Firstly, a big HAPPY 2018 to all our wonderful Protected Cropping Australia members – wishing you all a great year with good yields, fair prices, collaborative weather and most of all fabulous staff.

Well, the year has started off with an awful blow for some of our members, namely the Brandsema’s, who are long-time members of PCA & Marcus Brandsema was Chair of PCA for a number of years too.

Queensland Fruit Fly found in Tasmania

The Brandsema’s have unfortunately been caught up with the Queensland Fruit Fly saga in the Spreyton region of northern Tasmania.

We really empathise with all the growers affected and send our best wishes for quick and efficient action to rectify the situation.

This is a timely reminder how fragile our borders and bio-security are and how reliant we are on a “clean status” for our market access.

We always need to be re-assessing our processes to ascertain if we are prepared for the worst and have our action plans in place and ready to go.

BerryQuest International 2018

On PCA matters, we’ve got a lovely busy year ahead kicked off by Berry Quest in mid-February.

This was the largest berry conference in Australia to-date so was a great gathering of local and international speakers and attendees.

PCA Strategic Planning

Then, on 26th February, the PCA Board contracted the services of Russell Cummings to work on a Strategic Plan for the organisation going forward. We have put a strong, member-focused plan in place to ensure the PCA and its valued members get into a strong position for the future.

Two New PCA Directors

I would like to welcome to our dynamic Board, Tony Bundock and Marcus van Heijst.

We are thrilled they have joined the team and they both bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to the board as well as a host of valuable connections. We look forward to working with you both.

NSW Central Coast 2 days Greenhouse Tour

Our first regional tour was quickly sold out in early March, proving that our members are keen to network and visit other growers from around the county. This tour showcased the Central Coast Region.

Forty five PCA members across several commodity groups (F&V, Leafy Greens, Aquaponics and flower growers), first went to Olivieri’s Flower Farm. Joe, Tony and Nate Olivieri grow 7.5 hectare (ha) of hydroponic Oriental and Asiatic lilies, chrysanthemum and gerberas in a mixture of low, medium and high tech systems.

Followed by Roses & Berries 2 Go owned by Wade and Nicky (yours truly) Mann. Two 3,000m2 multispan, twin-skin greenhouses growing a variety of cops in coir substrate including roses, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, figs, dragon-fruit, ginger, turmeric and edible flowers. Garden City Plastics kindly sponsored the visit and gave a presentation on their products available.

After lunch everyone went to Sprint Horticulture which is a tissue culture laboratory and state-of-the-art propagation facility growing in polythene greenhouses specialising in ornamental and native plants. Powerplants Australia has done the complete fit-out at Sprint and explained the processes and controls in detail to delegates.

S&P Dominello Flower Farm was basically next door to Sprint and kindly hosted us too. This farm is owned by Sam and Phil Dominello who have 4 ha of climate and light controlled tunnel greenhouses. They grow Oriental and Asiatic lilies and Lisianthus in soil with fascinating use of worm farming. They also have a permanent stand at the Sydney Wholesale Markets.

AIS Greenworks kindly sponsored the visit and showed everyone how their control system works.

Ecomix generously sponsored the three course dinner at Kooindah Waters Mercure hotel.

On day two we went to Family Fresh Farms which is owned by Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman. Manager Andrew Young and head grower Patrick de Craen showed us their brand new 5 ha glasshouse built by Apex Greenhouses.

Both Apex and Royal Brinkman were on hand to explain all the installation and fit-out to grow snacking cucumbers “Qukes®” and supplying Perfection Fresh.

Barden’s Fresh Produce manager Nathan Clarkson showed us his combination of high and low tech greenhouse systems including nutrient film technique (NFT) to grow leafy Asian vegetables, herbs, radish and other speciality crops. We also saw their state-of-the art packaging facilities and cooling facilities to ensure freshness and a long shelf life.

Local Land Services Greater Sydney (LLS), VegNET and Horticulture Innovation kindly sponsored the site visit and two bus seats for Western Sydney F&V growers.

After lunch everyone went to NSW DPI’s National Centre For Greenhouse Horticulture at Newcastle University, Ourimbah Campus. We toured their research facility and greenhouse.

Former PCA Director and plant pathologist consultant Len Tesoriero explained “Managing Fusarium wilt of greenhouse cucumbers with grafting and nitrogen fertilisers”.

Dr Sukhvinder Pal (SP) Singh explained his revolutionary Australian research on Cold Plasma Technology.

By applying supercharged air to the surface of fresh produce microbial pathogens are killed without leaving any chemical residues.

PCA Chair Nicky Mann grows hydroponic, greenhouse roses, berries and other niche crops sold through their own florist shops, local farmers’ markets and farm gate. Nicky was previously on the PCA Board 2010 – 2014 and Conference Chair for the 2015 PCA Greenworks Conference.

Nicky is again on the 2019 PCA local conference committee (LOC) which will return to the Gold Coast in July 2019 – SAVE THAT DATE!

Non-food sectors already use this technology, such as automotive, aerospace, textile, polymer, electronics and biomedical – particularly overseas, but it has never been applied to fresh produce until now.

The impacts for the horticultural industry will include longer shelf life and use-by dates.

It was a really great line of up amazing farms, greenhouses, crops, growers and researchers. Thank you to everyone that attended – great effort. And a big thank you to our fabulous sponsors of this inaugural two day regional greenhouse tour.

Tasmanian Regional Greenhouse Tour

You are welcome on PCA’s next two day regional tour of Tasmania in November 2018. Contact Saskia for delegate and sponsorship enquiries.

Western Australia Grower Workshop 30/4/18

PCA members and guests are invited to our half day grower workshop at Trandos Hydroponic Growers.

This state-of-art propagation facility supplies seedlings and grafted cutting across Australia every day. Attendees will also inspect the THG wholesale supply of certified strawberries.

Hort Connections 2018

PCA are official co-host partners of Hort Connections at Brisbane Convention Centre, June 18 – 20, 2018.

Come and visit the PCA trade booth # 77. Turn right after entry, to the far corner and say ‘Hi’ to Nicky, Saskia, Nam, Matthew and Jonathan.

Nearby the PCA Trade Booth at Hort Connection you’ll also see PCA members’ Stoller, AIS Greenworks, A&D Scales, AustSafe Super and Organic Crop Protectants.

If you attending as an exhibitor or delegate at Hort Connections 2018 please reference PCA when you register and support your not-for-profit association.

HFF Conference 2018

Only a week later is Hydroponic Farmers Federation (HFF) Conference, June 25 -27, 2018 in Melbourne. PCA are part of the sold-out HFF trade exhibition and our AGM will be will be in their ‘East Wing’ conference room on Monday 25/6/18, 6 – 6.30 pm, AGM, as usual.

So that’s the first half of 2018 – busy, busy.

We will keep you posted on the outcome of our strategic planning session in the next magazine.

Until then, grow well!

Nicky Mann
Ph 0404 921 209