HORT INNOVATION is working with growing businesses to develop a tool to help the horticulture sector share its sustainable, ethical and safe farming practice stories with stakeholders.
The tool, the Horticulture Sustainability Framework, is being drafted by Roth Rural, following interviews, surveys and workshops with producers around the country over the coming months.
Once completed mid-2020, the Framework will include a snapshot of sustainability in horticulture, and types of evidence that can support sustainability credentials. The work also has the potential to help industry identify research and development priorities or gaps in the sustainability space through the consultation phase of the project.
Hort Innovation Chief Executive Matt Brand said the initiative is the result of a rising sense of social responsibility in industry and its desire to farm land as productively as possible, combined with consumer and investor demand.
“Most Australian horticulture producers are in the industry for the long haul, and are keen to do what’s good for their land and crops to protect their longevity,” he said. “So continuously adopting environmentally responsible tools and systems, such as soil health and water efficiency measures, is commonplace.”
Mr Brand said consumers and company investors are increasingly asking for evidence that sustainable and ethical practices are used by the producers of the food they consume and products they buy or the companies they invest in.
“What this initiative aims to do is arm industry with some tools to help share their sustainability credentials with stakeholders.”
Mr Brand said the tool would also support trade efforts, as demand for Australian horticulture products overseas continues to grow.
“Australian horticultural producers gain premiums or market access through good processes, participation in food safety and quality assurance programs and perceptions of quality, safety and reliability,” he said.
“We’re looking at how to draw together lots of different information, research and farm and business practices so Australian horticulture as a whole can confidently describe its steps towards sustainable management of people, contributing to a healthy planet, performance in terms of business and contribution to regional communities and Australia, and products,” he said.
“There is so much that growers are already doing, the Sustainability Framework is about drawing this together, gathering the facts and identifying any areas for research or other investment.”
The development of The Framework is being overseen by a steering group of industry representatives including members from the nursery, vegetable, fruit and nut growing industries.
This initiative is supporting the Australian agriculture industry’s target of becoming a $100 billion industry.