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Setting the course for protected cropping

Publication date: 26 November 2021

A strategy to provide direction and support for crops grown under shelter in Australia has been launched.

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud said the Australian Protected Cropping Strategy 2021-2030 was a pathway for the industry to develop.

“Protected cropping is a very broad term but basically it refers to crops grown within or under a structure, meaning crops can be grown with protection from the elements,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The strategy will look to increase knowledge and the capacity of industry to adopt and take advantage of protected cropping systems. With these systems we can look at developing new markets, both domestically and internationally.

“There is huge potential for protected cropping, and I’m really excited for what the next decade could bring.”

Implementation of the Strategy is being led by Protected Cropping Australia with support from Hort Innovation.

Hort Innovation Chief Executive Officer Matt Brand said protected cropping-based horticultural production is tipped to grow considerably.

“Because protected cropping provides control over growing conditions, a dedicated strategy is vital,” Mr Brand said.

“From high-tech glass houses to basic covers and nets, protected cropping is becoming a popular choice for Australian horticulture.

“With input from industry, this strategy provides an important roadmap to drive innovation and competitiveness in the horticulture sector.”

The strategy was developed by Elio Jovicich and Vicki Lane from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), and Gary Saliba from Strategic Journeys, with a wealth of industry stakeholders.

Dr Jovicich, Program Leader Protected Cropping, said the Australian Protected Cropping Strategy provides horticulture growers, businesses and industry stakeholders with a clear direction and priorities for investment in research, development and extension (RD&E) to benefit vegetable, berry, nursery and tree-fruit value chains.

“The strategy is based on extensive consultation with industry stakeholders, as well as an analysis of global trends in the use of protected cropping within horticulture,” Dr Jovicich said

“Almost 50 organisations and more than 100 individuals were engaged as part of its development, including State and Territory agricultural departments, industry associations, universities and educational centres, growers, marketing groups, consultants, and suppliers.

“The consultation highlighted several challenges to the future growth of the sector, as well as opportunities to harness protected cropping and industry growth.

“The information was used to identify protected cropping RD&E outcomes and strategies, which were road-tested and refined with industry stakeholders and Hort Innovation.

“Three pillars aligning with Value Chains, People, and Technologies were identified and have specific investment priorities.

“For an expansion of protected cropping in Australia we need to develop and access export markets while growing new domestic markets, increase workforce capacity and capability, and adapt and develop fit-for-purpose cost effective protected cropping technologies and agronomy practices.

“The industry will also need to assure that the environmental footprint well managed.

“A systems approach to RD&E will be required to solve the challenges, and collaboration across industry players will be fundamental.”

Protected Cropping Australia Chief Executive Officer Greg Fraser said the Strategy will prove a useful tool for industry.

“Australia’s horticulture industry has a great capacity and capability to harness the potential of protected cropping systems across a diversity of crops, regions, climates, business models and markets,” he said.

“This Strategy outlines opportunities for research, development and extension in the context of global megatrends, local challenges and opportunities and other factors.”

The Australian Protected Cropping Strategy 2021-2030 was funded through Hort Innovation’s Hort Frontiers Advanced Production Systems Fund, the Australian Government and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries with input from Food Innovation Australia.

See the Australian Protected Cropping Strategy 2021-2030 here.