R&D for the vegetable industry is plentiful, with a large number of new, completed and ongoing projects to report across the industry’s four key pillars: Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management; Market & Value Chain Development; Consumer Alignment; and Drive Train. Read about the projects in each of these pillars below.


Since the last edition of Hortlink, Strategic Investment Advisory Panels (SIAPs) have been appointed for the Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management (FPRUM), Market & Value Chain Development (MVCD) and Consumer Alignment pillars of the vegetable industry, with upcoming meetings for the FPRUM and MVCD SIAPs at the end of November. Meeting summaries are to to be made available on Hort Innovation’s Vegetable grower page.

The selection process for appointing independent chairs for Hort Innovation’s industry SIAPs has also recently been completed, with information on the chairs to be made available on the grower pages shortly.

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.


As well as the below project updates and Hort Innovation’s Vegetable grower page, for more information on what’s going on within the FPRUM pillar of the vegetable industry, contact Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Byron de Kock.

Improving soilborne disease diagnostic capacity for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15009)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Using world-leading DNA testing technology, this project will provide growers with a way to assess the risk of soil-borne diseases caused by selected 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.

What’s the latest update? In its first six months, the project has focussed on developing and selecting DNA assays to be utilised in field validation, which will then become the main activity as the project progresses. Activities have included:

  • Completion of DNA test design for Plasmodiophora brassicae and development as a soil test. The assay is now ready to be progressed to evaluation in the field.
  • DNA test design for Pythium sulcatum and P. violae, which are species documented as causes of cavity spot of carrots in Australia.
  • Testing of soil samples from a range of vegetable paddocks across Australia, with the results – along with discussions with growers – being used to refine other pathogen targets.
  • Collection of soil samples from Queensland vegetable production sites in relation to work into the southern root knot nematode species.


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

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project aims to build knowledge of both endemic and exotic sweet potato viruses, and to improve sweet potato virus diagnostic capacity in Australia. It has had a number of key goals and activities since it began in 2014, including:

  • The review of current information on endemic and exotic viruses and diagnostic techniques
  • Annual virus surveys and planting-bed monitoring in the major growing regions
  • Ongoing development and implementation of virus diagnostics
  • Communication activities including field walks and workshops, and materials such as fact sheets and guides.

What’s the latest update? The project’s third round of field surveys and grower monitoring is underway, and the second round of detailed plant-bed experiments have commenced in Bundaberg, Gatton and Cudgen. Some key notes from the researchers:

  • Premature bedding root breakdown has become a key issue with managing plant beds of the new sweet potato cultivar Bellevue. As this cultivar is an important component of the sweet potato industry’s nematode management strategy, addressing the loss of plant beds is a project priority. Current ideas are minimising physiological age of bedding roots, absolute minimum of heat treatment (used to promote sprouting), avoiding large roots where possible, optimising bed structure, and potentially minimising nitrogen levels in plant beds, at least initially.
  • Project ideas on the importance of good drainage, shallow coverage, and focussed irrigation management to maximise plant-bed productivity and longevity are becoming the norm with many growers. Current ideas are to also err on the side of low moisture and nutrition levels while initially sprouting roots in beds.
  • Potentially due to a higher prevalence of domestic sweet potato gardens, and more historical sweet potato interaction with neighbouring countries, North Queensland appears to have greater presence of multiple virus infections and less common viruses. In the future it will be important to maintain a virus watch presence in this region.
  • The Australian sweet potato industry is on alert for unusual symptoms that may indicate a potentially damaging incursion of a new virus (such as chlorotic stunt virus).
  • The source of pathogen tested bedding roots still does not have any detectable viruses through indexing, ELISA and qPCR testing of collected samples.
  • Through collaborative work with national and international scientists, the scope for improved sweet potato diagnostic procedures continues to improve. The Australian industry virus diagnostic protocols are being standardised for partners in Oceania, and are very similar to protocols more recently developed in the USA.


