It is rare that the circumstances surrounding a conference highlight the need for its subject matter. However, there is possibly no greater example of the need for increased knowledge of protected cropping systems than the almost 300 millimetres of rain that fell on Protected Cropping Australia’s conference in March. Ian Thomas reports.

Protected Cropping Australia (PCA) is the peak industry body representing Australia’s commercial hydroponic and greenhouse growers. PCA members also include equipment and installation suppliers, specialist consultants and advisors, researchers and educators.

The annual PCA Conference was held in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, from 28-31 March and – despite the torrential downpour – was a roaring success. Attendees were treated to presentations covering the latest research and developments in pollination, irrigation and climate control, and integrated pest and disease management, among many other topics.

Conference organiser and PCA Chair Matthew Plunkett was thrilled to see the conference go ahead after what has been a difficult couple of years for the industry.

“Connecting with our growers and allied trade – after all the challenges with COVID – has been great. We have not run a conference since 2019 and reuniting with our tight-knit protected cropping family has been very important,” Matthew said.

Highlights from the conference included grower training workshops, a trade show with over 60 exhibitors, and a gala dinner with awards given to individuals achieving great things in the industry.

Tony Bundock delivered ‘Irrigation Fundamentals’ training to vegetable growers.

Veg growers honoured

There were vegetable industry members recognised at the awards night, including Nicky Mann from Family Fresh Farms. Nicky was awarded the PCA Outstanding Contribution award and was made a PCA life member.

Andrew McIlwain from Green Camel took home the Grower of the Year award. Amy Rees from Flavorite claimed the Young Achiever of the Year Award and a number of students also received awards.

Matthew noted the interesting work being done in the sustainability area, particularly around waste management and the interest from soil-based vegetable growers looking at moving into some form of protected cropping.

“There are so many individuals and businesses doing amazing things in the protected cropping sector,” he said.

With its conference completed for another year, PCA is now planning activities for the rest of 2022.

These include developing a series of regional tours and grower training workshops to be held around the country; continuing to engage growers and industry to develop a National Map of Protected Cropping Systems; and convening a national summit to help ensure funding for targeted and relevant research in the areas of most need for growers.

PCA also looks forward to supporting AUSVEG and partners to deliver the Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar at Hort Connections 2022.

PCA2023 – Save the date!

Protected Cropping Australia’s next conference, PCA2023, will be held in Brisbane from the 17-30 July 2023.

For more information on either the 2022 or 2023 conferences or to learn more about protected cropping in Australia, please visit the PCA website.

Grower contribution

Protected Cropping Australia welcomes any growers who would like to contribute to the Industry Advisory Council to get in touch via its website. This Council advises the Board on matters of importance and helps to promote the protected cropping industry.

Find out more

Please contact Matthew Plunkett at

Cover image: Levi Nupponen pictured discussing with delegates how to choose a suitable growing medium in hydroponic vegetable production.