydrous ammonia is a high-nitrogen fertiliser used widely in the cotton and grain industries. This project has investigated the potential for its use in the vegetable industry as a cost-effective and efficient method of supplying nitrogen to crops.  It has culminated in the production of this factsheet for growers: Anhydrous ammonia for vegetable crops: Could it be a viable option?

The researchers note that the fertiliser, which is applied using specialised equipment, has beneficial effects on soil microbes, nitrifying bacteria and worms. It is also initially converted in the soil to ammonium, which can be held in the soil and resists leaching.

They suggest that anhydrous ammonia could be used effectively in the vegetable industry, though it is more suited to row crops than crops such as baby leaf, which require more even distribution of nitrogen across the beds.

Full details are found in the factsheet and also in the project’s final report, which will soon be available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.


VG15062

Application of anhydrous ammonia as part of project VG15062


Developing technical guidelines and a best practice extension toolbox for greenhouse construction and safe operation (VG16004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is developing nationally recognised greenhouse standard for inclusion in Australia’s National Construction Code. It follows on from previous industry project Building codes and greenhouse construction (VG13055) and is also developing a best-practice suite of tools and extension materials for greenhouse construction and safe operation. It will ultimately ensure growers are all on the same page and support the construction of strong, reliable, safe and cost-effective structures for protected growing in the vegetable industry.

What’s the latest update? Towards the end of last year, the project ran the ‘Greenhouse Construction and Safe Operation Grower Survey’ through numerous industry channels, with data now being analysed. The survey contained questions aimed at obtaining information surrounding growers’ needs, concerns and suggestions in regards to the certification, operation and information requirements of greenhouse and other growing structures in Australia. The survey also identified growers for future field investigations and data collection in the project.

Work continues in other aspects of the project, including the development of platforms to distribute fact sheets, case studies and regulatory guidance.

Other Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management projects of note…

Specific project activity updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink, as they become available.