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

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Kicking off in July this year, this project aims to improve energy-efficient design and energy use in greenhouses, with a focus on the use of smart glass and semi-transparent photovoltaic glass (STPVG). It will deliver a reliable and comprehensive evaluation of innovative technologies, including their economic viability and benefits.

What’s the latest update? While the project’s first report to Hort Innovation is not yet due, the approximately $1.3 million project garnered media attention after its announcement. Read Hort Innovation’s news article here.


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

Status: New project

What’s it all about? There is currently anecdotal evidence that anhydrous ammonia is a cost-effective and efficient method of supplying nitrogen to vegetable crops, but very little information is available to vegetable growers on how to use this fertiliser, the potential benefits and the risks. Beginning in July, this short project is reviewing available research into anhydrous ammonia (which is used widely in the cotton and grain industries), consulting with industry, and aiming to produce fact sheets for the major vegetable crops in Australia.

What’s the latest update? The researchers have drafted their review of existing information of anhydrous ammonia. This review has found that there is potential for anhydrous ammonia to be used as a source of nitrogen for vegetable crops, though it is more suited to row crops than crops such as baby leaf, which require more even distribution of nitrogen across the beds.

The researchers will now craft the information into fact sheets explaining the benefits and risks of anhydrous ammonia, to be made available to industry.


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? This project aims to increase on-farm productivity through the application of automation, robotics, sensing technologies (specifically hyperspectral imaging and wireless sensor networks) and vision systems.

The goal is to develop technologies that are modular so that they can be used on the most appropriate platform for the task required.

What’s the latest update? Getting fully underway earlier this year, at the time of last reporting to Hort Innovation the project was on track, with collaborative agreements signed (the project involves collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Queensland University of Technology and the CSIRO), literature reviews completed and trial work underway.


Other Farm Productivity, Resource Use & Management projects…

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

» Characterisation of a carlavirus of French bean (VG15073), a new project that will better characterise a new Carlavirus identified infecting Fabaceae crops in South East Queensland; identify potential distribution and incidence of the virus in other French bean production regions of Australia; and develop management strategies for the virus in bean production.

» Review of the National Biosecurity Plan for the Vegetable Industry (VG15065), a new project that will review the industry’s current biosecurity plan to identify the 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.

» Management of insecticide resistance in the green peach aphid (VG12109), a recently completed project undertaken to better equip the vegetable industry with knowledge of the current state of insecticide resistance levels in green peach aphid populations across Australia. The project found widespread resistance to three major insecticide groups, and its findings have been incorporated into a regional resistance management strategy for green peach aphid. Full details can be found in the project’s final report, which will be available to order at http://horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports (final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies).

» Review of current irrigation technologies (VG14048), which is now due for completion and will be summarised in the next edition of Hortlink.

» Viruses of national importance to the vegetable industry (VG15008), which is wrapping up at the beginning of 2017.

» Investigating labour supply options across the Australian vegetable Industry (VG15025), an ongoing project that is investigating the labour supply needs of the industry and how they are currently being met, and identifying solutions for addressing them.

» 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.

» Using autonomous systems to guide vegetable decision making on-farm (VG15003), an ongoing project that is developing, evaluating and supporting the adoption and commercialisation of technologies that aim to reduce production cost and increase on-farm productivity in the vegetable industry, in particular in brassica, lettuce and baby leaf growing. These technologies include intelligent sensors and precision applicators, automated information processing systems and intelligent mobile platforms including robotics. The technologies will collectively provide timely and accurate information about crop status (including yield, quality and forecasting) and minimise input costs through the precision application of chemicals and water, and in some cases the use of non-chemical automated systems for precision crop and weed handling.

» Soil condition management – extension and capacity building (VG13076), a project in its final year that has a focus on delivering good soil management information to Australian vegetable growers via demo sites, workshops, farm walks, factsheets, email, social media and more. Visit www.soilwealth.com.au/resources/ to discover some of the resources produced as part of this project.

