From export work to multi-faceted orchard management research, Hort Innovation continues to invest the summerfruit R&D levy in a number of key projects. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. And to discover the latest levy-funded marketing activities, check out the marketing snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the summerfruit Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) has recently been completed. Information on the SIAP chair will be made available on Hort Innovation’s Summerfruit grower page shortly. The page will also continue to make available summaries from the SIAP’s meetings.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

Any questions?

As well as the Summerfruit grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Mark Spees is always available to answer questions on the summerfruit program. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Claire Tindale-Penning.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Australian Stonefruit Grower Magazine 2016 (SF15003)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project is responsible for the production of Australian Stonefruit Grower magazine. Available quarterly, the magazine communicates the latest updates on R&D levy investments and other industry news to Australian growers.

What’s the latest update? The project began earlier in 2016, taking over from the industry’s previous communications project. So far two new-look digital issues of Australian Stonefruit Grower have been produced (May and August editions), available for download here.


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The latest edition of Australian Stonefruit Grower magazine


 

Increased stone fruit profitability by consistently meeting market expectations (SF12003)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2012, this project has been responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a world-class summerfruit field research facility: the Stonefruit Field Laboratory at DEDJTR-Tatura in Victoria.

The field laboratory has the broad objective to evaluate how orchard management (crop load, radiation interception, rootstock and irrigation) affects fruit quality and its variability (including sweetness, firmness and maturity) in selected varieties of peach, nectarine, plum and apricot.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting the fourth season of the project had been completed, with work continuing. A virtual tour of the Stonefruit Field Laboratory was among the recently-produced resources of the project, with videos available to watch here.


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Work in progress at the Stonefruit Field Laboratory


 

Rootstock and training system to optimise early stone fruit bearing and growth (SF13001) 

Status: Ongoing project, linked to Increased stone fruit profitability by consistently meeting market expectations (SF12003)

What’s it all about? Using the Stonefruit Field Laboratory, this project aims to address issues related to the very early years of tree establishment and development until full production. It seeks to generate knowledge on how rootstocks, tree training systems and their interaction with crop load affect the physiology of tree and fruit development, especially fruit size, composition and performance.

What’s the latest update? Data from the 2015/16 summer-autumn season has been collected and analysed. In regards to the project’s experiments looking at the effect of crop load and canopy management on yield and fruit quality…

  • Canopy light interception was analysed and shoot and fruit growth were found to be responding to crop load treatments, with the lowest growth corresponding to the highest number of fruit on the trees
  • Canopy variability (from top to bottom) for traits of fruit size and quality (sweetness and firmness) did not seem affected by tree training system, with vertical leader versus Tatura trellis systems being used
  • Heavily thinned trees produced slightly larger fruit at the top, while heavily cropped trees produced slightly firmer fruit at the bottom of the canopies.

Fruit maturity was also monitored during the season using a DA meter and found to be affected by crop load. Regardless of training system used, heavily cropped trees were found to have the highest IAD (‘index of absorbance difference’, an index of ripening) and lightly cropped trees had the lowest.

The project has worked with Summerfruit Australia to introduce the DA meter for assessing fruit maturity in Australia (learn more about how the meters work here), enabling adoption of the innovative technology by growers. Several growers in different fruit-growing districts across the country are already using the DA meter.

The project has also been sampling wood material to analyse carbohydrate content at various levels of crop load (to ultimately gather information on tree efficiency under different rootstock and training systems).

Results of the project’s past season were also communicated to growers via a series of regional tours and orchard visits.

 

Comparing stonefruit ripening, quality and volatile composition (SF15001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning at the end of 2015, this project aims to develop tools and knowledge to assist producers in harvesting, storing and ripening fruit for optimum firmness, sweetness and aroma, with a particular emphasis on fruit for export.

What’s the latest update? Key activities of the project include identifying and quantifying fruit aroma volatile profiles, and monitoring the response of selected cultivars to storage when fruit is harvested at various maturities, then determining subsequent ripening behaviour.