  • Adoption of precision systems technology in vegetable production (VG16009), a new project to support the vegetable industry in adopting precision agriculture technologies. The researchers note that industry investment in machine guidance and controlled traffic systems means it is primed to develop and optimise precision approaches. The project will develop case-study farms in each state for research and extension, including training events and field days, and will develop video and fact-sheet resources to showcase potential applications of relevant precisions technologies. With work getting underway at the beginning of this year, more detailed project updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink.
  • Facilitating adoption of IPM through a participatory approach with local advisors and industry – training component (VG15034) and its associated Coordination component (VG15035) and Evaluation component (VG15036). These ongoing projects are working to increase the uptake of integrated pest management practices among vegetable growers, with the overarching aim to make IPM a mainstream method of controlling pests within a decade. There is an initial focus on South Australian activities, with a view to expand to other regions.
  • A multi-faceted approach to soil-borne disease management (VG15010), an ongoing project that provides vegetable growers with the skills, tools and solutions needed to manage the risk of crop losses due to soilborne diseases. The project includes the use of best-practice demonstration sites, field days, workshops, videos, fact sheets and other digital resources, as well as integration with the Soil Wealth and Integrated Crop Protection programs (soilwealth.com.au) to extend results.
  • A strategic approach to weed management for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15070), which was established at the end of 2016 to deliver weed management tools and approaches. The project will identify and improve integrated management strategies for high-priority weeds and develop guidelines and a host of resources for growers. It will ultimately help reduce the dependence on herbicides and tillage for weed control, which can become ineffective when used repeatedly. Read more about the project in this Hort Innovation news article, produced for the project’s launch last year.
  • Investigating novel glass technologies and photovoltaic in protected cropping (VG15038), which began in 2016. This project is improving energy-efficient design and energy use in greenhouses, having a focus on the use of smart glass and semi-transparent photovoltaic glass (STPVG). It will deliver a reliable and comprehensive evaluation of innovative technologies, including their economic viability and benefits. When it was announced in July last year, it received plenty of media attention, with Hort Innovation’s news article still available here.
  • Data analytics and app technology to guide on-farm irrigation (VG15054), which is developing a mobile app that will help guide irrigation decisions on-farm. The app will be able to estimate vegetable crop water use and soil water balance, and as a result take away some of the uncertainty when it comes to knowing when and how much to irrigate.
  • Optimising benefits of vermiculture in commercial-scale vegetable farms (VG15037), which is investigating the use of commercial-scale vermiculture in the Australian vegetable industry to improve productivity (with vermiculture the cultivation of earthworms to convert organic waste into compost and/or for direct soil integration and management). The project will develop guidelines for the use of vermiculture as part of soil and nutrient management, and provide a cost/benefit analysis to help growers decide whether to adopt the approach.
  • Effective pollinators and their requirement in vegetable crops (VG16013), a new project investigating the effectiveness of native bees as alternative pollinators to honey bees in select crops (solanaceous and curcubit vegetables) in protected cropping set-ups. The work will look at improving native bee husbandry and their use in glasshouses, and delve into how key environmental factors in glasshouses impact on pollinators and pollination to optimise pollination services.
  • Investigating labour supply options across the Australian vegetable Industry (VG15025), which has been responsible for investigating the labour supply needs of the industry and how they are currently being met, and for identifying labour solutions. This project has recently concluded, with its report to be extended to industry shortly.
  • Review of the National Biosecurity Plan for the Vegetable Industry (VG15065), which began in 2016 and is reviewing the industry’s current biosecurity plan. The revised plan will identify the current highest-risk pests to the industry, the risk mitigation activities needed to reduce the biosecurity threat, and the surveillance and diagnostic activities and capabilities available.
  • Strengthened biosecurity for the Australian vegetable industry – stage 2 (VG15020), an ongoing project that supports the activities of the Vegetable Industry Biosecurity Advisor at AUSVEG. The advisor coordinates industry input into a range of biosecurity matters, and helps ensure effective communication of relevant technical information on biosecurity to growers.
  • Characterisation of a carlavirus of French bean (VG15073), which was established at the end of 2016 to characterise a new carlavirus found infecting Fabaceae crops in in South East Queensland, and identify potential distribution and incidence of the virus in other French bean production regions of Australia. Importantly, the project will develop and help growers adopt management strategies for the virus, resulting in improved pack-out, increased marketable yield and a reduction in the impact of the disease.
  • Innovative solutions for management of tospoviruses of vegetable crops (VG14063), an ongoing project that aims to address gaps in DNA sequence information for Australian tospoviruses, which infect a broad range of horticulture crops. This information is critical for the development of diagnostics and for management. The project also aims to generate information on host-pathogen interactions that may lead to identification of novel genes for resistance and help deliver broad-spectrum resistance to tospoviruses.
  • Improved management options for cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (VG15013), which began early in 2016 to help combat the threat of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus. Its work includes identifying weed hosts of the virus and the potential role of other factors, including honey bees, in its incidence. It will also develop improved diagnostics for plant and seed material, with a view to developing in-field tests for rapid detection, and produce guidelines and other materials to support improved virus management and help growers strengthen on-farm biosecurity.
  • Effective management of parsley summer root rot (VG13101), an ongoing project that is developing a greater understanding of summer root rot of parsley and investigating effective management options.
  • Management and detection of bacterial leaf spot in capsicum and chilli crops (VG14010), an ongoing project that aims to increase the capacity of the vegetable industry to implement integrated disease management programs for bacterial leaf spot of capsicum and chilli field crops. It is identifying causal agents of the disease, reviewing existing research and filling in knowledge gaps, and investigating control measures.
  • New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (1) (VG13041) and New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (2) (VG13042), which have been developing approaches for in-field control of fruit fly in vegetable crops, to allow market access interstate and overseas. Project VG13042 recently wrapped up, while VG13041 is due for completion in the coming months. Both projects’ findings will be summarised in an upcoming edition of Hortlink.
  • Advanced stable fly management for vegetable producers (VG15002), which began in 2015. The project is investigating strategies to reduce the development of stable flies in crop residues left after vegetable harvest. As well as assessing the ability of the flies to lay eggs on residues, it is looking at the use of new machinery for deep burial of crop residues; the use of biological agents including beneficial fungi and predatory insects; and non-chemical approaches to removing stable flies from carrier animals. Recent work has highlighted the potential for burial and compaction of post-harvest resides to dramatically reduce stable fly development.
  • Precision seeding benefits for processing pea production (VG15039), which began in late 2016. This project will help improve the productivity and profitability of processing peas in Tasmania specifically, to underpin an industry average yield on eight tonnes/hectare. It will evaluate stand density and plant spatial arrangements, and explore ways to modify plant structure from single to multiple stems at establishment to increase overall number of pods on the first and seconds nodes that flower (these are the nodes which contribute to over 90 per cent of overall yield). The project will also evaluate commercial seeders and establishment practices.
  • Improving soilborne disease diagnostic capacity for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15009), an ongoing project that is using world-leading DNA testing technology to provide growers with a way to assess the risk of soilborne diseases caused by select pathogens prior to planting. This knowledge, when applied with sound disease and soil health management strategies, will contribute to a reduction in the losses from soil-borne diseases.
  • Innovating new virus diagnostics and planting bed management in the Australian sweet potato industry (VG13004), which has been running since 2014 to build knowledge of endemic and exotic sweet potato viruses, and improve sweet potato virus diagnostic capacity in Australia. It has a number of key goals and activities, including reviewing current information on viruses and diagnostic techniques; conducting annual virus surveys and planting-bed monitoring in major growing regions; developing and implanting virus diagnostics; and communicating project-specific information via field walks, workshops, fact sheets and guides.
  • 2016 Global Innovations in Horticulture seminar (VG15032), an ongoing project that is currently working towards delivery of the 2017 Global Innovations in Horticulture event. In 2016, the seminar was held on the Gold Coast in June. These events are designed to assist the industry in tackling current and future challenges. They convey knowledge about up-to-date technologies and practices, showcase new opportunities for levy investment, and promote collaboration between vegetable producers and researchers on a global scale. Grower attendance is supported by the project.
Further projects for this pillar also include…
  • Investigating on farm HACCP programs for managing plant pests of biosecurity concern – an options paper (VG15051)
  • Manipulation of regulatory microRNAs to suppress insecticide resistance in diamondback moth (VG13111)
  • Viruses of national importance to the vegetable industry (VG15008)

