Horticulture among Australia’s most innovative and productive industries, finds HIA-UQ study

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly email newsletter to receive more stories like this.

Using automatically guided vehicles in its glasshouses saves one of Australia's largest indoor truss tomato-growers time and money.
Using automatically guided vehicles in its glasshouses saves one of Australia's largest indoor truss tomato-growers time and money.
Costas Blush Tomatoes

Australia’s horticulture sector is more productive, innovative and entrepreneurial than most of Australian industry, finds a recently published study by Horticulture Innovation Australia (Hort Innovation) and University of Queensland (UQ).

Hort Innovation CEO John Lloyd said the aim of the study was “to provide an analysis of the level of innovation and productivity currently occurring across the industry”.

The study centred on a survey of more than 500 horticulture growers from across Australia, ranging from micro-producers to large-scale operators.

The depth and diversity of responses demonstrated the extent to which Aussie growers are prepared to innovate, and how seriously they take the task of improving farm productivity.

The results of the HIA-UQ study suggest that Australia’s horticulture industry tends to outperform the average business in Australia when it comes to innovation–with almost 80 percent of those surveyed reporting that they had implemented some form of innovation on-farm. The innovations reported were either new to the growers’ business, or new to both the business and the horticultural industry.

And it seem that Aussie fruit, nut and vegie producers are innovating because it pays off: the survey responses show that when they implement new systems or technology – from IPM strategies to new cultivars, PA to renewable energy – on-farm, our horticulture producers are focused firmly on their businesses’ bottom lines.

Overwhelmingly, the growers surveyed said that increasing their profit margins was the primary motive for innovation – and the most important benefit they gained from it.

Horticulturalists’ top 4 on-farm innovations

The types of innovation most commonly implemented on farm by the producers surveyed included:

  • new crop types or cultivars;
  • new equipment;
  • soil and pest management practices; and
  • fertiliser applications.
Ricardoes Strawberries & Tomatoes, a small-scale grower near Port Macquarie, NSW, is continually looking for ways to improve productivity and boost returns, from marketing initiatives to new technology.
Ricardoes Strawberries & Tomatoes, a small-scale grower near Port Macquarie, NSW, is continually looking for ways to improve productivity and boost returns, from marketing initiatives to new technology.
Merran White

SMEs more active in R&D

About 64 percent – nearly two-thirds – of the horticultural producers surveyed said they engaged in some form of research and development, with small and small-to-medium enterprises the most likely to play an active role in industry-related R&D.

More than half of those participating in research and development activities (55 percent) were small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and more than a quarter (26.5 percent) were micro-growers.

Innovation is a prime determinant of competitive advantage and productivity across Australia's horticultural producers, the study concluded.

“We can take the results of this study to create a meaningful benchmark for future innovation in Australian horticulture,” HIA CEO Lloyd said.

“We will be able to use these findings to shape future investments appropriately and increase the rate of innovation, where needed, to keep driving innovative solutions for our growers.”