» Effective management of parsley summer root rot (VG13101), an ongoing project that is developing a greater understanding of summer root rot of parsley and investigating effective management options.

» Management and detection of bacterial leaf spot in capsicum and chilli crops (VG14010), and ongoing project that aims to increase the capacity of the vegetable industry to implement integrated disease management programs for bacterial leaf spot of capsicum and chilli field crops. It is identifying causal agents of the disease, reviewing existing research and filling in knowledge gaps, and investigating control measures.

» Facilitating adoption of IPM through a participatory approach with local advisors and industry – training component (VG15034) and its associated Coordination component (VG13035) and Evaluation component (VG13036). These ongoing projects are working to increase the uptake of integrated pest management practices among vegetable growers, with the overarching aim to make IPM a mainstream method of controlling pests within a decade. There is an initial focus on South Australian activities, with a view to expand to other regions.

» New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (1) (VG13041) and New in-field treatment solutions to control fruit fly (2) (VG13042), ongoing projects that are developing approaches for in-field control of fruit fly in vegetable crops, to allow market access interstate and overseas.

» Extension of integrated crop protection information (VG13078), an ongoing project supporting Australian vegetable growers and other industry stakeholders in relation to integrated crop protection and decision-making about pests, weeds and diseases. It has a focus on improving knowledge and skills and supporting practice change to achieve enhanced long-term sustainability and profitability of Australian vegetable businesses.

» Improved skill for regional climate in the ACCESS-based POAMA model (VG13092). POAMA is the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal prediction system, and ACCESS is a new national modelling system for applications from weather forecasting to climate change projections. This project represents a component of work, evaluating improvements to the 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 for vegetable growers.


Further projects for this pillar also include…

» Investigating on farm HACCP programs for managing plant pests of biosecurity concern – an options paper (VG15051)

» Advanced stable fly management for vegetable producers (VG15002)

» Strengthened biosecurity for the Australian vegetable industry – stage 2 (VG15020)

» A multi-faceted approach to soil-borne disease management (VG15010)

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

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

» Evaluating and testing autonomous systems developed in VG15003 in Australian vegetable production systems (VG15059)


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.

Removing barriers of food safety certification for vegetable exporters though GLOBALG.A.P. co-certification (VG16019)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Announced in September this year, this project supports the benchmarking of the Freshcare Food Safety and Quality Standard (FSQ4) against the internationally recognised GlobalG.A.P. standard.

Successful completion of this benchmarking, and recognition of the Freshcare Standard by GlobalG.A.P., will help streamline compliance processes for Australian growers accessing export markets.

What’s the latest update? While project activities have only recently begun, the project has gained interest and coverage in the media. Read Hort Innovation’s media release on the project here.


Vegetable industry participation in the South Australian trade mission to SE Asia 2016 (VG15075)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This project provided funding for three South Australian vegetable industry representatives, including two growers and the AUSVEG SA State Manager, to be part of a South East Asian trade mission in connection with the South Australian government.

Visiting Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in July, the representatives accompanied South Australian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Leon Bignell MP, as well as around 70 leading business and government officials.

The mission was a successful opportunity to strengthen trade ties and gain a greater understanding of these export markets for the vegetable industry. The representatives met with government trade officials, buyers, in-market trade staff and agribusiness companies, processors and cold chain logistics companies.

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


Trade mission delegates visiting a supermarket in Singapore


Economic modeling of impact of vegetable consumption on health costs and grower returns (VG15031)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This project has modelled the impact of increased vegetable consumption on government health expenditure and producer returns, with its findings providing a clear economic rationale for investment in initiatives to increase vegetable consumption in Australia.

Key findings include that:

  • If Australians ate 10 per cent more vegetables per day, all levels of government could reap $100 million per year combined in health savings
  • If Australians ate 10 per cent more vegetables per day, vegetable growers would be supported with an estimated $23 million per year in additional profit
  • More than 90 per cent of Australians fail to eat the recommended intake of vegetables per day, representing a large opportunity to increase vegetable intake. Currently the average Australian eats 2.3 serves of vegetables a day, short of the recommend five serves or 375g.

