There was an action-packed morning of thought-provoking discussions when the plenary sessions took place at Hort Connections 2019. Delegates heard from a range of speakers, including a former Masterchef winner and well-respected medical doctor, as well as horticulture industry leaders, who covered a range of topics currently influencing the sector.

The Hort Connections 2019 plenary sessions, sponsored by Hort Innovation, treated delegates to eye-opening presentations that discussed how the industry can overcome the challenges it faces to Growing our Food Future.

A selection of inspirational speakers and industry leaders took to the stage to highlight the barriers to feeding the world’s population and how the industry can work together to overcome them.

State of the horticulture industry

Hort Innovation CEO Matt Brand started the plenary sessions highlighting horticulture’s importance in the Australian food industry and the ingenuity of the industry’s growers in providing high quality horticultural produce to local and international consumers.

Matt discussed Hort Innovation’s new strategy, which was published following extensive consultation with growers across the country. The new strategy includes an increased focus on adoption and extension of research to improve practice change on-farm, and increasing investment in more multi-industry, transformational projects that will deliver greater outcomes for growers.

AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside took the stage to highlight the tremendous potential of the Australian fruit and vegetable industry and the need to overcome the hurdles that may impede the industry’s growth trajectory, including the cost and supply of labour and water, and the need for a more cohesive biosecurity framework.

James thanked the industry for its support of the Hort Connections conference and highlighted the need to continue to work more collaboratively to deliver better quality outcomes for growers across all fruit and vegetable commodities.

Produce Marketing Association Australia – New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) CEO Darren Keating presented findings the organisation’s recent State of the Industry report, saying the report’s aim was to capture the whole supply chain.

Darren highlighted three “mega-trends” that are transforming and disrupting the industry; globalisation, demographics and technology, which are driven by factors such as artificial intelligence, robotics, urbanisation, the ageing population, millennial workforce and social media.

AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.

Growing our Food Future

Dr Sandro Demaio, co-host of the ABC’s Ask the Doctor, took to the stage to discuss the findings in the latest EATLancet Commission report on food, planet and health, and about the challenges of feeding the world by 2050.

Dr Demaio discussed the factors that will influence the future of our food systems, including the causes behind some of the biggest issues facing the world, including global hunger and poverty, and the possible solutions to these problems.

The next speaker was former Masterchef winner Adam Liaw, who shared his thoughts and experiences in the food industry and provided some insight into how the industry should meet the future needs of its consumers.

Adam explained that promoting the health benefits of fruit and vegetables is not enough to encourage people to buy and eat them, with highlighting the multi-sensory experiences of taste, texture, smell, feel and look of fruits and vegetables the key to enticing consumers to want to buy them.

Dr Sandro Demaio.

Going the distance

The final speaker for the plenary session was endurance athlete and inspirational speaker Samantha Gash, who provided a thought-provoking and evocative account of her journey to becoming an ultra-marathon runner and ambassador for World Vision and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Samantha’s inspirational presentation resonated with the audience and provided the perfect platform for event delegates to confront the rest of the busy conference with inspiration and strength – if she could run 250km ultra marathons across the driest, windiest, hottest and coldest deserts on earth, surely delegates could survive the next two days at Hort Connections.

Samantha Gash.

Find out more 

More information about Hort Connections 2021 will be released in the coming months. Hort Connections 2021 will be held from 7-9 June 2021 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

In the meantime, a comprehensive wrap-up of last year’s event can be found on the AUSVEG website.