Vegetable farming in Australia has enormous opportunity for growth.

Adopting new technology, following consumer trends and demands, improving supply chain efficiencies and capitalising on Australia’s geographic location to supply value added vegetables throughout Asia will all, in combination, assist to progress Australia’s vegetable industry and ensure a sustainable future.

These are the findings from 2015 Nuffield Scholar and asparagus grower, James Terry, who studied the economic sustainability of vegetable farming as part of his scholarship.

“My aim is to assist in ensuring the sustainability of vegetable farming for future generations – to achieve this we need to be able to grow produce of the highest quality,” Mr Terry said.

“As a whole, the quality of Australian vegetables is very good, however opportunities exist within the supply and value chain to gain efficiencies which will increase our farm gate returns.

“Market diversification, especially exporting into Asian markets, is extremely important for our future.”

Mr Terry said to achieve this, Australian producers need to align themselves on a world scale from a packaging, consistency and post-harvest perspective to be competitive in international markets.

“Australia’s main competitors in Asian markets are USA (California), Mexico and New Zealand and many producers I visited in these countries already exhibit those important characteristics,” he said.

Mr Terry is a partner and the export manager for Momack Produce, the largest exporter of asparagus in Australia, producing around 3,500 tonnes each season. The company also exports onions, broccoli and brussel sprouts. He is also a partner for the Iona Farm Partnership, growing asparagus on a 64-hectare property.

He received a Nuffield Scholarship supported by The William Buckland Foundation, and has visited the Netherlands, USA, Chile, Argentina, England, New Zealand and eight countries in Asia during his studies.

“We can learn a lot from Chilean growers who are supply chain experts and manage to successfully sea-freight highly perishable horticultural produce to the Far East in Asia with consistency each season,” Mr Terry said.

“Consumer trends around the world are changing rapidly.

“For example, modern consumers want to buy branded product with options and variations such as diced cauliflower and broccoli, as demonstrated in high-end Asian and American supermarkets.

“We need to accept this change and adapt our practices to ensure our businesses remain competitive in an ever-changing global market place.”

In addition, he said there’s an opportunity for producers to join forces and market together, rather than working individually and competing against their neighbours.

“Growers need to be versatile and run professional businesses with a long-term approach and with a strong emphasis on export markets,” he said.

“Transparency needs to exist throughout the supply chain and growers need to value-add and move away from traditional marketing and ‘arms length’ trading relationships.”

This story was first published in Leading Agriculture Issue 23.

Feature image: James Terry