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Historical document

Opportunities and challenges faced with emerging technologies in the Australian vegetable industry (VG08087)

Key research provider: Food Chain Intelligence
Publication date: June, 2010

This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.

What was it all about?

The objective of the project “Opportunities and challenges faced with emerging technologies in the Australian vegetable industry” was to provide a broad review of technologies that were influencing the competitiveness of the Australian vegetable industry.

This report was the last of five analyses developed during 2009-2010 and reviews emerging technologies for production and harvest of vegetables.
Some key findings of this analysis were:

A CSIRO study recently developed baseline scenarios for emergency plant pests (EPP) of interest to the vegetable industry. If these predicted scenarios become a reality, foreign disease invasions would cause over $2.4 billion in costs to the vegetable industry and the government. This represents about 7 to 12 times the investment needed to bring a new crop protection product to the market. Therefore, the ROI for R&D investment was positive from the perspective of potential losses.
 
One of the most interesting applications of plant tissue culture was the establishment of plant biofactories to produce high value molecules. The engineering of edible plants may enable the delivery of vaccines through fruits, tubers, leaves or seeds.

The vast majority of Australian farms operated with low to medium technology levels. A comparison between the productivity of protected cropping systems in UK and Australia revealed that the UK produced 4 times more vegetables under protected cropping practices than Australia, while the latter was 1.3 times more productive in field vegetable cropping. Australia was yet to reap the full benefit of protected horticulture.

Firms in the agricultural machinery sector lack the economies of scale, access to technology and low cost labour markets necessary to compete on the global stage. As a consequence, the use of imported equipment in Australian agriculture was estimated to be as high as 85 per cent of the total equipment used.

A large proportion of Hort Innovation (which was then Horticulture Australia Limited) R&D investment in the five platforms investigated was dedicated to crop control aspects and irrigation. When compared with the expected investment strategy recommended in Future Focus, it was evident that the latter proposed a radical departure of funding directions at the time. Revisiting R&D priorities in Integrated Pest Management, Minor Chemical Use and Irrigation was therefore essential. For example, the projected costs of biosecurity threats to the industry by 2020 were not considered in the HI_LINK model used to develop the Future Focus strategy.

Further, projects related to crop control seemed to be directed to measures such as training and management, driven by increasing regulatory pressures in chemical pesticides. The majority of projects in irrigation seem to focus on improving the efficiency of this operation in a range of crops. Projects on truly innovative technologies in these areas, e.g. those linked to precision agriculture and biotechnology, were less common. A balance between projects responding to pressing needs at the time as well as future needs in the vegetable industry needed to be achieved.

Details

ISBN:
0 7341 2388 4

Funding statement:
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of the vegetables industry.

Copyright:
Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2010. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).