See how Hort Innovation is putting the vegetable levy to work!

With a robust R&D program spanning four key investment pillars, we know there’s a lot to take in. To make things easy, simply click here to see the full list of all new, current, and recently completed projects. Then click on a project name to be taken straight to its overview.

If you’d prefer to browse through all project summaries and results, just skip to the start of the R&D snapshots and scroll down through the content.


Along with Hortlink, don’t forget that Hort Innovation’s vegetable grower page is an important source of industry info for levy payers. On it you’ll find:

  • Updates on the vegetable Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) for 2017-2021. The SIP is being prepared in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, and will outline priorities for strategic investment in the industry. The vegetable Strategic Investment Advisory Panels (SIAPs) will ultimately use the SIP like a ‘roadmap’ when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest meeting notes from the vegetable SIAPs. There is a separate SIAP for the Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management, Market & Value Chain Development, and Consumer Alignment pillars of the vegetable industry.
  • Current financial documents regarding your levy, including the July 2016 to March 2017 financial operating statement, and expenditure summaries for R&D projects.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the industry.




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 Sam Turner on 0418 164 717 or at

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

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project has developed a suite of information in relation to building and operating greenhouses and other grow structures for growers and the vegetable protected cropping industry. The resources are housed at and include fact sheets on…

  • Safe management practices, including fire prevention and working at heights
  • Local government approval processes
  • Design requirements and considerations
  • Access and egress requirements
  • Other issues and common grower concerns.

The project also set out to develop a national greenhouse standard for inclusion in Australia’s National Construction Code (NCC). The project’s Proposal for Change to the NCC was open for industry comment between May 1 and 19, as advertised in industry channels. The final proposal will be submitted to the Australian Building Codes Board, with updates to be provided to industry as available.

New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (2) (VG13042)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? Looking at ways to manage and monitor fruit fly in vegetable crops, this project has produced a grower-friendly guide that brings together its new research and existing information into a single handy resource.

The Fruit Fly Management for Vegetable Growers is available to download from Hort Innovation here. Hard copies of the booklet were also distributed at the recent Hort Connections conference, and will be available at field days and other upcoming industry events.

Key practices described in the guide are also demonstrated in these short fruit-fly-control videos (click to watch):

The new research carried out by the project focussed on two previously untested methods for managing and monitoring fruit fly in vegetables: netting and repellents; and attraction with UV light. The netting work is summarised on p26 of this edition of Vegetables Australia magazine.

In brief:

  • Floating row covers proved both a visual and physical barrier to fruit fly, and also improved yield and quality of capsicums in the trials (though yield and quality was unaffected in the other crop involved in the research, chilli)
  • Netting that was draped over crops and secured with soil effectively excluded flies in the tested crops
  • Vent Net, which has a large mesh size, allowed flies to crawl through, but still significantly reduced entry of flies into the crop – cutting fruit fly infestation by 98 per cent
  • Though Aphid Net reduced fruit fly infestation by 99 per cent in the project’s trials, other pests inside the crop increased
  • VegeNet was completely effective in blocking flies while it remained intact and sealed to the ground
  • Surround kaolin clay applied to chilli plants seemed to deter fruit flies, with further examination required in this area
  • A small field trial was conducted using a prototype UV light trap, with the use of the light doubling the number of flies captured on yellow sticky traps and with more females captured than males
  • The researchers suggest a combination of UV light with another attractant, such as protein bait or an odour lure, could provide better results than either method used alone, with further work required in this area.

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

New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (1) (VG13041)

Status: Completed project

What’s the latest update? As with project VG13042, described above, this project has also investigated new approaches for the in-field control of fruit fly in vegetable crops (ultimately working towards market access for key vegetable commodities interstate and overseas). It has assessed a combination of perimeter protein baiting and male annihilation, as well as alternative chemical options to dimethoate and fenthion. It has also developed data on seasonal fruit fly activity.

With the project’s final report soon due for completion, look for a wrap-up in the next edition of Hortlink.

Manipulation of regulatory microRNAs to suppress insecticide resistance in diamondback moth (VG13111)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? In short… Beginning in 2014 and recently concluded, this project begun investigations into insecticide resistance in diamondback moths. In short, the results of its laboratory-based work found that exposure to or resistance to insecticide led to changes in the ‘microRNA’ profile of the moths, and that manipulation of the abundance of these microRNA may, in the future, lead to reduced resistance to insecticides in the pest.

In more detail… The diamondback moth is considered the most economically important pest of cruciferous crops in many parts of the world, including Australia. It has an unrivalled ability to develop resistance to all classes of insecticides, and its sustainable management relies on the adoption of flexible integrated pest management strategies. In many instances, the mechanism of resistance is metabolic ‘detoxification’ of insecticides and is heritable.

‘MicroRNAs’ are small ribonucleic acids (the building blocks of genetic material) that play significant roles in various physiological and developmental processes in all plants and animals, by regulating expression of genes.

In this project, researchers explored the effect of insecticide resistance and insecticide exposure on the microRNA profile of diamondback moth larvae. Using next generation sequencing, results showed changes in the microRNA profile of Deltamethrin-resistance and Chlorantraniliprole-exposed moth larvae, with the abundance of a number of microRNAs being affected.

Subsequently, a short-listed number of microRNAs were tested in bioassays in which Deltamethrin-resistant moth larvae were fed on synthetic ‘mimic’ microRNAs and then exposed to the insecticide. Results showed that one of the microRNAs, miR-2b-3p, can significantly enhance mortality in Deltamethrin-resistant moth larvae, presumably by decreasing the production of a key protein involved in the larval detoxification pathway.

