Women’s Grower Study Tour 2013
The 2013 Women’s Grower Study Tour provided nine Australian female vegetable growers with the opportunity to learn from the production practices and large scale operations found in the Italian and Spanish horticulture industries. During the 14 day tour, participants had the opportunity to view both open field and protected cropping operations, engage in hands-on interaction with R&D innovations, tour wholesale markets, and convene with the international horticulture community at the MacFrut industry convention. The tour began in Italy with two days at the MacFrut Convention in the town of Cesena. Widely regarded as one of the most important horticultural conventions in Europe, MacFrut was attended by international industry service providers, growers and producers from Europe, United States of America and Asia. Tour attendees networked with exhibitors and interacted with a range of European innovations including packaging, cultivation technology and machinery developments. Following the convention, study tour attendees took part in a series of farm visits throughout Italy, which involved tours of vegetable-growing businesses that ranged from family-operated farms and cooperatives, to large scale multi-national operations. One of the smaller operators visited on the tour was Mr Riccardo Astolfi’s Società Agricola Farm, which provided an intimate and relatable insight into the vegetable industry in Italy. Contrasting Astolfi Farms, the tour’s Italian component culminated in a visit to the Ortoromi Cooperative’s large-scale protected cropping and processing facilities in Northern Italy. At the Ortoromi facility, massive amounts of leafy produce were being grown, processed, packaged and shipped to retailers throughout Italy and across the European continent, in an impressive display of productivity and logistics. After departing Italy, the study tour travelled to Spain and engaged in a series of industry visits throughout Madrid and the southern regions of Murcia and Almeria. The G’s Grower Group provided attendees with a tour through the dry, desert-like region of Murcia, helmed by Region Manager, Mr David Abram. Through Mr Abram’s involvement with the unique horticultural processes of the region, Australian growers were able to closely consider techniques and technology utilised to conduct large scale vegetable-growing under hostile conditions. The G’s Group utilise some advanced technologies, from desalination plants to custom farm machinery, in order to productively cultivate over 1,100 hectares of land in a desert environment. The following day, representatives from Syngenta provided attendees with an extensive tour of the Almeria region, an area renowned for the use of plastic greenhouses. Here, the study tour was permitted to visit the distribution center of La Casi, the largest cooperative of tomato growers in the world. The visit to La Casi provided growers with the opportunity to witness a very successful horticultural operation, and encouraged them to consider adopting similar process where they were relevant in Australia. In Almeria, the group also visited a Syngenta research facility, and was given an in depth analysis into the process of testing and developing new vegetable varieties. The final visit on the tour was to Mercamadrid, one of the largest fresh produce markets in all of Europe. Attendees were provided a guided tour of the market facilities, and given insights into Spanish methods of buying, selling and transporting fresh vegetables. The tour received very positive feedback from all attendees involved, with growers considering serious future implications for their businesses as result of the techniques and technologies witnessed over the two week trip. Knowledge gained on the tour will be communicated back to industry through a range of information delivery mechanisms.