R&D SNAPSHOT: MARKET & VALUE CHAIN DEVELOPMENT

As well as the below project updates and Hort Innovation’s vegetable grower page, for more information on what’s going on in the MVCD pillar of the vegetable industry, contact Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Brad Wells on 0412 528 398 or at brad.wells@horticulture.com.au.

Vegetable industry export strategy (VG15052)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This project has developed a comprehensive vegetable industry export strategy that seeks to increase the value of Australia’s vegetable exports by 40 per cent, to $315 million, by the year 2020. Read Hort Innovation’s news article on the new Vegetable Industry Export Strategy 20202 here, and access a summary of the strategy from Hort Innovation here. For a full copy of the strategy, contact AUSVEG on (03) 9882 0277.

Sensitivity study – impact of increasing exports on the domestic vegetable market (VG15061)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This project was responsible for quantifying the economic impacts (impacts on vegetable production, exports and prices) in future scenarios of change in vegetable export activity. Scenarios of change included:

  • ‘Freer trade’, modelling tariff reductions under the successfully negotiated Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea. The project found this scenario was expected to increase the demand for levy-paying Australian vegetables in export markets by $4.8 million per year by 2024/25 (a 1.8 per cent increase in export value)
  • ‘Wealthier consumers’, modelling a wealth increase leading to a greater demand for more clean, green and safe produce in Asian countries. This scenario was expected to increase demand by $9.35 million per year (a 3.5 per cent increase in total export value of levy-paying vegetables)
  • ‘Greater supply chain efficiency’, modelling the achievement of five per cent efficiency in the supply chain between farm gate and the exporting destination. This scenario resulted in the largest increase in value of exports, to the tune of $9.8 million per year (a 3.7 per cent increase in export value).

The researchers note that the interaction between these distinct scenarios will likely lead to much larger positive impacts for vegetable growers.

The project’s modelling and analysis has also indicated the regions with the greatest potential to expand production and export facing increasing demand for Australian vegetable exports, with full details available in the final report. The report is available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.

Understanding the nature, origins, volume and values of vegetable imports (VG12083)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project seeks to understand the nature, origin, volume and value of vegetable imports coming into Australia. It examines data from a range of sources and produces annual summaries.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Spring 2016). At the time of last reporting, the below import fact sheets had been produced, detailing top imported vegetable products:

At the time of last reporting to Hort Innovation, the researchers had looked back at 2015 import activity and noted that imports hadn’t changed significantly in comparison with previous years. Frozen vegetables continued to account for the majority of vegetables imported to Australia, with 79,492 tonnes imported for categories examined compared to 3,765 for fresh and 23,359 for preserved. Peas were the only crop where the volume of imports exceeded the estimated volume of domestic production, with the researchers explaining this was largely due to long-established large volumes of imports of frozen peas from New Zealand.