In regards to vegetable consumption, the project found that:

  • Men eat fewer vegetables than women, with 3.8 per cent of males consuming adequate vegetables compared to 10.2 per cent of females
  • Australia ranks 63rd in the world by apparent consumption of vegetables per capita
  • Tasmanians are Australia’s highest vegetable consumers, but still only 12 per cent of the local population are consuming the recommended daily intake
  • Vegetable consumption generally increases with age, peaking among 75 to 84-year-olds
  • ‘Fruiting vegetables’ such as corn and pumpkin are the top vegetables consumed by Australians (excluding potatoes).

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


Vegetable industry export strategy (VG15052)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established earlier this year, this project is developing a comprehensive, internationally-focused vegetable industry export strategy that will identify priority market access and improvements, as well as market development objectives.

What’s the latest update? The first phase of work has included a background analysis into the current state of Australian vegetable exports, and category mapping and analysis for all major exports. The researchers have completed industry consultation, there has been attendance at key events including the industry’s national conference and sessions at Asia Fruit Logistica (a major trade show held in Hong Kong in September), and two parts of the intended three-part export strategy have been developed.


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? The below import fact sheets have recently been produced, detailing top imported vegetable products:

Looking back at 2015 import activity, the researchers note that imports haven’t changed significantly in comparison with previous years. Frozen vegetables continue to account for the majority of vegetables imported to Australia, with 79,492 tonnes imported for categories examined compared to 3,765 for fresh and 23,359 for preserved. Peas were the only crop where the volume of imports exceeded the estimated volume of domestic production, with the researchers explaining this as largely due to long-established large volumes of imports of frozen peas from New Zealand.


Other Market & Value Chain Development projects…

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

» Feasibility study to collect and report wholesale market price information for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15057), a new project for the industry exploring the opportunities for an improved wholesale price-reporting system.

» Sensitivity study – impact of increasing exports on the domestic vegetable market (VG15061), which is due for completion at the end of the year.

» 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.

» Vegetable industry market access and development program (VG13097), an ongoing project consisting of a range of market development and access activities, along with communication activities to inform growers of export opportunities (via Trade Talk newsletters and more), participation in industry trade events (such as September’s Asia Fruit Logistica trade show in Hong Kong and upcoming events in Dubai), and representation of vegetable industry interests in various forums.


September’s Asia Fruit Logistica trade show in Hong Kong, showcasing Australian vegetables and other produce under the ‘Australia Fresh’ banner


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.

Vegetable snacking options market research – stage 2 (VG15060)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Getting underway in June, this project is undertaking market research into vegetable snacking options. It is building on the findings of project Market research around the opportunity to create more vegetable snacking options to quantify market size (VG14024) and is looking at distribution channels, smaller vegetable product forms and overcoming issues and challenges related to using locally produced vegetables in processed snack form.

What’s the latest update? The project has undertaken work to identify key distribution channels for vegetable-based snacks and their constraints and enabling factors. These include vending machines, education channels (eg school canteen and childcare meal services), health and fitness channels, accommodation channels, airline channels and workplace channels.

The researchers have identified examples of these distribution channels that have succeeded globally in the distribution of fresh snacks, and have assessed local channel options and identified potential performance gaps.

Project work has also included assessing vegetable products that have potential as fresh snacks. The below attributes were identified as ideal in a vegetable snack:

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

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


Consumer and market program for the vegetable industry (Project Harvest) (VG12078 and VG14060)

Status: Ongoing projects

What’s it all about? ‘Project Harvest’ monitors 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? Research findings and insights continue to be made available to the Australian vegetable industry through a monthly report including monthly consumer tracking, an interactive research tool and trends analysis. These reports are accessible through the Infoveg portal, www.ausveg.com.au/infoveg.


