THE Tenth International Spinach Conference scheduled to be held in Victoria in April has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The conference was to be part of the East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days (EGVID) 2020 program but has been been put off until a more suitable date can be found.
The EGVID organising committee, headed up by Andrew Bulmer and Stuart Grigg, held lengthy discussions with all stakeholders last week about the implications of the rapidly changing environment and government restrictions around travel and events.
"With the international travel restrictions now in place, as well as the social distance and self-isolation policies required to be implemented, we have, with great regret, chosen to postpone the International Spinach Conference until a more suitable date can be determined," Mr Bulmer said.
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The committee had briefly considered hosting the conference online but felt there would be too much content and context missed.
"With no human interaction, and delegates only seeing photos on a screen rather than touching and feeling crops in the field, we just felt that it would have minimal impact," he said.
"Our audio visual plans might perhaps have enabled some of the conference to run as planned and allowed non attendees to participate online, however, running the entire conference remotely would have been a considerable challenge and detracted from so many of the learnings and interactions," Mr Grigg said.
Organisers have discussed potential alternative ideas which include rescheduling the conference to be a stand-alone event later in the year or running it in conjunction with another Australian horticultural event in 2021.
The organising committee has continued to receive support from the sponsor group to explore all avenues to still hold the conference in Australia.
"Our sponsor family has been very understanding of the situation and if possible, we would love to still be able to bring it to Gippsland to help our local economy recover from what has been an incredibly challenging start to the year - so we will keep working thorough the options as the situation evolves in the coming weeks and months," Mr Bulmer said.
At this stage, the East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days will go ahead on May 7 and 8 with work continuing daily at the event field sites at Lindenow in East Gippsland.
The committee said it was working on how it could revise the event to comply with directives and meet expectations around the current circumstances.
"Due to the 'in-field growing trial' nature of the event, EGVID is not the sort of event that you can just postpone and hold at another time - it is still a number of weeks away, so at this stage, we are making plans around how we will modify the East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days as we continue to monitor the advice of authorities and keep everyone informed via our Facebook page and on Twitter (@EGVID2020)," Mr Grigg said.
"A lot can and no doubt will happen over the coming weeks and months.
"All our actions and decisions will certainly be made to comply with the Victorian Government and Australian Health authority directives, with the health and safety of the East Gippsland residents and visitors at the forefront.