Other Market & Value Chain Development projects of note…

Specific project activity updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink, as they become available.

  • Creating value from edible vegetable waste (VG15076), established at the end of 2016. Addressing the issue of vegetable wastage on-farm and post-farm-gate, this project will develop new knowledge and process to improve recovery of edible material. Avenues of exploration will include the extraction of ‘nutraceuticals’ from vegetable waste; the processing of edible waste into new fibre-rich, healthy raw ingredients and food products; and the use of fermentation to develop next-generation fermented vegetables. The project will have a focus on brassica vegetables and carrots.
  • ProbiSafe – developing biocontrol agents to inhibit pathogen growth (VG16005), a new project for the industry with a focus on keeping vegetables healthy and safe. It will develop, verify and make available new biological control agents (new strains/blends of beneficial bacteria) to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria on vegetables. The result will be an additional level of safety in both fresh and processed produce.
  • Removing barriers of food safety certification for vegetable exporters though GLOBALG.A.P. co-certification (VG16019), which began in September 2016. This project supports the benchmarking of the Freshcare Food Safety and Quality Standard (FSQ4) against the internationally recognised GlobalG.A.P. standard. Successful completion of this benchmarking, and recognition of the Freshcare Standard by GlobalG.A.P., will help streamline compliance processes for Australian growers accessing export markets. More detailed project updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink, while Hort Innovation’s announcement of the project from last year remains available here.
  • Feasibility study to collect and report wholesale market price information for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15057), which is exploring the opportunities for an improved wholesale price-reporting system.
  • New end-point treatment solutions to control fruit fly (1) (VG13043) and New end-point treatment solutions to control fruit fly (2) (VG13044), ongoing projects that are working towards disinfestation treatments for Australian vegetables. The practical tools, technologies and strategies they deliver will help safeguard and improve both domestic and international trade.
  • Improved management of pumpkin brown etch (VG15064), which began in 2016 to improve management of brown etch, which is estimated to reduce grower revenue by more than $2.5 million annually. The researchers will confirm the cause and environmental conditions conducive to brown etch, and investigate varietal resistance/susceptibility in current commercial varieties. They will then develop and evaluate suitable control measures and extend management strategies to growers.
  • Vegetable industry market access and development program (VG13097), which has been responsible for a range of market development and access activities for the Australian vegetable industry, with a focus on establishing and improving relationships between Australian growers and exporters and buyers in Asian markets. As one of many parts of this project, Australian vegetables have been showcased in international markets under Australia Fresh – the multi-industry export-market-development program for fruits, nuts and vegetables. Industry participation has occurred at the Fruit and Vegetable Fair in China at the end of 2016, and both the World of Perishables and Gulfood trade events held in Dubai in November 2016 and February this year respectively.The project has recently concluded, with full details to be made available in its final report. The report will ultimately be available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies. A new export development initiative is in the works, with Hort Innovation currently appointing a service provider for the project.

R&D SNAPSHOT: CONSUMER ALIGNMENT

As well as the below project updates and Hort Innovation’s vegetable grower page, for more information on what’s going on within the Consumer Alignment pillar of the vegetable industry, contact Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Christian Patterson on 0433 896 753 or at christian.patterson@horticulture.com.au

Identifying and sharing post-harvest best practice on-farm and online (VG13083)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project is responsible for documenting and communicating techniques and technologies that will help vegetable growers achieve post-harvest efficiencies. The aim is to find ways to improve quality and shelf life, and to reduce cost, allowing growers to capture more value from the supply chain.

What’s the latest update? Key education tools produced for growers by the project to date include:

  • The hard-copy Postharvest management of vegetables: Australian supply chain handbook, which outlines the best and most cost-effective ways for handling vegetables in the post-harvest period. To order your copy, contact Applied Horticulture Research Office Manager Sandra Marques. Materials from the handbook – and many more – are also available on the project’s new website at www.postharvest.net.au.
  • A three-hour workshop program with materials and demonstrations to help packing-shed managers, quality assurance officers and other supply-chain business representatives optimised vegetable handling and storage. Workshops have been rolled out in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia at the tail-end of 2016, with sessions planned for Queensland early in 2017. Event details will be available at postharvest.net.au/events.
Vegetable snacking options market research – stage 2 (VG15060)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? Established in 2016 and recently concluded, this short project has undertaken market research into vegetable snacking options, looking at distribution channels, smaller vegetable product forms and overcoming issues and challenges related to using locally produced vegetables in processed snack form.

