THE 2022 Protected Cropping Australia Conference was held at the Pacific Bay Resort, Coffs Harbour, NSW in what would have traditionally been a sunny, sub-tropical climate, from March 28 to 31.
Prior to the event itself commencing, Local Land Services NSW hosted a stand alone training event for local growers on the Monday.
The sessions covered an "introduction to irrigation" which was presented by industry consultants Tony Bundock and Levi Nupponen, followed by "IPM for the berry industry" delivered by Stuart Doyle.
Both of these sessions were well supported by growers and LLS is planning to roll out these training sessions more widely across NSW.
The PCA event started to swing into action in the evening with a welcome function kindly sponsored by Haifa Fertilisers.
This was probably one of the first face to face events that the industry had attended en masse and it was great to see everyone on that basis.
The weather had by now started to get even worse with large amounts of rain falling.
Flights from Sydney had experienced trouble landing at Coffs Harbour - one flight had three attempts at landing before touching down.
The event itself commenced on the Tuesday with a welcome to country and opening ceremony, followed by Tristan Kitchener providing an in-depth viewpoint on retailing and opportunities for producers.
Also in the opening session, student R&D projects from Western Sydney University were presented in person by the students giving a great insight into their work.
The trade displays were all housed in a huge purpose-built marquee structure some 50 metres from the main venue where meals were also served.
However, the unrelenting rain was now heavier than ever, reaching what can only be described as Biblical proportions so the humble umbrella now become a highly valued commodity in the dash from the trade area to the main building.
As with all conferences, there was a huge range of speakers that allowed delegates to pick and choose areas of interest.
The official conference dinner was held on the Tuesday evening complete with fire twirling dancers and awards.
Of note was Nicky Mann being recognised with the outstanding industry contribution award as well as life membership of PCA - a great effort.
By now the rain gods had gone into overdrive, and to add to this, there was a severe storm warning at the start of the Wednesday session.
The wind was so strong that the organisers had to temporarily close access to the trade area as the actual structure was under threat but luckily the wind receded by lunchtime.
However, the relentless rain had done its damage and the proposed farm tours on Thursday had to be cancelled as road access to the farms was now under water and sites were also being flooded.
But growers are a resilient bunch and there was general acceptance that these weather events were out of the control of the organisers, and these were the facts that had to be faced.
So, another bar session on the Wednesday night seemed to resolve all problems.
The general feeling was that the conference as a whole was a huge success, and it was so good to be back to face-to-face conversations and meetings.
A huge round of applause needs to go to the ASN team for handling an ever-changing situation, as well as to PCA chair Matt Plunkett, event chair Emily Rigby and the PCA team for running another fantastic event.
And now the attention turns to PCA 2023 to be hosted in Brisbane - stay tuned for details.
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