Beginning in early 2018, this investment supports the development of the Australian turf industry, growing demand and increasing product value.
To get more landscapers, lawn-lovers, sporting facilities and recreation venues to embrace the product while educating growers about the latest techniques and technology to maximise the return on their investment.
According to Ross Boyle, Director of Rosemount Turf on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the Australian turf industry is unique in that growers sell direct to the end-user, so the whole supply chain is ‘on farm’. Consequently, the success of industry R&D and marketing activities are dependent on direct and strong grower engagement – factors that underpin this particular program.
“Working with Hort Innovation and with Jenny Zadro, the Market Development Manager, has been really positive. Jenny’s worked really closely with the growers to get results and provide a unified voice and that’s what we need. We need a presence – a strong voice and a voice to talk to all the right people. This program does that.”
While the COVID-19 has hurt many industries, that’s not been the case for the Australian turf industry, says Ross. With the help of this program, growers have been able to make the most of the opportunities presented by the pandemic, leveraging it to maximum benefit.
“As an industry, we were on track for growth. But in my business, we’ve seen a jump of about 20 per cent from before COVID. Having a unified voice around communications in the program’s National Market Development Manager has been really helpful.”
Ross also finds the regular information and education updates he receives through the program invaluable to keep his operation at the forefront of the industry. “I get a lot out of them,” he says. “I look at everything that comes through and the info is really valuable. Some growers only pay attention when there’s an issue, but they’re missing out.”
But it’s the field days and industry collaboration the program offers that Ross finds most beneficial. “Before the lockdowns, the field days were a great way to speak with other growers. It’s a unique industry, so it’s good to see and hear what others are doing. It’s so helpful to be able to speak openly with people from interstate, who aren’t a direct competitor from down the road, to see what they’re doing – what’s working, what’s not. It’s really good to bounce ideas off each other.”
“This program has done a lot of good, and as it’s tweaked going forward, it will get even better and become even more beneficial for our growers.”
This program is assisting growers in developing their skills, knowledge, and businesses through a range of extension activities, including delivering training and disseminating market research and R&D findings. It’s also tasked with engaging the wider industry and key influencers, such as landscape architects and planners, while facilitating collaboration and engagement with and between key industry bodies.
Specifically, the project supports the role and activities of the National Market Development Manager Jenny Zadro, who was appointed at Turf Australia in January 2018. Jenny provides project updates in regular market development reports in the levy-funded Turf Australia magazine.
Over the past six months, several key outcomes have been achieved at national and state levels, despite it being a generally quieter time of year for engagement with lingering COVID-19 restrictions.
Early in the project, several key areas were identified through consultation with growers, researchers, and the wider turf industry. They continue to be addressed by the project team, namely:
- Collaboration across the wider turf sector was supported via joint projects, with a willingness to share information and work towards a united greenspace industry
- Sustainability around water security remains a strong topic of conversation with growers and in maintenance planning for greenspace in urban settings. The demand for information on comparisons and facts on natural turf versus synthetic was strong, with support materials developed and shared by the team
- Support in relation to weeds, pest and disease involved the distribution of information to Queensland Growers, working closely with the Department of Agriculture, to provide updates on the emergence of imported red fire ants
- Discussions were held with key support organisations about the current employment and education needs of the turf industry, aimed at improving the training opportunities
- The first stages for developing industry best practice for turf transport safety and compliance was undertaken, with further work scheduled in this area.
Articles, fact sheets, events, presentations, webinars, and social media messages were prepared, promoted, and extended to a wide audience across the industry. Additional activities and resources are underway, including videos, and engagement opportunities.