Other Consumer Alignment projects…

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

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

» New vegetable products for personal nutrition (VG12096), which is currently wrapping up.

» Crisis management and awareness for the Australian vegetable industry (VG15016), a near-completed project.

» Identifying and sharing post-harvest best practice on-farm and online (VG13083), an ongoing project that aims to document and communicate techniques and technologies that will help vegetable growers achieve post-harvest efficiencies. As reported in the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016), this project has produced a handbook outlining the best and most cost-effective ways for handling vegetables in the post-harvest period. To order your copy of Postharvest management of vegetables: Australian supply chain handbook, contact Applied Horticulture Research Office Manager Sandra Marques.

» Development of a vegetable education resource – stage 2 (VG15067), which began back in June. This project is optimising and expanding the 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.

» Implementation plan for increasing children’s vegetable intake (VG15005), a near-completed project that has seen the formation of a Vegetable Intake Strategic Alliance (VISA) of key stakeholders for the progression of new project concepts with a focus on increasing children’s consumption of vegetables.

» Demographic research for the vegetable industry – Phase 2 (VG15019), also known as Nielsen Homescan data. This project produces a series of regular and ad-hoc reports looking at consumption in the Australian vegetable industry, using the Homescan data drawn from a panel of 10,000 members, representative of Australia’s demographics. The reports are available through the Infoveg portal, www.ausveg.com.au/infoveg. Hort Innovation has recently run a series of presentations around this data in key vegetable-growing regions across the country, with the assistance of the National Vegetable Extension Network.


As well as the below project updates and Hort Innovation’s Vegetable grower page, for more information on what’s going on within the Drive Train pillar of the vegetable industry, contact Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Byron de Kock.

Vegetable industry communication program 2016-2019 (VG15027)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This purpose of this project is to effectively communicate 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 – this publication was previously produced under now-completed Hort Innovation project Vegetables Australia (VG12033)
  • Vegenotes factsheets, available here
  • Annual publication Vegetable Grower Success Stories
  • InfoVeg services, soon to include vegetable industry YouTube videos
  • Social media updates in AUSVEG channels including Twitter
  • The industry’s annual report.

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


The September/October 2016 edition of Vegetables Australia magazine


Nuffield Scholarship (VG14065)

Status: Ongoing project

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

What’s the latest update? The project’s 2016 scholar is Michael Vorrasi, a vegetable grower from Adelaide, South Australia, who has been investigating opportunities for value-added vegetables to boost grower returns, consumption of fresh produce and markets for second-grade produce.

In September this year, the project’s 2017 scholar was announced as Bao Duy Nguyen of Walkaway, Western Australia. Bao is the director of Sun City Produce, and grows cucumbers and tomatoes. His project will focus on protective cropping in horticulture. He will be looking at efficient practices in low-tech greenhouses around the world, with an emphasis on monitoring technology and water sustainability practices.


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


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.

The missions expose growers to international industries and markets, providing opportunities for education and the chance to see innovations being pursued around the world. They also promote networking and relationship building, and provide the chance for industry to identify growers suited to leadership roles.

What’s the latest update? During September, this year’s Young Grower Development Mission toured three countries in South America: Chile from September 12-15, Argentina from September 16-20, and Brazil from September 20-24. The Women’s Leadership and Development Mission was to the US and Canada from October 10-24.


National Vegetable Extension Network (multiple projects and codes)

Status: Ongoing program involving multiple projects

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

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

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

  • Regional capacity building to grow vegetable businesses – Bowen Gumlu and Far North Queensland (VG15004)
  • Wide Bay Burnett (Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers) (VG15040)
  • Lockyer Valley and South East Queensland (Lockyer Valley Growers Inc) (VG15041)
  • New South Wales (Local Land Services) (VG15042)
  • Western Australia (vegetablesWA) (VG15043)
  • Northern Territory (NT Farmers) (VG15044)
  • South Australia (VG15045)
  • Tasmania (VG15046)
  • East Gippsland (East Gippsland Food Cluster) (VG15047)
  • Victoria (South-East, West and Northern regions) (VG15048)

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

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


Other Drive Train projects…

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

» Vegetable industry education and training initiative (VG15028), which begun earlier this year and has a focus on providing targeted training programs that effectively upskill people at all levels in the vegetable industry.

