Vital extension work to continue for Australia’s vegetable growers
After five years and two iterations, VegNET returned in October 2021. This time, AUSVEG is partnering with nine key regional industry groups to lead the five year, multi-million-dollar project. Building on the work that has already been completed, AUSVEG – as the national peak industry body for vegetable growers – is perfectly positioned to deliver world-leading extension services that are led by growers, for growers. AUSVEG National Coordinator – VegNET Sam Turner reports.
The nationally-coordinated, regionally-delivered project VegNET 3.0 is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Fund.
The project builds on previous work to improve Australian vegetable growers’ knowledge and skills to implement best practice management on-farm through a variety of delivery mechanisms.
It acts as a knowledge broker to link growers with the best science and tools to meet their individual business development goals, as well as linking the rest of industry with growers to help focus R&D efforts.
Developing networks of industry stakeholders is a key focus of the project and exemplifies a shift in extension strategy away from traditional top-down, push extension, towards a more inclusive and collaborative research, development and extension (R, D&E) ecosystem.
This systems approach to extension will be led on the ground by highly skilled and trained extension experts whose focus will be on delivering results for growers. These Regional Development Officers (RDOs) will also form a key link in providing information and feedback into the levy investment system to ensure that R&D priorities are delivering on key grower issues.
A key strength of the project is the partnerships with regional organisations to deliver outcomes and programs relevant for their regions.
All major growing regions in the country have been targeted with 10 regionally-based extension experts to ensure that all growers – no matter what their business is – benefit from the best resources and support to improve their operation.
Organisations involved include:
- AUSVEG SA
- The Northern Territory Farmers Association (NT Farmers)
- Bowen Gumlu Growers Association
- Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers
- Lockyer Valley Growers Inc.
- Greater Sydney Local Land Services
- Food and Fibre Gippsland
- RM Consulting Group (RMCG)
In additional to the regional bodies, AUSVEG has partnered with RMCG to deliver independent monitoring and evaluation of the project. This will ensure that all activities have a measurable impact for growers and will drive continual improvement from the program.
In VegNET 2.0, each region developed a five-year extension action plan to help focus and guide extension strategy. This action plan is reviewed yearly and will help to ensure that key challenges for growers are being addressed, and extension is efficient and effective at achieving on the ground practice change.
The five-year plans identified a series of similar challenges for growers right across the country.
Priorities for 2022
Since beginning in late 2021, the project has hit the ground running with all regions developing their annual plans for 2022.
These plans help to target regional issues affecting growers in a prioritised, efficient manner. They are being developed collaboratively with the other regions and identifies multiple, innovative extension methods to allow better engagement with growers – no matter their level of development or industry engagement.
This multi-faceted, multi-tiered approach ensures that growers receive the support they need to develop their businesses and solve their specific challenges.
The 2022 national extension priorities have been developed by collating the key issues from the regions and fall into four major pillars:
- Business costs, capability, and labour.
In addition to production challenges, all regional extension officers will focus on supporting business outcomes in 2022. Rising input costs, labour challenges and a difficult trading environment have resulted in an increased focus on business capability. Extension efforts will be focused on supporting vegetable business to increase commercial resilience and labour use efficiency as well as business development outcomes and cost savings.
- Resource and water use efficacy.
Irrigation and resource management is critical to the success and sustainability of vegetable production businesses. Coordination of extension is a key priority for all regions and will provide growers with consistent, focused, and efficient information to support their irrigation and production.
- Pest and disease management.
Pest and disease management is a major concern for growers of all regions. Increased understanding of pests and diseases, Integrated Pest Management and emerging biosecurity threats is a key priority for extension activities and will directly support grower production outcomes.
- Soil health.
Soil health is an area of increased focus for growers. VegNET will prioritise extending information and tools to help growers understand and manage their regional and local soil profiles to support production outcomes.
Find out more
For more information, please contact AUSVEG National Coordinator – VegNET Sam Turner on 03 9882 0277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.
Project Number: VG21000