Push for investment

By Country News

Increasing productivity and job creation through protected cropping and horticulture was the key topic of conversation at an industry roundtable last week, with a push to grow investment.

Assistant Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Richard Colbeck said protected cropping had long been seen as a potential game-changer for Australia through its efficiency and ability to effectively manage risks of the Australian environment.

‘‘Australia’s $1.8billion protected cropping industry offers optimal growing conditions for premium produce and delivers higher yields with less water usage, making it an essential tool during times of drought,’’ Mr Colbeck said.

‘‘In partnership with Hort Innovation and Western Sydney University, we contributed $4.3million to The National Vegetable Protected Cropping Centre, a state-of-the-art glasshouse facility to house research, education and training opportunities.

‘‘This centre features cutting-edge design and technology specifically developed for Australia’s harsh climatic conditions, enabling precise control of temperature, humidity, CO2 and light.’’

The average return on investment from protected cropping is between five and 10per cent, but can increase to up to 25per cent for high technology greenhouse vegetable enterprises.

‘‘According to the Going Dutch report released by KPMG, Australia needs to move its focus to technology innovation,’’ Mr Colbeck said.

‘‘Major investment into cutting-edge technology development is what sets the Netherlands apart.

‘‘There are 355 greenhouse vegetable producers in the Netherlands in comparison to our 105 greenhouse producers.’’

Dutch farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 per cent, according to the report.

‘‘Horticulture is the third largest agricultural industry behind meat and grains, employing more than 60000 people around the country,’’ Mr Colbeck said.

‘‘It’s imperative we continue to promote technological advancement in the sector to support jobs and further growth.

‘‘In 2018-19 it is expected that matching government contributions to Hort Innovation will be over $55million.

‘‘There is an opportunity to harness the growth and productivity of the sector to make a substantial contribution to the vision of $100billion in agricultural production by 2030.’’