In order to move towards practical application of the findings of the proposed research, this microRNA is currently in the process of being artificially produced in a model plant, Arabidopsis, to test larval mortality in insecticide-resistant larvae when treated with the insecticide.

New breeding technologies and opportunities for Australian vegetable industry – pulse check (V16010)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? This short project is responsible for undertaking a global review of available and new breeding technologies and strategies, and their potential to integrate into and enhance Australia’s vegetable breeding programs.

What’s the latest update? Due for completion in the near future, look for a summary of key project findings in the next edition of Hortlink.

On-farm evaluation of vegetable seed viability using non-destructive techniques (VG16028)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Contracted in February this year, this project is investigating technologies to optimise seed quality, enhance healthy and uniform germination, and improve seedling establishment for vegetable growers. Specifically, it is reviewing the range of available technologies that may assist in screening seed viability on-farm; providing information on how these technologies can be used within the Australian vegetable industry; and providing recommendations for new technology for real-time, on-farm grading of seed viability pre-planting.

The project is also documenting seed longevity of economically important vegetable crops, and will explore on-farm storage options to ensure seeds maintain optimum quality.

What’s the latest update? The project has begun with the researchers conducting on-farm visits and surveys with a range of growers and industry affiliates to better understand current seed issues and concerns. A literature review of current approaches for maximising seed vitality has also kicked off. As the project progresses, look for more detailed updates in future editions of Hortlink. It is also expected that the results of the grower survey will be sent out in industry channels in the near future.

Gap analysis and economic assessment for protected cropping vegetables in tropical Australia (VG16024)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? While there has been significant expansion of protected cropping production systems in Australia, much of this growth as been in the country’s temperate regions. Beginning in March this year, this six-month project will increase awareness of, and information about, protected cropping opportunities and technology options specifically for the vegetable industry in Australia’s tropics. It will identify gaps in current information, and assess the practical and economic viabilities of protected cropping options in these regions.

As well as providing decision-making information to growers and other industry stakeholders, it is expected the project will help in the prioritisation of future R&D efforts for the industry.

What’s the latest update? With project work now getting underway, look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.

A multi-faceted approach to soilborne disease management (VG15010)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in December 2015, this project provides vegetable growers with the skills, tools and solutions needed to manage the risk of crop losses due to soilborne diseases. Its work 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 described below ( to extend results.

What’s the latest update? Recent resources available from the project include…

An article on cavity spot and forking in carrots, caused by Pythium species, also appears on p16 of this issue of Vegetables Australia magazine.

The project’s upcoming webinars, Soilborne Disease Masterclasses, farm walks and other activities continue to be advertised in industry channels, including AUSVEG and Hort Innovation newsletters, plus the events section and eBulletin of

In regards to field work, to date in the project eight field trials and a series of pot trials have been established, overseen by three grower groups covering leafy vegetables, carrots and capsicums. In these trials, the effectiveness of control measures are being assessed, including chemical and biological products and seed treatments, as well as cultural options such as the use of compost, cover crops and spacing to manage soilborne diseases. The sites are used for demonstrations and field walks, and you can read more about the latest cover cropping work on p32 of this issue of Vegetables Australia. A full project overview is also provided on p40.

Optimising benefits of vermiculture in commercial-scale vegetable farms (VG15037)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This research 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). Its end-goal is to 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.

What’s the latest update? The first of the project’s fact sheets for growers, Working with worms – improving productivity using vermiculture in commercial vegetable growing, is available to download here. It provides an introduction to earthworms, how to build and maintain numbers in the soil and more.

Innovating new virus diagnostics and planting bed management in the Australian sweetpotato industry (VG13004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Running since 2014, this research is building knowledge of endemic and exotic sweetpotato viruses, and improving sweetpotato 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.

What’s the latest update? To date, the following fact sheets and guides have been produced out of the project:

Advanced stable fly management for vegetable producers (VG15002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2015, this 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.

What’s the latest update? The standout development to date is the potential discovered for burial and compaction of post-harvest residues to dramatically reduce stable fly development from crop residues.

Burial takes egg-laying and developmental substrate (the rotting crop residues) away from the flies. It can be done with either stone buriers or mould board ploughs, which are more typically used in broadacre farming. The process has other production benefits for growers, including breaking up the soil hard pan that can develop due to continual use of rotary hoe machinery, and preparing the soil for the next crop.

Meanwhile compaction of sandy soil (at greater than 2 tonne/m2) has been shown to prevent adult stable flies from emerging from the soil in initial work.

Two large-scale trials have now been established to look at the use of a mould board plough followed by compaction with a fixed land roller on post-harvest celery residues.

The project is also currently assessing a fungus that acts as a parasite on stable flies.

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

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Using the well-known Ladybird and RIPPA robots in both trial-farm and commercial-farm settings, this project is advancing the application of robotics, intelligent sensing systems, precision agriculture automation and more in Australia’s vegetable industry. It is developing, evaluating and 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? The project continues to assess sensing systems for on-farm decision making, including…

  • 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.

For these assessments, the Ladybird robot is being used to scan, weekly, a Cos and Iceberg lettuce crop that is being put under different fertilisation and irrigation treatments.

Work is also progressing in relation to autonomous crop interactions, including…

  • Mechanical weeding, with a mechanism developed that uses a tine to remove weeds detected using the ‘VIIPA’ (Variable Injection Intelligent Precision Applicator) perception system
  • Progression of a foreign-object removal system, based on a vacuum.