» Financial performance of Australian vegetable farms (VG13068), which is now wrapping up. The project has been responsible for producing annual economic surveys of the industry, producing, collecting comprehensive production and financial performance data, production intentions and issues of particular interest to industry stakeholders. The 2015/16 report is to be extended to industry shortly.

» 2016-18 European Industry Leadership and Development Mission – Berlin Fruit Logistica (VG15701), which supports industry participation at the Berlin Fruit Logistica trade fair as part of overseas missions also incorporating visits to leading agribusinesses overseas. The project helps strengthen relationships between Australian growers an international, colleagues, adds knowledge and value to the industry through communication activities, and plays a role in identifying and developing future leaders for Australian horticulture.



Chris Schreurs was working as a financial services consultant in Singapore when he received a call asking if he’d like to return to the family farm in Clyde, Victoria.

“My family was keen to retire and my cousin, Adam, wanted to know if I’d be interested in joining him in purchasing the business operations.”

Chris was, and flew back to Melbourne in May 2012. In July the next year, he, Adam and their cousin, Ben, took over the farm. “It was a really good succession plan and it worked out well. I’m loving it.”

Chris said his experience in consulting for a start-up company in Singapore has helped on the farm. “I like the changing nature of the business and the industry, and the skills I had built in the corporate world can certainly be applied to the farm.”

Chris’s father was heavily involved in R&D and Chris, Adam and Ben have endeavoured to carry that tradition on. While Chris is heavily involved in the consumer side of things and interested in industry research in this area, Adam keeps on top of growing-focused R&D including trials, soil wealth studies and IPM programs, while Ben looks after sales and production.

“We like to look at the research and whether we’re seeing trends, as far as customers leaning towards one product over another and that sort of thing. Data is also a powerful tool to take in when you see clients.” Chris said having access to reports [such as the Neilsen data produced under Hort-Innovation-funded work], allows growers to have constructive discussions in such meetings.

Looking at the history of the Schruers business, Chris is quite proud. His grandparents migrated from Holland in the late ’50s and started growing in 1963, renting 17 acres in Dingley before purchasing 70 acres in Clyde in 1970. It was here the Schruers began specialising in celery.

“The business blossomed from there. They started their own breeding programs, which still run today and are quite successful. We were one of the first farms to pioneer growing celery all year.”

In the 1980s the family introduced leeks to the business and eventually started growing baby leaf and salad lines. “Now we stick with spinach, rocket and snow pea tendrils as rotation and we mainly grow those throughout the summer periods,” Chris said.

Schreurs currently grows 20,000 tonnes of celery each year and distributes around Australia, as well as exporting to the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.

Chris, Adam and Ben have taken advice from an export agent and leveraged information and opportunities through Hort Innovation and AUSVEG export development programs (including participation in international trade expos).

“They’re an excellent tool to get growers export ready and, once they’re export ready, for introducing clients. Once our product has been seen overseas, we’ve had clients come and approach us.”

Chris said the farm’s staff have done an amazing job helping out during and after the generational transition, and currently the team is working on relocating a portion of the business to South Gippsland. “It’s going to be a very big challenge but an exciting one,” Chris said.

Chris has a keen interest in storing power and making the new location self-sufficient as far as energy usage. He said he was keen to see governments supporting private enterprises to become more environmentally friendly.

“We have an open canvas and we’re trying to embed a footprint where we grow in an environmentally sustainable fashion. We’re going to be there a long time and we don’t want to damage that environment.”

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