Recent work has resulted in:

  • Maturity classes for three peach cultivars and one nectarine cultivar being established using a DA meter. The researchers report that precise physiological maturity of fruit can now be measured rapidly and non‐destructively at any point in the production chain from orchard to consumer to enable the supply of consistent, high-quality fruit at all times.
  • A basic volatile profile for the August Flame peach being established, with the identification of the major compounds that contribute to flavour and aroma at harvest and during ripening. The researchers report that flavour and aroma volatiles changed substantially in the fruit during storage, with a substantial reduction in major flavour and aroma volatiles. As key quality parameters, further research will investigate strategies to minimise these losses.
  • The development and validation of a protocol to sample and measure ethylene directly in the field, using evacuated vials. This new methodology makes data collection more accurate and affordable for both growers and researchers. It is explained in text and video here.

 

China market readiness and entry (SF16000)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? With the signing of a protocol to export Australian nectarines to China in May 2016, this project began in July with the aims of:

  • Ensuring the export readiness of the Australian summerfruit industry through the training of growers, packers and exporters and facilitating the registration and audit of export treatment facilities, orchards and packhouses
  • Delivering a market-entry strategy for nectarines into China
  • Developing and implementing a monitoring and management program for a range of pests and diseases of quarantine concern to China
  • Facilitating industry engagement to finalise market access to China for peaches, apricots and plums.

What’s the latest update? With a workplan devised in preparation for entry activation, in September a launch event for the new season of nectarines was held in Shanghai, China. The event brought together importers and retailers, and showcased the beauty and benefits of Australian nectarines ahead of the season getting into full swing. The launch received media coverage, with Hort Innovation’s media release available here.

This event followed close on the heels of the Asia Fruit Logistica trade show in Hong Kong, where Australian nectarines were among the fresh, healthy and safe Australian produce showcased. This and other trade show activity is facilitated by the cherry industry’s involvement in Australia Fresh – the multi-industry export-market-development program for fruits, nuts and vegetables. As well as Asia Fruit Logistica, Australian summerfruit has also been represented via Australia Fresh at the China World Fruit & Vegetable Trade Fair in Beijing at the end of October. In November, Australia Fresh will also have a presence for the first time at the Middle East’s largest fresh produce expo, World of Perishables, in Dubai. Early in 2017 it will also have a pavilion at the Gulfood expo in Dubai – the largest food expo in the world.

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

PR & media activity

The 2016/17 marketing campaign kicked off in October, with a continued focus on driving awareness of the availability of Australian summerfruit, and enticing Australian consumers to eat more summerfruit, more often.

Following a similar strategy of execution as last year, the 2016/17 campaign will leverage PR and social media to get consumers to eat more stone fruit as a snack and in new and interesting ways.

Media tactics include the development of a media kit with a fact sheet and six new summerfruit recipes and images, targeted to major metro, regional and community newspapers, TV and radio outlets, food and health publications, and online news, trade, horticulture and lifestyle outlets.

Fresh product is also being sent to top food publications and bloggers to prompt recipe development, features and social media engagement.

The key objectives of this communications campaign are to:

  • Build high consumer awareness of the availability and quality of locally grown Australian summerfruit, especially at launch and during peak season
  • Provide each product (peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots) with its own voice under the Australian Summer Stonefruit brand
  • Position summerfruit as nature’s essential summer treat, easily enjoyed in so many mouth-watering ways (as a snack or dish)
  • Drive awareness amongs consumers of the best ways to select, handle and store summerfruit
  • Increase repeat purchase of summerfruit, especially during peak season.

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New recipe imagery showcasing ideas with Aussie summerfruit


Television campaign

For the 2015/16 campaign there was a successful partnership with celebrity chef Lyndey Milan, and this will continue for 2016/17. Once again summerfruit will be showcased via a range of recipes on Lyndey’s Channel 7 show Lyndey Milan’s Summer Cooking Secrets, and recipes will also be featured on Lyndey’s website off the back of this.

Social media

The Facebook (www.facebook.com/AustraliaSummerStonefruit/) and Instagram (@AussieSummerStoneFruit) strategy will run from mid-October through to the end of March 2017.

New recipe ideas and beautiful food shots reposted from consumers will form a portion of the content that appears in these social channels, as will tips on handling, picking quality fruit and storage. Two posts per week are planned from November onwards.