The research has identified a number of distribution channels worthy of consideration for fresh vegetable-based snacks, in addition to mainstream food retailers and services. These include vending machines, education channels such as school canteens and childcare meal services, health and fitness related venues, and accommodation, airline and workplace channels. Department stores, as well as online speciality, health and recreation stores, were also identified as potential channels for the distribution of shelf-stable snacks.

As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, project work also included assessing vegetable products that have potential as fresh snacks. The below attributes were identified as ideal in a fresh vegetable snack:

  • Small if not bite-size, ideally naturally or else with minimal fresh-cut processing
  • Available in whole form, or with minimal processing, to maximise portability and freshness
  • Pleasant taste and texture, along with no major digestion challenges
  • Able and pleasant to be eaten in a raw and whole form, in reasonable quantities
  • Able to be eaten on the go, offering convenience and minimal mess.

Of 50 vegetables assessed in the project, 17 were identified as being most suited for consideration as fresh snacking options. These include beans (butter and green), broccoli, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, mushrooms (button, portabello, shiitake and specialty), peas (green, snow and sugar snap), radishes, squash, swedes, sweet corn, tomatoes and zucchini.

And while there is demand for healthier snacks, and opportunities in the fresh and processed vegetable snack market, the researchers note that any proposed investment in this area must incorporate a sound business strategy to:

  • Overcome the challenges associated with operating in a competitive snack food market
  • Clearly identify and incorporate a range of desirable product attributes that meet market demand
  • Identify the most appropriate and effective distribution channel/s to reach the intended target market
  • Identify suitable technology that generates economies of scale and allows for the inclusion of desired product attributes.

Full details can be found in the project’s final report, which will soon be available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.

EnviroVeg Program for promoting environmental best practice in the Australian vegetable industry (VG12008)

Status: Completed project, soon to be continued by The EnviroVeg Program 2017-22 (VG16011)

What was it all about? The EnviroVeg Program is the industry’s environmental best management practice (BMP) program, and has existed in evolving forms since 2000. It involves a range of resources and services so that Australian vegetable growers can benchmark and improve their BMPs and showcase their environmental credentials through certification. Full information can be found on the program’s website, www.enviroveg.com.

Project VG12008 took over the program in 2012, and has recently concluded. It will now be continued by project VG16011.

Specific objectives of the EnviroVeg Program are to:

  • Provide a process for environmental certification of specific vegetable production BMPs that are underpinned by robust R&D
  • Ensure a mechanism for vegetable growers to provide input into how environmental certification develops within the industry
  • Measure and collate long-term quantitative and qualitative data on changes in environmental and BMP techniques of Australian growers
  • Facilitate market recognition of and competitive advantage from EnviroVeg branding.

Achievements of VG12008 have included:

  • Establishing a tiered membership structure to EnviroVeg in consultation with industry, with each level requiring different assessment and compliance criteria.
  • Continuous extension of program information to industry, with a number of workshops conducted over the life of the project, and each edition of Vegetables Australia magazine containing a selection of EnviroVeg articles, including case studies.
  • The services of the EnviroVeg coordinator, who conducted ongoing visits throughout vegetable grower regions, to sign new members up to EnviroVeg, help growers complete self-assessments as part of the program, and communicate R&D information to growers.
  • The use of a smartphone app to enable grower members to access program resources, available from the iTunes App Store here.
  • The addition of a biosecurity component to the program.
  • A formal arrangement between EnviroVeg and a recognised on-farm quality assurance program, with an agreement reached for EnviroVeg Platinum certification requirements to be encompassed by the Freshcare Environmental program. This will mean that certification through EnviroVeg Platinum is robust and underpinned by an accredited scheme. EnviroVeg resources will also be streamlined by outsourcing certification delivery to Freshcare. Co-badged certificates between Freshcare Environmental and EnviroVeg Platinum will deliver environmental branding for vegetable growers, as well as the opportunity for new members to join this tier of the program from the ranks of pre-existing Freshcare Environmental members.

Full details can be found in the project’s final report, which will soon be available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.