These crop interaction capabilities have been highlighted to industry across a variety of crops at RIPPA field demonstrations.

The project is also looking into policies and regulations relevant to the operation of highly automated machinery on-farm; investigating the procedures and infrastructure required to ready farms for automated platforms; and developing a roadmap for implementing automated agricultural equipment on vegetable farms.

Investigating novel glass technologies and photovoltaic in protected cropping (VG15038)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project now involves collaboration with new project Research and operations to trial innovative glass and photovoltaic technologies in protected cropping (VG16070), established in late May 2017. Together the projects are set to improve energy-efficient design and energy use in greenhouses, with a focus on the use of ‘smart glass’, semi-transparent photovoltaic glass (STPVG) and solar thermal collector technologies (STC). They will deliver a reliable and comprehensive evaluation of and guide to using these innovative technologies.

What’s the latest update? In its first phase, project VG15038 has completed a review of smart glass and other renewable technologies available worldwide, to evaluate their cost-effectiveness and practicality for Australian growers. A summary of this review is available for growers to download here.

Given the results and recommendations of the review, project VG16070 is now responsible for collaborating in the real-world assessment of smart glass, STPVG and STC on plant growth, physiology, crop yield and quality, using the state-of-the-art glasshouse research facility at Western Sydney University. (See here for Hort Innovation’s news article on the facility, from December last year.) Look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.

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

Status: Near-completed projects, with Hort Innovation currently establishing new work to carry on their activities

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

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.

Vegetable industry minor use program (VG16020)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the vegetable industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

The minor use program is also supported by the project Generation of residue, efficacy and crop safety data for pesticide applications in horticulture crops 2017 (ST16006) which, as the name suggests, is responsible for generating data to support a range of permit applications for a range of industries. Project ST16006 uses grant funds from the Australian Government’s Agvet program, which you can read more about here, plus some levy contributions.

What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up for free here.

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 in late 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? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last Hortlink, but you can see last edition’s snapshot here. Keep an eye out for updates in a future Hortlink.

Adoption of precision systems technology in vegetable production (VG16009)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Kicking off at the beginning of the year, this project will support the vegetable industry in adopting precision agriculture technologies. It 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.

What’s the latest update? With project work getting underway, look for more details in future editions of Hortlink.

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 later this year. When available, growers can expect to receive an update via the industry communication project’s channels (project VG15027) explaining the project and how to access and use its outputs.

Facilitating adoption of IPM through a participatory approach with local advisors and industry – training component (VG15034)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2016, this project is working to increase the uptake of integrated pest management (IPM) practices among vegetable growers. There is an initial focus on South Australian activities, with a view to expand to other regions.

The project is supported by Facilitating adoption of IPM through a participatory approach with local advisors and industry – coordination component (VG15035).

What’s the latest update? The project’s core component is providing IPM education and training for vegetable industry advisors, including consultants and agronomists, as well as growers who are interested in adopting IPM. Advertised in industry channels, this work includes:

  • Delivery of IPM theory workshops
  • The establishment and use of on-farm demonstration sites, where IPM is being implemented across 10 commercial crops
  • In-field training sessions to improve IPM decision-making and monitoring skills.

Improved management options for cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (VG15013)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project was established to help combat the threat of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV). Its work includes identifying weed hosts of the virus and the potential role of other factors, including honey bees, in its’ incidence.

It is also developing improved diagnostics for plant and seed material, with a view to developing in-field tests for rapid detection, and producing guidelines and other materials to support improved virus management and help growers strengthen on-farm biosecurity.

What’s the latest update? This fact sheet provides a brief overview and update on the project, and was produced for grower update meetings on the project (one held in December in Katherine, and one in March in Darwin).

Of note in the project:

  • Non-host-plant field trials, ongoing weed surveys and CGMMV testing have identified potential new CGMMV hosts. Host status is set to be verified in additional lab work and weed trials.
  • Trials to investigate the longevity of CGMMV’s survival in host-free soils have shown that viable CGMMV can still be present 12 months after host plants have been removed.
  • Weed surveys and the identification of major weed species in curcubit areas in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia has been completed, and will help inform future project work.

Improved knowledge of factors contributing to carrot rot (VG15066)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in January this year, this project is investigating carrot crown rot, a disease that has been identified as a major constraint to carrot production in Tasmania. It will be responsible for determining the complex causes of the rot, and the field and soil factors that are conducive to its development in Tasmanian production regions.

What’s the latest update? With sampling and diagnostic testing underway, look for more detailed updates in future editions of Hortlink.

Characterisation of a carlavirus of French bean (VG15073)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project was established at the end of 2016 to characterise a new carlavirus found infecting Fabaceae crops in South East Queensland, and to 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.

What’s the latest update? With no milestone report due to Hort Innovation in recent months, look for an update in the next edition of Hortlink.

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.

