Grow today for future consumers | OPINION

Grow today for tomorrow's consumers | OPINION


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Plant breeding decisions made today must consider what the consumers of tomorrow will want.

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OPINION

THE young bloke groaned upon biting into a mandarin segment.

"Ahhh, seeds?" he complained.

It sounded like such an inconvenience to this four-year-old. Fancy having to extract seeds from a piece of fruit? What a hassle. 

Older folk might be quick to denounce his laziness but his response is an indicator of something the horticulture industry needs to take heed of.

These will be the fruit buyers of the future.

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They will have expectations of seedless mandarins and watermelons, crunchy lettuce that keeps for a fortnight in the refrigerator, and blemish-free potatoes that roast perfectly every time.

They'll be after perfectly creamy, flavoursome bananas, delectable stonefruit available all year round and shelled nuts that they can feed their brains with.

These are the sorts of things they will have grown up with. Very few will want to sacrifice these conveniences.

It's similar to growers utilising tractors; no one wants to go back to horse-drawn implements.

If the horticulture industry is to remain viable into the future, it's got to have its headspace already there.

It's difficult to predict anything about the consumer of tomorrow. Judging by history, it's safe to assume the generations coming through won't want to increase their difficulty of life.

As the complexity of products develops so to will (hopefully) farming technologies to assist with producing the new varieties.

(That said, the rise and increased popularity of the heirloom tomato varieties shows that there will always be future interest in things of the past.)

New varieties need to be developed, trialled and adopted.

That means growers working with researchers working with seed companies and all the other connected parties to the development pipeline.

It may seem imposing to think of such a demand-oriented future but growers need not despair.

As the complexity of products develops so to will (hopefully) farming technologies to assist with producing the new varieties.

Robotics, drones, data feeds, sensors and crop modelling will become taken-for-granted tools to help with food production.

Don't judge the millennials, or Generation Z or Generation whatever-comes-after-that too harshly.

The citizens to come already show signs of eating more healthily than their predecessors. Don't be surprised if fast-food chains evolve to suit this desire, therefore increasing demands on growers and maybe, just maybe, lifting the positive profile of farmers in the process.

It all sound rosy, doesn’t it? Optimism might just be the thing the industry needs. 

What needs to happen on all fronts is a willingness to be involved. Those who don’t will be left behind.   

Don't judge the millennials, or Generation Z or Generation whatever-comes-after-that too harshly.

That one experience could have set that mandarin seed-detesting young bloke on a path to becoming a lead researcher in pushing new boundaries in fresh produce production.

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