Labour issues, automation, exports and biosecurity issues were important topics on the agenda at BerryQuest International 2022 held on the Gold Coast late last month.
More than 500 delegates attended the event from right across the industry for the four-day program, which included international speakers Soren Bjorn from Driscoll’s, Juan Ignacio Allende from Hortifrut SA and Professor David Hughes from the UK. Berries Australia Executive Director Rachel Mackenzie says it also was a good chance for the industry to gather and discuss issues of importance to drive future direction.
"I have been reflecting on the emerging themes from BerryQuest, and out of every presentation that I saw, sustainability was very important," she said. "It's not fringe or niche, and is not something that we should do that is on top of our everyday business, it has to be integrated into our day-to-day business. The other thing I thought interesting, having worked in horticulture for 15 years or so, is that the dial has changed on climate change; we're not talking about whether it is happening and what will it mean - climate change is here. We see it, we feel it and it is impacting us and we have to manage it. We learnt about the quality and the need for product differentiation, so we are giving our consumers the absolute best eating experience. We are fortunate to represent the 'berry basket' and we need to be able to market that better to get better returns back to everyone in the industry. While of course, we discussed workforce issues and also opportunities for export - it may not be for every grower, but as an industry, it is an important area for focus."
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Ms Mackenzie explained that it was also important to ensure everyone was on the same page when it came to the berry Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) 2022-2026.
"We started off this conference with a research and development workshop and one of the key points that came out was that you need an overall industry strategic plan, so we can ensure the actual research and development that we actually invest in is actually taking us to where we want to be," she said. "The key points are there; success in overseas and domestic markets are pretty important to the industry. Also creating more resilient berry businesses, so making sustainability a key focus. We want to create a reliable workforce across berries for all skill levels, as well as strong community support for berries. Many may not be aware that in some areas berries are not the most favourite commodity which means we need to prove that we are a forward-thinking, productive industry. Another area is effective natural resource management and off-farm impacts, so things like water usage and appropriate chemical usage. But ultimately, we as Berries Australia want to be an innovative and responsive grower organisation."
Hort Innovation also announced two new berry varieties - white and pink coloured - that will hit the market in the coming seasons. There were more than thirty exhibitors in the trade show, showcasing a range of products from greenhouse equipment to fertiliser and even labour resource tools.
The Industry Gala Dinner was held at Sea World where the delegates were treated to a dolphin show before the conference concluded with farm tours throughout Thursday. The next BerryQuest International will be held in 2024.