Development of a vegetable education resource – stage 2 (VG15067)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is optimising and expanding a vegetable education resource, developed for use by teachers in Australian primary schools through previous project VG13089, prior to its national roll-out. Ultimately, the resource is expected to positively influence vegetable consumption and therefore increase demand. The project is referred to as ‘VERTICAL’ – the Vegetable Education Resource to Increase Children’s Acceptance and Liking.

What’s the latest update? Work continues towards the development of a robust resource, with the current iteration having been reviewed by an expert reviewer – a school teacher/principal with experience in writing and evaluating curriculum resources. Reviewing the resource against the newly developed Australian curriculum, there was good alignment found across key learning areas for students, including science, literacy, mathematics, technologies and physical health and education.

A student study, teacher surveys and interviews, and classroom observations are being used with this feedback to prepare a new version of the education resource.

Work towards developing a teacher training module has also begun.

Other Consumer Alignment projects…

Specific project activity updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink, as they become available.

  • Demographic research for the vegetable industry – Phase 2 (VG15019), also known as Nielsen Homescan data. This project produces a series of regular and ad-hoc reports looking at consumption in the Australian vegetable industry, using the Homescan data drawn from a panel of 10,000 members, representative of Australia’s demographics. The reports continue to be available through the Infoveg portal.
  • Consumer and market program for the vegetable industry (Project Harvest) (VG12078 and VG14060), which is soon to wrap up and will be continued by a new project. ‘Project Harvest’ has monitored consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviour in relation to specific fresh vegetable commodities. It identified trends in purchase and consumption habits, identified gross amount spend month to month, and captured perceptions of value. It also analysed actual retail pricing and availability at various outlets, and summarised news and innovations from around the world in relation to the Australian context. Project reports remain accessible through the Infoveg portal.
  • Process improvements for preserving peak freshness in broccoli (Stage 2) (VG14062), which is assessing ways of improving the retail quality of broccoli – including the effect of different cooling methods and rates after harvest on subsequent storage quality. It is testing new ways to reduce yellowing of broccoli, and also identifying points in the cold chain between harvest and retail where breaks or inefficiencies could be occurring.
Further projects for this pillar also include…
  • Transformational solutions to challenges and issues facing the Australian vegetable industry (Phase 1 – problem definition) (VG16022)
  • Vegetable trend forecasting and analysis (VG16027)
  • Outstanding research tasks in consumer research for vegetables (VG16021)
  • Crisis management and awareness for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15016)

R&D SNAPSHOT: DRIVE TRAIN

As well as the below project updates and Hort Innovation’s vegetable grower page, for more information on what’s going on within the Drive Train pillar of the vegetable industry, contact Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Byron de Kock on 0417 622 773 or at byron.dekock@horticulture.com.au.

Vegetable industry communication program 2016-2019 (VG15027)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project is responsible for effectively communicating the findings of levy-funded R&D and other relevant industry news, issues and data to growers and other industry stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to increase awareness of project outcomes and inspire on-farm adoption of new learnings and technologies.

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:

  • Weekly e-newsletter Weekly Update
  • The bi-monthly Vegetables Australia magazine, with current and back issues available here
  • Vegenotes factsheets, available here
  • Annual publication Grower Success Stories, recently released and available here
  • InfoVeg services, soon to include vegetable industry YouTube videos
  • Social media updates in AUSVEG channels including Twitter.

The project also provides media relations for R&D-related news, including the production and distribution of media releases.

National Vegetable Extension Network (multiple projects)

Status: Ongoing program involving multiple projects

What’s it all about? The National Vegetable Extension Network (VegNET) aims to keep growers informed about current R&D activities, results and resources, supporting the adoption of industry best practice and bolstering vegetable production in key growing areas across the country.

The program involves the employment of dedicated professional extension/capacity staff in vegetable-growing key areas, the delivery of specialised events and distribution of R&D materials, and information gathering on future R&D project requirements.

What’s the latest update? The National Vegetable Extension Network was established in 2016 and multiple service providers are involved in the roll-out of its activities. The 10 key Regional capacity building to grow vegetable businesses projects that make up the program include:

The program is also supported by Regional capacity building to grow vegetable businesses – national coordination and linkage project (VG15049) and Regional capacity building to grow vegetable businesses – training and evaluation (VG15050).

Vegetables Australia magazine carries special features on upcoming events related to the program.


