Over the last five years, the Australian horticultural industry has been in rapid growth across many sectors. Growers of many horticultural commodities are considering some type of protection over, around, or under their crops like netting, hydroponics, the use of substrates, plastic tunnels, retractable greenhouses, multi-span greenhouses, high-tech glasshouse or even indoor vertical farms. In fact, there is a farm in New South Wales growing avocadoes under retractable greenhouses.
Soft fruits such as blueberries and raspberries, almonds, avocados, citrus, and glasshouse-grown crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, and eggplants have increased in production, especially snacking tomatoes, snacking cucumbers, and snacking capsicums. However, there is also ginger, turmeric, dragon-fruit, figs, cherries and many more horticultural crops that were traditionally grown outdoors coming under netting, plastic covers etc. and thus, tissue culture, propagators, and the young-plant nurseries had to grow accordingly and became a lot more sophisticated and mechanized.
Fresh produce market
There are multiple causes for the growth. Consumers are definitely more aware of the health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables – and the incredible increase in consumption of products like blueberries, avocados, and almonds was a direct result of marketing campaigns of the health benefits of these particular products. Consumers just went wild about blueberries especially, and so everyone jumped into planting blueberries, especially under tunnels and in substrates to harvest crops quicker to meet the surging demand for this high antioxidant fruit, which was also returning incredible profits for growers. However, the supply has vastly improved in Australia for blueberries, and the prices have come down – so growers now need to become more efficient and push their growing and viability to new heights.
Nevertheless, there is a push towards more fresh fruit and vegetables being value-added for more convenience for the consumer, and there is more focus on healthy snacking, tasty and easy to prepare salads, and meals using fresh produce. However, the vast size of our country also adds a layer of complexity with transport distances being massive and getting produce to markets and/or consumers can sometimes take days to arrive, and thus the selection of varieties to grow needs to take this into consideration.
Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)