Hort Connections 2019

By Gabrielle Stannus

The recent Hort Connections 2019 conference provided NGIA CEO Peter Vaughan with the opportunity to highlight the value that the nursery industry provides to the commercial horticulture supply chain ‘pre fruit, vegetable and nut farm gate’.

Nearly 3,500 delegates attended this year’s Hort Connections 2019 held at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre from 24-26 June. Delivered by AUSVEG and PMA Australia-New Zealand Limited (PMA A-NZ), this annual trade show and conference is arguably the premiere event for the horticulture industry. It provides the opportunity for the entire horticultural supply chain, from primary producers to retailers and agribusinesses, to come together to grow Australia’s food future.

Pre-farm gate focus
At Hort Connections 2019, NGIA CEO Peter Vaughan’s focus was squarely on reminding the commercial horticulture supply chain that a very important part of production horticulture happens pre-farm gate. “The nursery industry is more than just ornamentals. We are the starting place for providing those plants for all fruit, vegetable and nut production,” says Peter, “The produce marketers always talk about the end product; the apple, the macadamias; the vegetable. However, there is an entire industry supporting the production of fresh food. Without the nursery industry’s pre-farm gate supply, fruit, vegetable and nut production in Australia would be limited.” says Peter.
Peter spoke to attendees about the importance of purchasing their plants for horticultural production from a recognised, sophisticated and professional nursery business such as industry member Boomaroo Nurseries. Much of the fresh vegetable produce in the market originates from Boomaroo seedlings, including lettuces, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflowers, leeks, celery, Asian vegetables, tomatoes and capsicum. Boomaroo’s Victorian and Queensland operations are highly automated, and they claim that no seed is touched manually on their premises. “You should buy your plants from an expert because of the systems that they use in producing true to type, good quality planting material,” says Peter.

Boomaroo Nurseries
Boomaroo, a key contributor to the success of this year’s Hort Connections event, is an excellent example of how nursery production contributes to food supply. Steve Winter, Head of Sales at the nursery, provided the introductory address for the AUSVEG Innovation and Sustainability speaker series which focussed on food safety and traceability, maximising energy productivity and efficiency in horticulture, and farm innovation and sustainability. Boomaroo demonstrated their support of women in horticulture, turning their stand pink when opening the Women in Horticulture session and sponsoring the Women in Horticulture Award which went to Carmel Ingram, a vegetable grower from Bonaccord Ingram in Gippsland, Victoria. They also hosted the PMA A-NZ industry talent event from their exhibition display.

Industry talent
Peter spoke at the PMA A-NZ industry talent event along with representatives from industry leaders Woolworths, Perfection Fresh, Elders, BASF, EE Muirs & Sons and Tarranto Farms. During his speech to the university students present at this session, Peter spoke about the social, environmental and economic benefits that the nursery industry provides, and highlighted the various career opportunities within production horticulture from nursery through to the retailer then consumer: “There is a whole world pre-farm gate; the 1,700 businesses, 25,000 FTEs, and 1.9 billion plants produced at a value of around $2.4 billion,” says Peter, emphasising the importance of career sessions such as this in driving diversity and attracting and retaining talent within the horticulture industry.

Hort Connections 2020
So what next? Hort Connections will be back in 2020 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 5-17 June. Mark the date in your calendar now!