  • Impact of pesticides on beneficial arthropods of importance in Australian vegetable production (VG16067), a new project beginning in April. As its name suggests, it will be developing information on the impact of pesticides on insects and mites that play a beneficial role in the Australian vegetable industry. This information is essential for making decisions about the use of pesticides in vegetable crops that are grown using integrated pest management. To help improve pest management with minimal and appropriate use of insecticides, for growers and their advisor the project will develop a user-friendly management guide around this information, based on crop type.
  • Vegetable agrichemical pest management needs and priorities (VG16060). Beginning in May this year, the project aims to prioritise agrichemical efforts. With close consultation with growers, it will identify pest priorities for vegetable commodities. These outcomes will aid in updating industry Strategic Agrichemical Review Processes (SARPs), inform industry direction at the annual AgChem Collaborative Forum, and lead the progression of minor use permits and chemical registrations.
  • 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 four-year 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. While it’s still early days, you can read more about the project in this Hort Innovation news article written at the time of its inception last year, and this edition of Vegetables Australia magazine features a project overview and update on p36.
  • 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. In recent months, the advisor has had a particular focus on providing advice following detection of tomato potato psyllid (TPP) in Western Australia.
  • 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.
  • 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. Look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.
  • 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, filling in knowledge gaps, and investigating control measures. Look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.
  • Precision seeding benefits for processing pea production (VG15039), which began in late 2016 to help improve the productivity and profitability of processing peas in Tasmania specifically. It is evaluating stand density and plant spatial arrangements, and exploring 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 is also evaluating commercial seeders and establishment practices. Find a project update and overview on p30 of this edition of Vegetables Australia.
  • 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. The project has close links with A multi-faceted approach to soilborne disease management (VG15010), described above, and is currently focussed on soil tests for club root in brassicas and cavity spot and forking in carrots.
  • Global Innovations in Horticulture Seminar (VG15032), an ongoing project responsible for delivering annual Global Innovations in Horticulture Seminars. These events bring the industry together to discuss emerging technologies and sciences relating to horticulture, conveying knowledge about up-to-date practices, showcasing new opportunities for levy investment, and promoting collaboration between vegetable producers and researchers on a global scale. The 2017 Seminar was held in May, directly before the opening of the Hort Connections conference and trade show. An event wrap-up can be found here, with presentations and videos soon to be available on the industry website,
  • Investigating on farm HACCP programs for managing plant pests of biosecurity concern – an options paper (VG15051), which was tasked with developing an options paper for a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) based biosecurity system to manage plant pests in Australia that are of concern to industry, and government biosecurity agencies. The paper and project’s final report are in the final stages of development, with results to be extended to industry in the near future.
  • 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.
  • Enhanced National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (MT16005), which is delivering a nationally coordinated bee-pest surveillance program to help safeguard honey-bee and pollinator-dependent industries in Australia. The surveillance will enable the early detection of high-priority pest incursions of honey bees, providing the best opportunity for successful pest eradication. The vegetable industry is one of several contributors to the project’s work.
  • SITplus: Developing and optimising production of a male-only, temperature-sensitive-lethal, strain of Qfly, B. tryoni (MT13059), which is developing a ‘temperature-sensitive lethal, male-selecting’ strain of Queensland fruit fly (Qfly). To put simply, the research will allow for male-only, sterile fruit flies to be bred in large numbers. It is one of the key projects in the broader strategic co-investment SITplus initiative that’s tackling the issue of Qfly. The male flies are to ultimately be released in growing regions of south-eastern Australian that are affected by Qfly. They will come to outnumber the wild male population in these areas and by mating with wild females – and limiting the opportunity for wild males to do so – they are intended to lead to the collapse of wild Qfly populations. The vegetable industry is one of several involved in the project.


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

Export development of Australian vegetables to Japan (VG15074)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? With Japan Australia’s leading export market for vegetables, this project will involve working with Australian growers and the Japanese market to expand and sustain vegetable exports. It follows on from previous levy-funded work focussing on export development specifically for broccoli (VG13048), which saw broccoli re-introduced to the Japanese market in 2015 and led to the exporting of other vegetables.

Beginning in January this year, the new project will involve consumer research and competitor analysis in Japan, identification of potential barriers to exports, and a range of market development and collaborative exporting opportunities.

What’s the latest update? Current project activities include qualitative consumer research in the Japanese market, with a more detailed update expected to be included in the next edition of Hortlink as details become available.

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, but you can still access the fact sheets produced earlier in the project, detailing top imported vegetable products:

Look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.

Probisafe – developing biocontrol agents to inhibit pathogen growth (VG16005)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in late 2016, this project has a focus on keeping vegetables healthy and safe. It is developing, verifying and ultimately making available new biological control agents (new strains/blends of beneficial bacteria termed ‘Probisafe’) to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria on vegetables. The result will be an additional level of safety in both fresh and processed produce.

What’s the latest update? Initial work has included lab-based trials of Probisafe and commercial probiotics, with Probisafe shown to inhibit the growth of Salmonella typhimurium on cut iceberg lettuce by up to 1000-fold over seven days of storage at 8˚C. The project team has also been reaching out to major vegetable growers and processors to present preliminary work and seek involvement with the project.

The project has garnered a range of media attention, including regional and metro radio coverage, this article by ABC News, and this article from project service provider University of Queensland.

Improved management of pumpkin brown etch (VG15064)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2016, this project seeks to improve the management of brown etch, also known as ‘rust mark’, in pumpkin crops. The researchers will:

  • Confirm the cause and environmental conditions conducive to brown etch
  • Investigate varietal resistance/susceptibility in current commercial varieties
  • Develop and evaluate suitable control measures
  • Extend management strategies to growers.

