Women’s Grower Study Tour 2014-2016
The 2015 Women in Horticulture Industry Leadership and Development Mission provided an opportunity for eight leading female vegetable levy payers to visit innovative vegetable growing operations, processors, research facilities, the world-famous Agritechnica trade show and other industry representatives in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. The two-week mission was funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (HIA) using the National Vegetable Levy, voluntary contributions from vegetable growing operations and funds from the Australian Government. The key objective of the mission was to provide an opportunity for leading women in the Australian vegetable industry to gain a unique insight into new farming methods, equipment, technologies and strategies currently being used in European horticulture. As emerging leaders in their own right, the participants had ample opportunities throughout the mission to learn from their European counterparts as well as each other, and identify areas of improvement for their own farms. Importantly, the mission also recognised the pivotal role that women play in the Australian vegetable industry and allowed participants to develop networks and discuss mutual areas of interest. The group consisted of a diverse range of participants representing five Australian states and they each held a different role within their respective businesses, from co-owners and business support roles to on-farm responsibilities in production and agronomy. This allowed participants to share and discuss their diverse range of knowledge and experience and ultimately learn from each other. The group also met and networked with many influential women in the European horticulture industry throughout the mission and were able to forge key contacts during the two-week mission. Providing networking opportunities for women in horticulture and fostering their skills and experience is a key priority for the Australian vegetable industry and an area where knowledge provision can have considerable on-farm profitability. During the mission, participants were introduced to new production, technical, research and supply chain systems throughout Europe and learnt of novel innovations relating to both on-farm productivity and consumer demand. Participants also witnessed first-hand an impressive range of greenhouses, as many of the countries visited are widely recognised for setting many benchmarks in protected cropping. The mission was held from 31 October to 14 November 2015 and began in the Netherlands, where the group visited leading companies, including Bird Control Group, Koppert Cress, Food Centre Amsterdam, Syngenta Seeds, Proeftuin Zwaagdijk, Barendse DC, Pater Broersen, as well as Hoogendoorn Growth Management and its partner companies. Given the timing of the mission, most vegetable growing operations had reached the end of the growing season, but the visits allowed participants to network and discuss mutual areas of concern with the growers to gain a detailed insight into how their businesses operate. From the Netherlands the group travelled to Belgium where they visited vegetable processor Hesbaye Frost. Participants were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the custom-built factory and learnt of the innovative ways the processor has developed into an industry leader in the frozen vegetable sector. In Switzerland, the group had the chance to visit Syngenta’s Crop Protection Research Biology Centre in Stein and tour its Insect and Disease Control Centre, which gave them a new appreciation of the extensive time, knowledge and effort that is necessary to develop a product for the market.