Project VG18002 was facilitated by AUSVEG. The tour was led by Elyse Rosewall from AUSVEG.

Major findings

Project VG18002 funded a two-week study tour for a group of Australian vegetable growers to visit vegetable growing regions and innovative agricultural companies in the U.S.A.

The tour connected established and emerging Australian industry leaders with peers, ag-tech innovators, growing operations and research institutions across the country.

“Everyone took advantage of the opportunity to engage with new and emerging ag-tech, look at new approaches to age-old on-farm issues and hear from research institutions from all over the world to develop a greater understanding of up-and-coming applications of research and technologies outside of Australia,” Tour Leader Elyse Rosewall said.

The tour also included visits to many leading American vegetable producers, including Bolthouse Farms in Bakersfield, Tanimura & Antle and Rio Farms in the Salinas Valley, Vessey and Co and Top Flavor Farms in Yuma and innovators throughout the supply chain across California and Arizona.

“Many participants were able to take advantage of the opportunities to meet with representatives from companies to discuss how they can implement new technologies on-farm back home, particularly innovative technologies like the PlantTape automated planting technology,” Elyse said.

Some key findings included the potential of automated harvesting and planting. The demonstration of the PlantTape technology was a key highlight, as well as using more biological additives at planting and building organic matter within the soil, along with issues with cost and availability of labour in both countries.

“Throughout the tour, it became clear that the scale of vegetable production in Australia was different than in the United States,” Elyse said.

“However, this gave participants a greater appreciation of how their colleagues in America manage production on a larger scale – the advantages of a steady and relatively cheap source of labour, and the technologies and innovations that have been implemented to achieve this feat.”

Participants were given the opportunity to attend the 2019 PMA Fresh Summit event, which included an expansive trade show. Around 1,200 exhibiting companies showcased a range of innovative products and technologies to help improve the productivity and profitability of growing and supply chain businesses.

“With over 24,000 attendees, Fresh Summit also serves as a reunion of sorts, with industry colleagues reconnecting at various social functions, including the opening reception and an Australasian Reception hosted by PMA A-NZ,’ Elyse said.

“This provided a great networking opportunity for the growers to meet with an array of individuals from across the supply chain, retailers and other growers from the region to discuss industry issues of mutual concern and create new relationships within the Australasian region.”


During the mission, many participants discovered innovative ways to value-add or create an off-farm income and noted the importance of diversifying to remain profitable as a business. In addition, the Fresh Summit Convention highlighted the creativity that some American growers have used to design packaging that is highly appealing to the consumer and meets a unique consumer need. “Some of these products were borne purely out of consumer demand, which reinforces that Australian vegetable growers have an opportunity to look more closely at what the consumer desires, especially when it comes to convenience,” Elyse said.

“The tour allowed everyone to expand their knowledge on the different production practices and the challenges faced by other growers in the global horticulture sector.”

The tour also highlighted the important role that research, ag-tech and automation can play in a vegetable growing operation.

“Australian vegetable growers should look to adopt as much automation into their businesses as possible, as this will not only help to reduce high labour costs but will also ensure their operations remain as efficient as possible and reduce the possibility of human error and contaminants infiltrating crops,” Elyse said.


The Vegetable Industry Leadership and Development Missions – 2019 were delivered by AUSVEG to provide members of the vegetable industry with the opportunity to expand their industry knowledge and build their local and international networks.

The U.S.A. mission provided an opportunity for a group of emerging leaders in the Australian vegetable industry to visit the world-leading PMA Fresh Summit conference as well as innovative growing operations, research facilities and agribusinesses.

Following their return to Australia, participants shared their new-found knowledge with friends and colleagues to disseminate the key insights discovered from the tour to the wider Australian vegetable growing community.


This project was funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy, contributions from vegetable growing businesses and contributions from the Australian Government.

Further information

Please contact Elyse Rosewall on 03 9882 0277 or email

The final report for this project is available to read by clicking here.

Cover photo: The PMA Fresh Summit Trade Show included almost 1,200 exhibitors. 


This story first appeared in Vegenotes 80 – Autumn 2021. To read this and more, please visit the AUSVEG publications page