What’s the latest update? An overview of pumpkin brown etch and the project’s work appears on p18 of this issue of Vegetables Australia. The project team is also keen to hear from growers who have seen or who are currently experiencing brown etch in their crops, or would otherwise like to be involved in the project. Contact Dr Jenny Ekman at AHR on 0407 384 285 or at

Other Market & Value Chain Development projects of note…

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

  • Horticulture trade intelligence reporting 2017-2019 (MT16011), a new project to provide easy-to-read and easy-to-act-upon trade performance information to Australia’s horticulture industry. Quarterly reports will be made available through the Hort Innovation website, with the first vegetable report soon to be downloadable from the vegetable grower page.
  • 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 is developing new knowledge and processes 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 has a focus on brassica vegetables and carrots, and with a milestone report due to Hort Innovation shortly, more details will be found in an upcoming Hortlink.
  • Removing barriers of food safety certification for vegetable exporters though GLOBALG.A.P. co-certification (VG16019), which began in September 2016. It 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.
  • 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.


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

Vegetable trend forecasting and analysis (VG16027)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? To help develop a competitive advantage for the Australian vegetable industry, this project was tasked with identifying trends relating to diet, dining and health; forecasting future drivers, stakeholders and consumers based on these trends; and illustrating practical examples of how the vegetable industry can take advantage of them right now.

The key large-scale trends identified by the research were:

  • Dieting for balance
  • Greater vegetarianism
  • Searching for new, naturally derived beauty products
  • ‘Native’ as an extension for local
  • Specific dietary habits:
    • Optimising gut health
    • Eating for mental health
    • Seeking hormonal balance and spirituality
    • Meat substitutes
    • Moving from dietary supplements to meal replacements.

Broccoli and eggplant were then identified as just two vegetables with high potential to resonate with some of these trends. They were the basis for two case studies to help growers understand how to take advantage of these.

Full project details, and the case studies, will be found in the project’s final report, which will ultimately be available to order at Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.

Educational opportunities around perceptions of, and aversions to, vegetables through digital media (part 1 – market research) (VG16018)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? This project is the first of three related projects to be established by Hort Innovation. Combined, the new industry initiative will first seek to understand school-aged children’s perception of vegetables, and will then develop digital food education resources to boost consumption of and attitudes towards veggies. These resources will feature the involvement of a celebrity chef. The projects will also develop other supporting materials to encourage positive behaviours, attitudes and outcomes around vegetables with kids aged six to 14.

What’s the latest update? With project activities just beginning, look for updates in a future edition of Hortlink.

Addressing vegetable consumption through foodservice organisations (chefs, TAFEs and other training institutions) (VG16026)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Contracted in early May this year, this project was established to drive domestic sales and consumption of Australian vegetables through engaging the foodservice industry – which accounts for 20 per cent of Australian food consumption and has a strong influence in developing food trends and eating behaviours.

It will develop a program to help recruit, educate and impact on chefs, cooks and hospitality students in particular, to be led by a celebrity chef.

What’s the latest update? Initially the project will involve research to better understand the foodservice industry, to identify and understand gaps in their understanding of Australian vegetables, and understand uses and opportunities for veggies in the industry. Look for updates in future editions of Hortlink, as project activities get underway.

The EnviroVeg Program 2017-2022 (VG16063)

Status: New project

What’s 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.

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.

What’s the latest update? New project VG16063 began in March, picking up from completed project EnviroVeg Program for promoting environmental best practice in the Australian vegetable industry (VG12008) left off. The previous project’s achievements for industry were wrapped up in the last edition of Hortlink here.

The new iteration will be working to align components from EnviroVeg, Hort360 and Freshcare Environmental to deliver a clear pathway to environmental assurance for Australian vegetable growers, as it continues to support and improve environmental management on-farm and develop environmental recognition for industry participants.

You can find more information on EnviroVeg, sign up for free, and complete a self-assessment at The website also includes quarterly updates on the program and resources including case studies and how-to guides.

Understanding consumer triggers and barriers to consumption of Australian indigenous vegetables and Asian vegetables (VG15071)

Status: Near-completed project

What’s it all about? Established in mid-2016, this project has been tasked with identifying commercially viable Australian indigenous vegetables and Asian vegetables; assessing their consumer appeal through a range of consumer interactions, including sensory testing; and providing recommendations for industry to ensure the greatest likelihood of success in the market.

What’s the latest update? The research team advise that “there is great opportunity and much potential around commercialising and expanding the distribution of both indigenous and Asian vegetables in the Australian market”, with “a large proportion of customers attracted to the ideas of purchasing these unique vegetables”.

The project has evaluated a number of vegetables, including these indigenous ones:

  • Native thyme
  • Acacia seeds
  • Lemon myrtle
  • Pepperberry
  • Saltbush
  • Bush tomatoes
  • Finger limes
  • Australian spinach (Warrigal greens)
  • Samphire

And these Asian vegetables:

  • Amaranth (red spinach)
  • Bitter melon
  • Choy sum
  • Daikon
  • Gai lan
  • Hairy melon
  • Lotus root
  • Okra
  • Wombok

Profiles have been produced on each vegetable, including how to approach their commercialisation. These documents are currently being reviewed and will soon be disseminated through industry channels.

Some top-level recommendations of the project are:

  • Naming of the vegetables for the consumer market will aid trial and purchase, with the project suggesting names that describe the sensory experience of the new produce (such as ‘sweet mild radish’) or that clarify the vegetable’s origin (such as ‘Australian-grown gai lan’).
  • There is limited consumer knowledge around many of the vegetables, so information around taste, texture, cooking styles and recipes will be essential. Comparing the vegetables to similar-tasting ones could be a good way to lift consumer confidence (for example, this native Australian spinach is much like ‘regular’ spinach).
  • Health and nutritional benefits will provide a strong reason for purchase.
  • Tapping into the food service and manufacturing industry, leading with health and provenance messaging, will help grow availability and consumer demand.

