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30th Annual Fruit Growers Tasmania Conference

News

The 30th annual Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT) conference took place in Launceston last week, following the 2020 hiatus.  

FGT represents the interests of apple and pear, stonefruit and berryfruit producers in Tasmania and is an APAL class B member.   

The Premier of Tasmania, the Hon. Peter Gutwein MP opens the conference

The Premier of Tasmania, the Hon. Peter Gutwein MP opened the conference on Tuesday morning, speaking on the bright future of the Tasmanian fruit industry and highlighting government support programs, including quarantine costs for the seasonal worker program arrivals, the extra resources allocated to biosecurity maintain Tasmania’s freedom from fruit fly, and the continuing rollout of irrigation scheme development.  

Covid-19 has significantly impacted the Tasmanian fruit industry over the last 18 months, and this influenced the core themes of the conference presentations.  

Labour management

Sessions on the challenges and experiences of producers due to the lack of harvest labour in season 2021 focused on preparation for the likely ongoing challenges with the flow on effects of Covid on the working holiday maker labour pool. For example, the use of employees through the Seasonal Worker program has been a significant part of the last 18 months, and this is likely to continue.  

A session on advanced production systems included presentations from Marcel Veens on tree fruit systems and Laurie Adams on recent trends in the UK berry production sector. These presentations again led to discussions around the labour efficiency required in current and future production systems.  

Peter Cornish and Marcel Veens

Storage and Harvista®

Ramandeep Singh Sidhu presented his findings on preharvest application of Harvista® on Envy apples, looking at reduction in storage browning. This early experiment has shown promising results.  

The use of treatments such as Harvista® to improve apple storage has become even more important for our industry over the past year. We will continue exploring this topic at APAL Forum 2021 – Grow Beyond, with a presentation from Dr Craig Kahlke on the impact of Harvista® and Retain® on fruit quality. 

Agtech

Prof. Roger Stanley (UTAS) led a new tech session on measuring consumer taste, quality and experience, demonstrating how tech and innovation had more to offer our industry beyond the orchard – especially around consumer insights and behaviour.  

Fiona Turner the founder of Tasmanian company, Bitwise Agronomy, presented on their innovative and rapidly growing service providing yield and vine health data. They have now started providing valuable data for berryfruit growers, but the system’s ability to accurately count buds and fruit numbers, along with its simple Go-Pro camera usage has great potential applications for apple and pear growers, particularly with 2D trees architecture.  

Biosecurity  

The Biosecurity and Disease management session included a presentation from the CSIRO’s Dr Reiks van Klinken on a current project focused on developing systems-based approaches to support biosecurity and export market access. You can read more about systems-based approaches in an earlier AFG article 

Meeting new challenges

The second day of the conference tackled the emerging issue around the impact of plastics in the environment and the fruit growing systems, with a session by Dr. Britta Denise Hardesty, Principal Research Scientist CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere.   

The supply chain and trade session included a deep dive into airfreight in a Covid world along with a review by Nigel Chynoweth on the Hobart- Hong Kong direct airfreight link operated by Cathay Pacific last summer.  

The day closed with an industry panel of four growers reflecting upon the conference key learnings, before the Tasmanian Fruit Industry Awards Dinner at Joseph Chromy Wines in Relbia.   

Nigel Bartels, of Hansen Orchards, received the Young Grower of the Year award. The awards also included posthumous recognition of the contribution of Don Bulman and his family to the Tasmanian apple industry’s development, whose former property today is Montague’s Legana Orchard. 

All images courtesy of Fruit Growers Tasmania.

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