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Taste Australia: Made by Nature. Supported by Science
At the recent China Fruit and Vegetable Fair (China FVF) 2017, held on November 3–5 at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, Produce Report had the opportunity to interview Michael Rogers, General Manager for Trade and Export at Hort Innovation. Hort Innovation is a grower-owned industry services body that supports the productivity and profitability of the Australian horticulture industry by providing research and development, marketing, and trade functions. The organization is funded through a combination of grower contributions, government funding, and third-party investment.
Australia is a major agricultural producer and exporter with a reputation for growing premium and high-quality produce. The Australian horticulture industry is becoming increasingly export focused, for example in terms of citrus and table grapes, and the country’s produce exporters are currently placing considerable emphasis on engaging with markets in China, Asia, and the Middle East. A key part of this strategy is Hort Innovation’s “Taste Australia” campaign, which was launched earlier this year first domestically and then at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong in September. This campaign promotes premium Australian produce in existing and new markets.
In contrast to the individual commodity organizations representing particular products found in many countries, horticulture is a very complex industry covering many different products, growing seasons, biological aspects, and a wide range of different issues for each product. HIA’s broad mandate is to cover five categories: fruits, vegetables, nuts, olives and olive oil, and nursery and garden, with a variety of products within each category. The organization has around 35 different levies/arrangements within the industry, such as for summer fruit, table grapes, and citrus fruit, as well as many advisory panels with growers to better understand the issues affecting particular products.
The Australian government and produce industry both place a strong emphasis on innovation, as indicated by Taste Australia’s new tagline: “Made by Nature. Supported by Science.” According to Mr. Rogers, continued research and development is one of the key strengths and successes of the Australian horticulture industry: “It ensures that growers are able to continue to grow great products, to harvest them, store them, and ship them to retailers, and ensure that the consumer ultimately gets the best possible quality product.”
To encourage the industry to be more innovative, Hort Innovation funds a range of research and development activities focused around both improving specific products and supporting a wider range of products, such as supply chain improvements, addressing pests and diseases, production challenges, and product quality: “Hort Innovation supports new ideas and activity and innovation through the research and development and providing an evidence base for growers to make choices about how they grow their product, how they sell it, and how they secure it through the supply chain.”
In particular, Hort Innovation has recently funded the establishment of the Horticulture Innovation Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Sydney, which develops technologies to increase farm efficiencies, such as robots that can detect foreign matter and engage in autonomous weed identification and eradication. Other projects include smart surveillance and protection technologies for biosecurity and plant pests. According to Mr. Rogers, “The science underpins the whole experience. It may not be very visible to someone eating the fruit, which is very experiential, but the science and the technology that underpins the supply chain allow the consumer to have the greatest experience at the end.”
Hort Innovation also works with industry associations to support capability and capacity building projects for exports, such as export registration, testing, and exporter training, and also runs a retail promotion program in around ten countries including China. In the first week of December, the second year of Australian nectarine exports to China will begin. Hort Innovation is also working with the summer fruit industry and exporters to support these exports to China. Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing for the export approval of Australian apples and blueberries to China.
The Taste Australia campaign will continue to be rolled out at trade shows and the retail level over the coming months. Hort Innovation’s Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook is also available for free online for readers looking for a comprehensive and detailed statistical insight into the Australian horticultural industry.
Image sources: MZMC (main image), Pixabay (body images 1 and 2)
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