Leading fresh produce event showcases innovation across the supply chain and paints positive picture for the business moving forward

Over 3,000 professionals from across the fresh produce industry converged on the Brisbane Convention Centre this week for Hort Connections 2022.

The conference and trade show was run by the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) and Ausveg.

IFPA A-NZ chief executive, Darren Keating, said the event celebrated the strength of the Australasian fresh produce industry.

“The energy has been absolutely electric,” Keating told Produce Plus. “The trade show has been pumping from the moment we opened the doors on Monday evening (6 June) and our conference programme has been packed with high-end insights and discussions.

“This success of this year’s event highlights the value our industry places on forming quality connections; people have travelled here from across the country, not just because they can finally catch up with friends, colleagues and customers, but because they want to.”

Trade Show

More than 200 companies showcased their products on the trade show floor.

The centrepiece of this year’s exhibition was the Fresh Markets Australia pavilion, which represented stakeholders from Australia’s central markets.

Ag-tech companies were well represented on the trade show floor, reflecting the high level of research and innovation taking place in this sector. One such company was Melbourne-based Tie Up Farming, which showcased farm information management software.

“It’s been a very busy and successful trade show for us, with lots of enquiries around our technology,” said Tie Up Farming chief executive Roei Yaakobi.

There was also a healthy contingent of companies displaying harvest and post-harvest machinery, while seeds and crop care companies such as Syngenta, BASF and Bayer made their presence felt with large stands.

 Speaker programme

The 2022 Hort Connections conference programme included over 40 expert speakers discussing the big issues facing the industry.

The programme kicked off at the Perfection Fresh Breakfast on Day Two (7 June), with keynote speaker Justin Dry sharing his story of success and failure on the road to establishing leading online wine retailer Vinomofo.

Packaging and marketing consultant Gilad Sadan of Navi Co Global offered visitors advice on how to innovate in an increasingly challenging financial environment, while Joe Clarke and Vincent Lange from Centrefarm discussed the Aboriginal Land Economic Development Agency in a session themed around diversity and inclusion.

The conference content continued on Day Three, headlined by the State of the Industry panel discussion, chaired by Keating and featuring Craig Taylor of Coles and Ruth Ahchow of Ernst & Young.

In a presentation examining Australia’s retail landscape, Kitchener Partners’ Tristan Kitchener highlighted the growing popularity of online grocery shopping, a trend accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gala Dinner

The event concluded with the Hort Connections Gala Dinner, held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre’s Great Hall on Wednesday (8 June).

The dinner celebrated outstanding achievements from across the industry with the presentation of the Hort Connections National Awards for Excellence.

Elisa Siliato took home the Marketer of the Year Award for the ‘Perino Tomato - Hit the Sweet Spot’ campaign, while J-Tech Systems won the Tech Innovation Award for the Aporo robotic fruit packer.

Other winners included Queensland avocado growers Annaleise and Lachlan Donovan, who took home the Syngenta Grower of the Year. Michael Simonetta, chief executive of Perfection Fresh, accepted the Hort Innovation Exporter of the Year, while Sam Kisvarda of Flavorite was presented with the EE Muir & Sons Community Stewardship Award.

“The National Awards for Excellence provide an opportunity for the industry to come together, recognise the outstanding achievements of our leading growers and industry members, and celebrate the great work that our industry undertakes to keep Australia healthy and safe,” said Ausveg chief executive Michael Coote.

“It was more important for the industry to meet up and reconnect with each other this year than ever before after the unprecedented challenges over the last two years due to the pandemic, and it was pleasing that so many people could come together, celebrate the industry’s successes and provide support to peers and colleagues.”