Thursday, July 25, 2024

Innovation amid shifting horticulture landscape

Like many industries, horticulture has had to withstand the turbulence of the Covid era.

From a research and development perspective, says Hort Innovation CEO Brett Fifield, the pandemic has spurred a whole new set of priorities.

“The industry used to focus on traditional areas such as pest and disease prevention and management, limiting any impacts on quality throughout the supply chain and creating optimal varieties,” he says.

“Now, as well as that, we’re looking at things like data to identify workforce gaps and challenges, creating strategies to support Covid-19 export disruptions and monitoring shifts in consumer behaviours during Covid, so growers can respond accordingly.”

In terms of horticulture’s position as an industry, Mr Fifield says the data tells us it’s now the fastest growing agricultural sector.

“And our modelling has shown that under the right conditions, the horticulture industry could almost double by 2030 from $15.2 billion to $30 billion,” he says. “Australian horticultural products are some of the best quality in the world, grown using the most stringent of safety standards, which makes us competitive locally and globally.”

Mr Fifield points to evidence of recovery from the pandemic’s lows in some key areas of the industry.

“For the 10 months from July to April, the export value of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts rose 2% compared to 12 months before,” he says. “We still require an increase of about 8% to return to where exports were two years ago.

“We’ve also seen that online grocery sales continue to grow, now reaching 12.2% of total value sales in the 12 months to May 2022, up from 6.4% two years ago. Online sales of horticulture products have more than doubled over the past two years.

“Positively for the nursery industry, Covid also offered an opportunity for Australians to transform their homes with plants, which led to some of the highest volumes of plant sales in history, and research shows that this growth is continuing.”

Read the article in full in the August issue of Retail World.

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