Greenlife Industry Australia’s National Biosecurity and Sustainable Plant Production project team attended Hort Connections in Brisbane earlier this month where they viewed the latest technologies with potential application into production horticulture and connected with industry stakeholders.
Delivered by AUSVEG and PMA Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ), Hort Connections 2021 was held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 5-7 June and celebrated the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. Greenlife Industry Australia’s National Biosecurity and Sustainable Plant Production project team were in attendance, viewing the latest technologies with potential application into production horticulture and connecting with industry stakeholders across the food supply chain.
L to R: Fiona Grime and Angela Steain of Freshcare, Sarah Corcoran, CEO Plant Health Australia, and John McDonald, GIA National Biosecurity Manager
Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) has been a partner of Hort Connections for the last four years. “We see it as very important to have a presence at Hort Connections, given that we are the beginning of the supply chain for all production horticulture, namely fruit, vegetable and nuts,” says Peter Vaughan, GIA CEO.
This sentiment is echoed by John McDonald, GIA’s National Biosecurity Manager, and his team of Plant Protection Officers. “Many of our client base of production nurseries service the food and fibre sector with starter plants,” says John, ”Attending Hort Connections enabled us to connect and learn, and to have that experience with the technology and information processes that this sector of horticulture is being exposed to.”
Irrigation control systems
John was impressed with the irrigation control and monitoring systems on display, leaving the conference keen to set up demonstration sites to better explore the potential of that technology. One irrigation control system on display operates wirelessly without the need for internet access, using a built-in radio with a potential coverage of 8 kilometres. “People are saying that they have really poor mobile coverage,” says John, “However, you do not actually need the mobile coverage. You can set up your own irrigation control system very effectively and cheaply to capture through Wi-Fi platforms on your own business.”
New barcoding technologies
Steve Blyth, Plant Protection Officer – WA, enjoyed the human connection and being able to reconnect to people that he had not seen for a while and find out what they have been working on. “My main motivation for going to Hort Connections was to talk with other businesses to see what is available out
A solar-powered irrigation valve control system built into a bollard impressed Emma De Landre, who said it would fit neatly at the end of a nursery row or bed out of the way of tractors and other machinery Image: Emma De Landre
there. I spoke with irrigation and barcoding suppliers about the new technology that is available and how it may benefit our growers if adopted,” says Steve, “I remember looking at barcoding for my business many years ago, and at that time it was very clunky. Nowadays, there is a range of new technologies with barcode readers and printers.”
Catching up with industry connections
Emma De Landre, Plant Protection Officer – NSW, says one of her Hort Connections highlights was the opportunity to meet with Marcela Badim Rocha-Lima, Divisional Agronomist within the Costa Group’s Avocado & Banana Category. Emma says that Marcela gained her current role through contacts she made at the 2017 Hort Connections conference. “Marcela and I did our Hort Masterclass together in its first year in 2017,” says Emma, “It was great to be able to reconnect with Marcela. We discussed the Avocado and Banana Nursery Stock Specifications as part of the Nursery Industry Accreditation Scheme Australia (NIASA), the availability of disease-free avocado trees for orchard plantings and tissue culture.”
Emma De Landre with Marcela Badim Rocha-Lima from the Costa Group’s Avocado & Banana Category Image: Emma De Landre
Learning from new colleagues
Barry Naylor, Plant Protection Officer for Northern NSW and Queensland, relished the opportunity to meet his new colleagues in person having only started in his role three weeks earlier. “The conference was a great educational opportunity. I was able to learn from my colleagues whilst we were together at this event, watching what they did, observing what they found to be of interest, and listening to the questions they asked,” says Barry, “This experience was as important as the technical information itself.”
Barry also found the Hort Connections’ Trade Show very informative as it enabled him to connect with people across the supply chain, including fruit and vegetable growers, manufacturers and packaging businesses. “Viewing the exhibits in the Trade Show gave me a good picture of how everything fits together,” says Barry. He focussed his time visiting stands dedicated to smart farming, remote monitoring and environmental/sustainability certification programs.
Delivering Mini Technical Skills Courses
Whilst in Queensland for the conference, the National Biosecurity and Sustainable Plant Production project team took the opportunity to visit Pohlmans, a Biosecure HACCP accredited nursery. Located in the Lockyer Valley region on 150 acres, 40 of which is devoted to intensive plant production, Pohlmans Nursery produces vegetables, fresh herbs, potted flowers, indoor foliage and trees and shrubs. At Pohlmans Nursery, Emma delivered two short mini technical skills courses on ‘Introduction to the Pest ID Tool’ and ‘Creating a Pest Management Plan’. Emma says these courses are available to NIASA production nurseries and those working towards accreditation.
GIA’s Biosecurity team visited Pohlmans, a Biosecure HACCP accredited nursery, during their time in Queensland Image: Emma De Landre
Keen to find out more?
“There is a lot of useful technology that our industry can adopt very cost-effectively to improve business efficiencies, from capturing in field information to picking orders and conducting stock takes,” says John, “This technology includes handheld data capturing devices right through to fully automated processing systems. Adopting this technology may allow your business to then focus on other areas that cannot currently be automated.”
If you would like more information on how the technology or programs discussed in this article may benefit your production nursery, please contact the GIA National Biosecurity and Sustainable Plant Production project team member in your state or on email: firstname.lastname@example.org, identifying your state, and the relevant project officer will contact you.
Greenlife Industry Australia 2021, Facts at a glance: The Australian Nursery Industry 2019-20