IDOs

The National Vegetable Extension Network industry development officers and coordinating staff from across the country


Vegetable industry education and training initiative (VG15028)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project has a focus on providing targeted training programs to help upskill participants at all levels in the vegetable industry.

What’s the latest update? A new website for the program was launched in December 2016. The www.vegpro.com.au destination will be the hub for all training initiatives run through the project, and for bringing together all related education and training opportunities.

The project team is currently scoping training opportunities and progressing them, where appropriate, with topics including food safety, work, health and safety (WH&S) and business management training. Visit www.vegpro.com.au/training to see current opportunities (including initiatives run separately to the project).

Growers are encouraged to nominate areas in which they’d like to receive training, with a simple web form for submitting ideas available at www.vegpro.com.au/training-needs-open-call.

Nuffield scholarship (VG14065)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project provides funding to support Nuffield Scholars in the vegetable industry, with one Hort Innovation scholarship to be awarded each year of the project’s life from 2016 to 2019. Nuffield Scholars complete a 16-week scholarship to travel overseas and study a topic related to horticulture.

What’s the latest update? As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, the project’s 2017 scholar is Bao Duy Nguyen of Walkaway, Western Australia. Bao is the director of Sun City Produce, and grows cucumbers and tomatoes. His Nuffield project has a focus on protective cropping in horticulture. He’ll be looking at efficient practices in low-tech greenhouses around the world, with an emphasis on monitoring technology and water sustainability practices.

With Bao’s overseas research soon to commence, he, his scholarship and the vegetable industry have received a range of media coverage, including this article in The Weekly Times in January, and this article The West Australian.

Baos’ Nuffield profile is also available on the Nuffield Australia website here.


Bao

2017 Nuffield Scholar Bao Duy Nguyen (right) on his farm with WA’s Minister for Agriculture and Food, The Hon. Mark Lewis MLC


Growing Leaders (VG15030)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Growing Leaders is the vegetable industry’s leadership program. Established in 2016, this specific project is responsible for running the program from 2016 to 2018. In each of the three years, it will develop the leadership capacity of diverse participants from across the vegetable industry supply chain, building their personal, business and industry skills and knowledge to help transform the industry through vision, engagement, action and leadership.

What’s the latest update? Applications for the 2017 Growing Leaders program closed on January 13. Details of the program can be found here. Applications for next year’s program will be announced in industry communication channels in the future.

Other Drive Train projects…

Specific project activity updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink, as they become available.

  • Vegetable Young Grower Development Mission and Women’s Development Missions (VG15703), an ongoing project that supports both Young Grower Development Missions – international tours that focus on increasing the leadership capacity of the younger generation of Australian vegetable growers – and Women’s Development Missions, which have a specific focus on supporting female members of the industry. The missions expose growers to international industries and markets, providing opportunities for education and the chance to see innovations being pursued around the world. They also promote networking and relationship building, and provide the chance for industry to identify growers suited to leadership roles.
  • Financial performance of Australian vegetable farms 2013-2014 to 2015-2016 (VG13068), which has now concluded and is being carried on by Financial performance of Australian vegetable farms 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 (VG15077). These projects have been and will be responsible for producing annual economic surveys of the vegetable industry, collecting comprehensive production and financial performance data, production intentions and issues of particular interest to industry stakeholders. The latest report, Australian vegetable-growing farms: An economic survey, 2014–15 and 2015–16, was released in early February this year and is available to download from Hort Innovation here.
  • 2016-18 European Industry Leadership and Development Mission – Berlin Fruit Logistica (VG15701), which supports industry participation at the Berlin Fruit Logistica trade fair as part of overseas missions also incorporating visits to leading agribusinesses overseas. The project helps strengthen relationships between Australian growers an international, colleagues, adds knowledge and value to the industry through communication activities, and plays a role in identifying and developing future leaders for Australian horticulture. In 2017, the leadership and development mission took place from February 4 to 11.
Vegetable levy investment in strategic co-investment projects…

What are ‘strategic co-investment’ projects?

Hort Innovation’s strategic co-investment initiative is responsible for developing collaborative cross-industry projects. These projects endeavour to solve major and often complex challenges crucial to securing the future of Australian horticulture. They are funded via a combination of Australian Government investments (at least $20 million annually) and co-investments that are brokered and managed by Hort Innovation (including from research institutes, commercial partners, individual levy industries and more).

How is the vegetable industry involved?

