The 2018 U.S.A. Industry Leadership and Development Mission provided an opportunity for a group of nine vegetable industry members to visit innovative growing operations, research facilities, agribusinesses and the World Ag Expo in the United States.

From 3-17 February 2018, the group travelled to California and Florida –the two biggest vegetable growing regions in the United States – as well as Arizona, a key vegetable production area in winter.

The two-week tour led by AUSVEG began in Phoenix, Arizona, where the group visited Arnott’s Family Farms and Rousseau Farming Company. Participants then travelled to Yuma, a hub of leafy green production during winter. Participants met with Automated Harvesting Company and JV Smith Companies, as well as The Growers Company to gain a better understanding of labour in the United States.

The group also had an opportunity to travel across the border to California’s Imperial Valley, where they met with Vessey & Company, Oasis Farms and the University of California Desert Research and Extension Centre. The group then travelled to Florida where they examined the similarities and differences in a range of horticultural crops, providing an opportunity to see how other industries are tackling ongoing challenges. In Florida, participants met with Sizemore Farms, the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Extension Centre, Lipman Family Farms, Southern Hill Farms, Wild Goose Farms and Billy Long Packing House.

For the final leg of the mission, the group returned to California. They were given a behind-the-scenes tour of Taylor Farms’ salad processing facility and met with startup agtech companies at the Western Growers Centre for Innovation and Technology, as well as the United States Department of Agriculture’s Salinas Agriculture Research Station. In Sacramento, participants toured Bayer’s Biologics facility and stopped by Ratto Bros. on the way to the World Ag Expo. The group also visited Bolthouse Farms and Grimmway Farms, the two largest carrot producers in the United States.

The mission allowed participants to experience the large scale of horticultural production on the east and west coasts of America, providing a clearer insight into industry nuances, production practices, new technologies and issues facing growers in the United States. Participants were exposed to farming practices in a range of horticultural crops, as well as the ways that growers in the United States are incorporating sustainable initiatives and value-adding elements to their businesses.

Most importantly, participants were able to expand their local and international networksand broaden their knowledge and understanding of the vegetable and wider horticultural industries.