Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


AUSVEG Awards Night

The Hon. T.T. NGO (14:52): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister update the council on the recent AUSVEG awards night that was held in Adelaide last week?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:52): I thank the honourable member for his question about this excellent event. It was great to have the opportunity to both speak at and present awards at the 2022 Vegetable Industry Dinner and Awards Night, which was hosted by AUSVEG.

The event was well attended, with roughly 280 attendees, representing the vegetable industry. I think in fact it has always been pretty well attended by all sides of politics. I acknowledge that the shadow minister for primary industries and regional development was there, as well as the Hon. Frank Pangallo and a number of MPs from the House of Assembly. It was a night to celebrate this critical industry and acknowledge the hard work that so many have contributed over the last 12 months.

In particular, I want to acknowledge the winners of the 2022 Vegetable Industry Awards for Excellence. Emmanuel Cafcakis, from Cafcakis Nominees, was announced as the Grower of the Year. Emmanuel has been a grower in Virginia for many years and has overcome many obstacles to be where he is today. The past couple of years has seen the business expand with new hydroponic greenhouse buildings as well as upgrades to existing greenhouses and this has allowed the business to become one of the biggest producers of heirloom tomatoes in Australia.

Damian Manno, of Quality Harvest, was announced as the Young Grower of the Year. Damian is unique in that he set up his growing operation on his own and not within an existing family business, which is quite unusual. He was at the time training to be a winemaker and he started to grow hydroponic basil on the weekends. Within five years he had grown his farm to comprise a significant basil and hydroponic strawberry operation, and Damian also has a strong commitment to quality and has developed his own innovative 'Herbalicious' basil brand, which I would encourage members of this place to explore. That provides basil to consumers with root stock intact for a higher quality product and a better shelf life.

Steve Coventry, from Bugs for Bugs, won the Industry Impact Award. Bugs for Bugs is a relative newcomer in terms of their presence in the South Australian market. The company is a specialist breeder of a wide range of beneficial insects for use in intensive horticultural production. The company has a strong focus on research and development. It is significant in terms of potentially moving integrated pest management adoption into more of a mass market over a niche model by offering an alternative for growers looking to more slowly integrate IPM into their production system or who are looking to reduce the number of releases due to build-up of naturally occurring beneficials.

Jordy Kitschke is from Flux Robotics and he won Researcher of the Year. Jordy runs a startup agricultural robotics company which is developing field robots for vegetable and horticultural production which uses the latest technology to target spray weeds in crops. His company, Flux Robotics, has successfully developed a number of prototypes and is currently conducting trials throughout South Australia and Queensland which show the potential of this technology to improve resistance management through chemistry overuse and significantly reduce crop protectant volumes through targeted spraying. I had the pleasure of talking quite informally at the event with Jordy, who is certainly a very forward-thinking young person, and I am sure we are going to see much more of him in the industry going forward.

Phuong Le won the Women in Horticulture Award, which is proudly sponsored by the Department of Primary Industries and Regions. In the wake of the recent hailstorms on the Northern Adelaide Plains, and recognising the need for Vietnamese speaking outreach staff to support non-English-speaking growers, Phuong stepped into the role as a critical industry liaison working with AUSVEG SA and the SA government Department of Primary Industries. With support from industry and government, Phuong played a critical role in linking affected growers in her community with vital financial support, government recovery grants and waste removal assistance.

Anthony De Ieso, from Thorndon Park Produce, won the Biosecurity Award in recognition of his ongoing commitment to support the work of the SA government and industry biosecurity and education initiatives to protect industry on the Northern Adelaide Plains. Anthony has been a committed grower partner in a number of critical industry initiatives such as regional biosecurity monitoring, education initiatives around on-farm hygiene and safety to prevent spread of pests and disease and in supporting key research initiatives such as the iMap pests project and SARDI pest and disease diagnostics team.

On behalf of the state government, I want to offer my very sincere congratulations to all of these very worthy recipients and also take the opportunity to thank and acknowledge Jordan Brooke-Barnet from AUSVEG for all the hard work that he puts into this major event and also ongoing as a representative of the industry. Through my regular discussions with AUSVEG, both in opposition and now in government, something they consistently advocated for was to have the AUSVEG awards night rebranded so that it would further increase the status of the event.

I was delighted to announce at the awards that from next year the state government will sponsor the event and, going forward, it will be renamed the Premier's Horticulture Awards. The Premier is keen to attend the event next year if possible and to speak at this prestigious event for the industry. Once again, I want to congratulate all the award winners and I look forward to continuing to work with the horticulture industry as we go forward.