A workshop is currently being organised to present the project to those who will benefit from its findings. Full details will also be found in the project’s final report, which will ultimately be available to order at Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.

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? Post-harvest workshops and webinars from the program are advertised in industry channels and on the project website at The next events will be held during August, including workshops in…

  • Adelaide Hills on August 1, 2017
  • Adelaide Plains on August 2, 2017
  • Gatton, on August 15, 2017
  • Bundaberg, on August 16, 2017

During August, two one-hour webinars will also be held, covering general principles of post-harvest management, including…

  • Cooling methods and strategies
  • Managing the storage environment
  • Food safety
  • New postharvest technologies.

Look for details in industry channels, and links to recorded webinars in future editions of Hortlink – they’ll also be housed at

The website is also home to all other project resources for growers, which to date include…

  • The 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. On the project website, materials from the handbook are broken down into various pages and summary tables. Levy-paying vegetable growers can also request a hard copy from Applied Horticulture Research Office Manager Sandra Marques (
  • Eleven fact sheets relating to post-harvest best-practice and other information on specific vegetables:
    • Asian leafy vegetables
    • Baby spinach
    • Beans
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprout
    • Cabbage
    • Capsicum
    • Cauliflower
    • Celery
    • Cucumber
    • Eggplant.

Demographic research for the vegetable industry – phase 2 (VG15019)

Status: Near-completed project

What’s it all about? This project provides Nielsen Homescan data to the industry. Its regular and ad-hoc reports look at shopping habits and consumption in the Australian vegetable industry, using data drawn from a panel of 10,000 members, representative of Australia’s demographics.

What’s the latest update? The project’s reports continue to be available through the InfoVeg portal, The reports come in a range of formats – including deep dives, regular analysis reports and opportunity calculators –  and there is information provided on specific vegetable commodities, including Asian vegetables, beans, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, fresh salad, lettuce, pumpkin, sweet corn, sweetpotato and zucchini.

This version of the project is due to conclude in coming months, with Hort Innovation set to establish further work in this space.

Consumer and market program for the vegetable industry (Project Harvest) (VG14060)

Status: Near-completed project

What is it all about? Project Harvest has been responsible for monitoring consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviour in relation to specific fresh vegetable commodities. It identifies trends in purchase and consumption habits, identifies gross amount spend month to month, and captures perceptions of value. It also analyses actual retail pricing and availability at various outlets, and summarises news and innovations from around the world in relation to the Australian context.

What’s the latest update? Monthly and ad-hoc reports from the project remain accessible through the InfoVeg portal, With this project now wrapping up, Hort Innovation is currently establishing further work in this space.

The latest issue of Vegetables Australia magazine also features an overview of the project and its legacy on p12.

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

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is readying 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? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last Hortlink, but you can see last edition’s snapshot here. Keep an eye out for updates in a future Hortlink.

Other Consumer Alignment projects…

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

  • Crisis management and awareness for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15016), a completed project that has updated the industry’s crisis management plan and funded and trained an AUSVEG crisis management team to effectively respond to any crisis that may negatively impact on growers, consumers, industry assets or the reputation of the vegetable industry. Industry participants are encouraged to call the Crisis Hotline on 1300 855 170, or the AUSVEG crisis management team on (03) 9882 0277, if they become aware of a potential or emerging crisis. Examples of a crisis can include accidental or deliberate contamination; theft of dangerous chemicals; threats/blackmail/extortion; significant workforce issues or unrest; felonious activity (such as market fraud or manipulation); and biosecurity incidents, or failure to report them.
  • Increasing consumption and sales by developing community awareness and benefits of vegetables (scoping study) (VG16025), a new, short project established in March. This is a preliminary study to increase understanding of a range of ‘community interventions’, such as the establishment of community gardens, and how these might increase vegetable consumption. By outlining the existing knowledge and impacts of such interventions, it is expected to help guide further research, evaluation and action.
  • Market opportunity for vegetable juices (VG16016), which began in February this year and aims to better understand the market opportunity for vegetable juices. In its course, the project will estimate the size and composition of this market in Australia, while identifying consumer attitudes and behaviours around vegetable juices – and what might lead to an increase in consumption. It will ultimately provide recommendations to help growers and other industry stakeholders take advantage of opportunities to increase Australia’s vegetable juice consumption.
  • 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. With the project due to conclude in the coming months, look for a full breakdown of results in a future edition of Hortlink.
  • Consumption of juiced fruit and vegetables data analytics (MT16008), a short project that has investigated the fruit, vegetable and juice consumption of Australians. The research has revealed a significant opportunity to grow consumption, with over half of Australian adults not currently eating enough fruit – and over 65 per cent not eating enough veg – to meet Australia’s dietary guidelines. Read more about the project findings here. The research was a multi-industry effort also involving the citrus and apple and pear industries.


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 Sam Turner on 0418 164 717 or at

Vegetable industry education and training initiative (VG15028)

Status: Ongoing project

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

What’s the latest update? The program’s new website,, is a hub for all training initiatives run through the project, and for bringing together all related education and training opportunities. Visit to see current opportunities, including initiatives run separately to the project.

