A spotlight on responsible farming
Limiting food waste and packaging and boosting water and energy efficiency are just some of the priorities outlined in a new Australian-Grown Horticulture Sustainability Framework that’s been developed by the grower-owned research and development corporation for Australia’s horticulture industry, Hort Innovation, in collaboration with industry.
Created with input from more than 600 industry participants – including producers, industry peak bodies, marketers, exporters, retailers, governments and researchers – the framework details 17 focus areas that align with existing business initiatives as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It provides the whole of industry and individual growers a way of understanding and measuring the sustainability of horticultural production, and provides guidance for plotting a path toward a more sustainable future.
Hort Innovation CEO Matt Brand says the framework has been developed for Australian horticulture industry members at a time when consumers and investors are increasingly asking for evidence of ethical and sustainable practices from their food producers.
“The aim of this framework is to acknowledge the significant contribution Australian fresh produce growers make to the nation’s families and environment through the provision of fresh and nutritious food,” he says. “It also promotes sustainable and responsible care for our natural environment and provides a vital roadmap for a stronger farming future.”
Brand says the initiative aligns with a range of research efforts being delivered by Hort Innovation, in line with the target to grow agriculture to $100 billion by 2030. The horticulture sector alone is committed to becoming a $20 billion industry by 2030.
Shane Quinn, National Sales Manager at vegetable producer Mulgowie Farming Company says the framework will be a useful resource for the industry.
“We’re proud to use sustainable practices when growing nutritious produce in our healthy soils,” he says. “We look forward to the framework providing the means to demonstrate positive environmental impacts and industry issues of concern to a range of stakeholders.”
Joseph Ebbage, Market Development Manager at the Almond Board of Australia, says sustainability is important to customers both domestically and internationally.
“Our trade partners in Europe and in the UK are looking for suppliers that can meet sustainability metrics,” he says. “Our ability to communicate sustainability credentials is vital to maintaining and growing these relationships. The framework provides an invaluable foundation document for our industry.”
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Horticulture Council has welcomed the release of the framework, with the council labelling it as a “practical step forward for the industry”.
“The Horticulture Sustainability Framework brings horticulture in line with other agriculture commodities with a strong vision for a sustainable industry for the future,” says. NFF Horticulture Council Executive Officer Tyson Cattle. “It’s a great example of what can be achieved when industry and the research and development community work together.”
Stephen Barnard, CEO of Growcom, peak industry body for Queensland horticulture, says the framework is a significant step forward, and serves an important purpose in bringing the many pieces of the sustainability puzzle together in one clear and coherent document.
“To thrive as an industry, we need to keep realigning ourselves with the values and expectations of consumers and investors and be forever on the look out for new tools and technologies that will make us not just more sustainable but more profitable, too,” he says.