HORTICULTURE producers will be given assistance to manage supply chain risks and minimise produce loss.
A 3.5-year project is being delivered through Hort Innovation and led by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Queensland.
There is also financial and research support from various industry partners in the $15 million bid to improve supply chains and strengthen domestic and international trade offerings.
The aim of the project is to deliver quality produce to buyers every time in the face of supply chain disruptions associated with COVID-19.
The work will focus on current and emerging export cultivars of:
- vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and lettuce).
Research and extension specialists will develop and promote cultivar-specific decision aid tools, based on shelf life prediction models, that factor in regional variability, harvest maturity, postharvest treatments and cooling procedures across different modes of transport.
Hort Innovation chief executive Brett Fifield said the past two years had been challenging at all stages of the supply chain, from farm to retail.
"What this project will do is draw on some of the best research talents in the country as well as the knowledge and networks of key industry partners to make the business of getting quality horticultural products to market, domestically and overseas, that little bit easier," Mr Fifield said.
Queensland agriculture minister Mark Furner said the decision-aid tools will draw on data from real-time consignment monitoring to inform handling strategies and commercial decisions when ideal supply chain conditions have not been met.
"This research will provide Australian horticulture producers with the skills, confidence and necessary decision support to identify, assess and manage current supply chain risks in the pursuit of delivering more predictable product quality," he said.
DAF has assembled an experienced national team, including research, technical and extension staff from Agriculture Victoria, the Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia.
Ausveg chief executive Michael Coote said the project would provide valuable information for growers when minimising food waste and ensuring efficiencies in the supply chain have never been more critical.
Consistently delivering high-quality fruit and vegetables is vital to productive trade relationships.- Muhammad Sohail Mazhar, NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade
"This project will deliver grower-friendly resources with clear, concise advice confirming pathways for vegetable crops to different markets," he said.
"It complements other vegetable export development initiatives and is an opportunity for growers to secure outcomes as part of a broader industry supply chain improvement approach."
Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade spokesperson Muhammad Sohail Mazhar said the project would allow Australian producers to continue to deliver the quality fruit and vegetables that buyers expect.
"Australia has a reputation for producing safe and nutritious premium fresh produce," he said.
"Consistently delivering high-quality fruit and vegetables is vital to productive trade relationships."
Summerfruit Australia chief executive Trevor Ranford said the access to data would prove invaluable to producers.
"This project will evaluate nectarine, peach and plum cultivar performance and determine their suitability to air and seafreight supply chains by considering environment, management and postharvest factors that influence product quality," Mr Ranford said.
"This will deliver them a competitive edge when dealing with trade partners and support Australia's already strong reputation for providing premium produce."
"The research will involve completing a series of time by temperature simulation trials and monitoring of commercial consignments to characterise fruit and vegetable quality responses and cultivar performance, according to Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia Senior Research Scientist Dario Stefanelli.
Pinata Farms managing director Gavin Scurr welcomed the project. He said he looked forward to participating in trials.
"This is a good opportunity to gain greater knowledge of the impacts of different production environments and handling practices on Honey Gold mango fruit quality and shelf life," he said.
"The shelf life modelling will potentially allow us to predict the saleable life for each fruit and tailor marketing to move away from the generic first-in, first-out system."
This project is being delivered through Hort Innovation's Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative.
Hort Frontiers facilitates collaborative, transformation research and development to support horticulture to 2030, and beyond.
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