Staying in touch with food trends and topics trending with the online audience will also help form content across the social channels.

Exporter co-promotions

Summerfruit are once again involved in the Now In Season program, which is being led by the Victorian Government. Now In Season is a multi-industry, multi-country campaign that promotes Australian produce in priority international markets. Executions will include sampling and point-of-sale materials to encourage trial and purchase of Australian summerfruit overseas, with priority countries including The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China and United Arab Emirates.

During October, expressions of interest for co-funding on exporter activations in market were called for. This initiative is designed to provide support to exporters/ businesses that wish to continue to develop opportunities and relationships with distributors and retailers in Asia.

GROWER PROFILE

KELVIN FREE, DURALGAI HORTICULTURAL, VIC

Ten years ago Victorian summerfruit grower Kelvin Free started making the transition from conventional to organic farming. Armed with a little bit of knowledge but a big determination to learn and succeed, today he’s established a strong organic brand, promoted through his own marketing company.

“The business has certainly changed over the years,” said Kelvin, who was born into the family’s fruit and vegetable business. “My brother and I are the third generation on the little patch we have here, and while it’s always been a mixed horticulture farm, I took a shine to the stone fruit in particular and was interested in experimenting with what we could do with it right from the beginning,” he said.

“Even when I was pretty young, there was a rootstock tree here in the chook house and I would graft different varieties of stone fruit onto it. I was interested in learning by trying new things, as well as learning from my parents, neighbours, workshops, travelling… any opportunity to learn was one that I took up.”

It was this drive to understand and adopt new ways of doing things that took Kelvin down the path of organics.

“Back in the day I thought I was doing best practice, yet I still wasn’t satisfied with how the orchard was performing,” he said. “I started digging deeper and began learning more about soil biology – and the more I learnt the more I wanted to incorporate into my farming system. I was a couple of years down this soil biology path when the idea of changing over to organics was put to me. The wholesalers we dealt with were noticing an interest in organic produce from consumers, and wondered if I’d be keen to move in this direction.”

Kelvin was. “I saw a good business opportunity and once we started it really took hold at both a business and personal level.”

It wasn’t always an easy journey, though. While the business achieved organic certification almost seven years ago, every bit of knowledge was hard won. “The problem with the certification process, and with organic growing in general, is that no-one really tells you what you should do to grow your crops so that they’re the best they can be. With the certification it’s about telling you what not to do, and the science that’s behind organics isn’t generally covered in traditional agronomy teachings. There’s no-one you can hire to come and give you advice.”

But Kelvin said the effort has more than paid off. “It’s great to see the interest from our customers about how we do what we do. And the biggest reward is really just seeing the soil improvements,” he said. “As farmers it’s the simple things that mean the most. So to see the abundant soil life and how the soil has responded so rapidly and drastically to basic changes is rewarding. It shows me that there’s a future in this, and a lot of potential for improving the environment along the way.”

To help get his newly organic product out to the market, Kelvin joined forces with wholesaler Ross Barker, of Barkers Melbourne. “When we were conventional growers Ross’s company was one of our main customers, and over the years we developed a real trust and respect. When it came time to set up a marketing company to market the organics – which is something we identified would be critical – we thought it would be valuable to have Ross on board, with his experience in marketing and distribution. At the end of 2010 we launched Alkira Organics together to help promote and sell the organic fruit.”

Kelvin said that main benefit of being his own marketer is the direct link it provides with his customers. “It’s certainly helped our business to be able to get and implement feedback directly. What we do now is grow the products that our customers are asking for, rather than growing something and then hoping we can sell it.”

As a member of Hort Innovation’s Strategic Investment Advisory Panel for the summerfruit industry, Kelvin is also passionate about industry R&D and is encouraging other growers to get involved where they can.

“Over the years our business has put its hand up to host trial plots and take part in various bits of research, such as earlier work into Carpophilus beetles and brown rot, as well as rootstock, tree shaping and irrigation trials. I’d encourage other growers to do that too – as well as helping the industry progress, getting research onto your farm is a natural avenue for helping new information spread out.”

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