The project team is currently scoping and progressing further training options, with topics including food safety, workplace health and safety (WH&S) and business management training. Growers are encouraged to nominate areas in which they’d like to receive training, with a simple web form for submitting ideas available at

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 being awarded each year of the project’s life from 2016 to 2019. Nuffield Scholarships are a chance for Australians in agriculture to grow their practical knowledge and a broad variety of skills, while heading overseas to study a topic related to their industry.

What’s the latest update? Applications for the 2018 Nuffield program are open until June 26, 2017, with the successful applicants to be announced in September. To learn more and to apply, visit the Nuffield Australia website.

As reported in previous editions 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, and he’s been looking at efficient practices in low-tech greenhouses around the world, with an emphasis on monitoring technology and water sustainability practices.

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

Growing Leaders (VG15030)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? The Growing Leaders program is the only national, industry-specific leadership program for the vegetable industry. Established in 2016, this 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? With 18 vegetable participants currently engaged in the 2017 program, expressions of interest are now open for the 2018 course. For more information and to apply, visit

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 to download here
  • Annual publication Grower Success Stories, also available from the above link
  • 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 (VegNET)

Status: Ongoing program involving multiple projects. These include Regional capacity building to grow vegetable businesses projects for 10 key growing regions (VG15004 and VG15040 to VG15048), plus a national coordination project (VG15049) and a training and evaluation component (VG15050).

What’s it all about? The National Vegetable Extension Network (VegNET) was established in 2016. It 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 industry development officers (IDOs) in key vegetable-growing regions, the delivery of specialised events and distribution of R&D materials in those areas, and information gathering on future R&D project requirements.

What’s the latest update? You can find a list of all current VegNET IDOs and their contact details on Hort Innovation’s website here. Vegetables Australia magazine carries special features on upcoming events related to the program, and events are also communicated in other relevant industry channels, but growers are welcome to contact their local IDO for updates and information at any time.

PMA A-NZ Produce Executive Program scholarships (VG16031)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Established in March, this project will support three industry scholarships each year from 2017 to 2020, for levy-paying growers to take part in the PMA A-NZ Produce Executive Program. The Program is an intensive course for middle and high-level vegetable industry managers from across the supply chain to advance personal and professional development.

What’s the latest update? The 2017 scholarship opportunities were advertised in industry channels, including Hort Innovation and AUSVEG newsletters, and closed in April. This year’s Executive Program took place from May 7 to 12 on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Learn more about it here.

2016-18 European Industry Leadership and Development Mission – Berlin Fruit Logistica (VG15701)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project 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 and 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.

What’s the latest update? In 2017, the leadership and development mission took place from February 4 to 11, with eight levy-paying growers in attendance. A wrap-up of the trip and insights gleaned is provided on p20 of the current edition of Vegetables Australia magazine.

Opportunities to take part in the 2018 mission will be advertised in industry channels, including Hort Innovation and AUSVEG e-newsletters.

USA Industry Leadership and Development Mission 2016-2018 (VG15702)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project supports annual missions to America for similar purposes as the European development missions described in project VG15701 above.

What’s the latest update? In 2017, the leadership and development mission took place from February 2 to 14. Growers attended the WorldAg Expo in California – the largest annual agriculture exhibition in the world – and visited leading agribusinesses and vegetables farms in America to identify new ideas, innovations, tools, machinery options and research that can be brought back to Australia.

An article on the mission is set to appear in the upcoming July/August 2017 edition of Vegetables Australia magazine, and participants have been invited to speak at upcoming industry workshops and local events to help spread the knowledge from the trip.

Future opportunities to take part in the program will be advertised, as they arise, in industry channels.

Vegetable Young Grower Development Mission and Women’s Development Missions (VG15703)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project 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).

As with the other development mission projects described above, these opportunities 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.

What’s the latest update? Registrations are now open for both the Young Grower and Women’s Development Missions for 2017. Participation is open to levy-paying vegetable growers.

2017 Young Grower Industry Leadership and Development Mission Europe

  • October 1-13, 2017
  • Visit leading vegetable growing operations and agribusinesses in Europe, including in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • For growers under the age of 35
  • Contact AUSVEG for more information: (03) 9882 0277 or

2017 Women’s Industry Leadership and Development Mission – Asia

  • September 4-18, 2017
  • Visit some of the world’s most innovative vegetable growing regions in Southeast Asia, travelling to Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea
  • Attend Asia Fruit Logistica trade event
  • Contact AUSVEG for more information: (03) 9882 0277 or
Other Drive Train projects…

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

  • VegWHS training resources (VG16031), a new project tasked with developing video resources to help vegetable growers make the use of the suite of ‘VegWHS’ tools. VegWHS is the industry’s workplace health and safety resource, distributed to growers on a carrot-shaped USB. It was produced under previous industry project Developing vegetable industry occupational health and safety resources (VH13053) and includes detailed guidelines, information and assessment tools to ensure vegetable workplaces remain safe. Vegetable levy-payers who don’t have access to the free USB can request one from their local VegNET IDO, listed here. When completed, the videos will be distributed via VegPRO channels for growers to use at their convenience.
  • Financial performance of Australian vegetable farms 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 (VG15077), which carriers on from completed project Financial performance of Australian vegetable farms 2013-2014 to 2015-2016 (VG13068). It is 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. Work towards the 2017 survey has commenced. Meanwhile, the most recent report was released in February, with the Australian vegetable-growing farms: An economic survey, 2014–15 and 2015–16 available to download from Hort Innovation here.


What are ‘strategic partnership’ projects?