The vegetable industry has co-invested levy funds in the Global Masterclass in Horticultural Business (LP15001) project. This project is part of the strategic co-investment Leadership Fund, which you can read more about here. Through the project, the vegetable levy investment supports vegetable industry scholarships for the Masterclass in Horticultural Business course.

For a good overview, watch Hort Innovation’s new video on the Masterclass in Horticultural Business below:

The Masterclass is delivered with world-leading agriculture university Wageningen Academy in the Netherlands, renowned university Lincoln in New Zealand, and key provider the University of Tasmania. The course is the first of its kind in Australia and dedicated to supporting business skills and personal development for growers and other horticulture industry participants. Key areas covered include:

  • Horticultural management
  • People and culture
  • Supply chain management and logistics
  • Financial management and law
  • Horticultural marketing and communication
  • Global trends and international business
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Business development and strategy.

The 2017 course began in February this year and will run for 10 months, with online training and three face-to-face sessions.

Opportunities for 2018 scholarship applications will be announced through industry and Hort Innovation channels in the future.


Veg Scholars

Vegetable scholarship recipients in the Masterclass in Horticultural Business initiative


FACES OF HORTICULTURE

CLAIRE RUSSELL, GROWER – HOUSTON’S FARM, TAS

Setting foot in the Tasmanian horticulture industry four years ago, Claire Russell made it her mission to absorb as much knowledge as possible.

A former senior agronomist, Claire was recently appointed Production Manager for salad ingredients at Houston’s Farm in the state’s Coal River Valley region, which produces fresh, ready-to-eat baby lettuce and herbs.

With innovation, know-how and good old-fashioned hard work underpinning the company, the Tasmanian is always looking for ways to make “more valuable contributions to Houston’s productions system”.

“I am responsible for ensuring we have the best inputs and management techniques in place to maintain a healthy crop, so we have quality leaves available for harvest on a year-round basis,” she said.

“I also spend a lot of time talking to seed reps and overseeing in-house variety trials, and I try to get to as many grower workshops and field days as I can, because building professional networks is something I am passionate about.”

Expanding knowledge and networks

When the opportunity presented itself for Claire to attend a levy-funded mission geared specifically towards women in the vegetable industry, she leapt at it.

The 2015 Women in Horticulture Industry Leadership and Development Mission took eight participants on a two-week tour throughout leading vegetable growing operations and other innovative agribusinesses in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. The mission was part of industry project VG15703 – funded by Hort Innovation using the national vegetable levy and contributions from the Australian Government, and described in the project summaries above.

“Apart from a couple of trips to New Zealand, I had never been exposed to any production systems outside of Australia, so I was eager to learn about new ways of doing things,” Claire said.

“The mission was a great opportunity to broaden my existing skillset and, of course, travel as part of a group of strong, successful, like-minded women.”

During the mission, participants were introduced to new farming methods, equipment, technologies and strategies currently being used in European horticulture.

European innovation

Claire says many of the countries visited were widely recognised for setting impressive benchmarks in their operations.

She says the horticulture sector in the Netherlands had a particularly strong focus on innovation.

“Bird Control Group has developed a laser system that ensure birds are kept at a safe distance from commercial and agriculture activity,” she said. “Birds are a major problem for farmers – they can transmit diseases and significantly damage crops. The system is animal-friendly but extremely effective in repelling the birds.”

Claire said she was inspired by the creativity and “aromatic architecture” on show at Koppert Cress, a Netherlands-based company that collaborated with chefs and mixologists to create uniquely flavoured micro-greens, micro-vegetables and other specialties.

“We also went to Crop’s NV vegetable processor in Geer, Belgium, which specialises in different value-adding products and uses a bio-gas production system to manage its waste,” she said.

The mission recognised the pivotal role that women play in the Australian vegetable industry and allowed participants to develop networks and discuss mutual areas of interest.

Claire started her career 15 years ago at a time when the industry was “very male-dominated”, but said the industry had become “much more supportive and accepting of women” and the diverse skills they bring to the table. “There are more opportunities to step up in leadership roles,” Claire said.

 

This profile first appeared in the 2016 edition of Grower Success Stories. The publication is produced by AUSVEG under Hort Innovation project ‘Vegetable industry communication program 2016-2019’ (VG15027), described in the project summaries above. Visit the AUSVEG website for more. Photograph by Loic Le Guilly

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