Hort Innovation’s strategic partnership initiative is responsible for developing collaborative cross-industry projects with the aim of finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the future of Australian horticulture. These projects 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?

Vegetable levy has been co-invested in the following projects…

  • Attracting new entrants into Australian horticulture – promoting careers in horticulture (LP15006), a Leadership Fund project that is engaging graduate students with the horticulture industry. Under the project, businesses can receive funding to host an intern. Vegetable levy has been used to fund five new placements with the following companies: Coastal Hydroponics (new process/production specialist); Nature’s Haven (commercial organic vegetable production); Kilter Rural (development of large-scale organic vegetable production); Butler Market Gardens (business development); Kalfresh (wide range of projects available with business and agronomic focus). Learn more in this case study, with a nursery business, who took part in the project’s pilot run. Businesses interested in hosting an intern are encouraged to learn more by contacting Rimfire Resources at
  • Global Masterclass in Horticultural Business (LP15001), a project that’s part of the Leadership Fund, which you can read more about here. The vegetable levy funds nine scholarships annually under this project, for industry levy-payers to take part in the Masterclass in Horticultural Business course. One of these scholars, Marcella Badim Rocha Lima, was recently a guest speaker at the Hort Connections conference in Adelaide, inspiring the crowd with her story and passion, representing the Masterclass project.



Given the choice of a chocolate bar or a carrot with dip, what would you choose? Vegetable grower and Nuffield Scholar Michael Vorrasi is on a mission to nudge consumers in the direction of the carrot.

“I think it’s possible for people to choose a salad item over a Mars Bar,” said Michael, the managing director of DSA Fresh at Direk in South Australia.

“It takes a while for people to change their behaviour, but I think if it’s price competitive and packaged in a way that makes it easy for them to make that choice, then yes, it’s possible.

“It won’t be 100 per cent of people because the likes of Mars has multi-billion dollar marketing budgets. But if we could increase the amount who would eat their recommended daily intake of vegetables from 5 to 15 per cent then that is a huge achievement.”

As a 2016 Nuffield scholar – supported by Hort Innovation using the vegetable R&D levy and Australian Government contributions – Michael has dedicated time to finding answers to this dietary conundrum, with a particular focus on investigating opportunities for value-added vegetables to boost grower returns, consumption of fresh produce and markets for second grade produce. His findings will be presented at the 2017 Nuffield Australia National Conference, to be held in September this year.

As the vice-chairman of AUSVEG South Australia and a member of Hort Innovation’s Market & Value Chain Development Strategic Investment Advisory Panel, his scholarship particular relevance to the industry broadly. Michael of course hopes his Nuffield travels will also have an impact on DSA Fresh.

The company was started 35 years ago by his father, Mario (who still oversees growing) on five hectares at Direk, north of Adelaide, growing cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and gourmet lettuce in open fields.

Hydro power

Two decades ago, Mario introduced hydroponic growing and today DSA Fresh is largely hydroponic, with just one hectare of field-grown produce.

The Vorrasis produce 10 tonnes of product per week, in 80 different products: leafy vegetables, such as unprocessed gourmet lettuce and Asian vegetables; as well as value-added vegetables such as 500g of broccoli and cauliflower florets, and pre-packaged salads of kale, rocket, spinach and salad mix (100g, 350g, 1kg, 1.5kg or 3kg).

Product is processed on-site in their processing facilities, which includes a high-risk room that is sealed to ensure no bugs, has a vertical filling machine, metal detector and multi-head weigher.

About 20 per cent of produce is transported to DSA Fresh’s stall in the Adelaide wholesale markets, onsold to greengrocers, while the remainder is distributed through Coles, Costco, Aldi and independent retailers, with “no more than 20 per cent of product going to any one customer”.

About 20 per cent of products sold to wholesale or retail is sourced from three other growers, to ensure continuity of supply.

A quarter of hydroponic crops – mostly herbs – are grown in high-tech glasshouses, with the remainder (Asian vegetables and gourmet lettuce) grown in shadecloth houses.

The glasshouse is one continuous building with nine different sections catering to each product’s different growing needs. As such, technology varies, with fogging machines, fans, heating, venting and screening all ensuring the plants receive a steady 25°C-30°C temperature.

Happy medium

Plants are grown in a med­ium of vermiculite and peat, with DSA Fresh buying in seedlings from a grower.

Water is sourced from mains and bores and – like all hydroponic growers – no herbicide is required and only small amount of insecticide or fungicide, with the Vorrasis also using integrated pest management methods such as beneficial insects.

With DSA Fresh’s power bills set to rise by 130 per cent in 2017, the family is looking to expand their existing solar power generation.

Michael finished a marketing degree at the University of South Australia before starting back at the family company full-time at the age of 23.

Now 32, he said he returned because he could see potential in the value-adding market.

“Australians don’t eat the recommended intake of vegetables and so for me the opportunity to grow the vegetable market is huge.”

Taking part in the Nuffield scholarship was the next obvious step.

It’s estimated 33 per cent of fresh food worth about $2.6 billion per annum is discarded in Australia – much of it from farms themselves.

“People see broccoli stems as useless, chopping them off and putting them in the bin,” he said. “Vegetables such as cauliflower are often not up to supermarket specs so are thrown away.

“We need to be better at branding and innovating to lift vegetable consumption, especially targeting domestic convenience and export markets that are growing at a fast pace.”


This profile and image first appeared in The Weekly Times and has been reproduced here, with some edits, with permission.

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