With over 400 delegates from around Australia and all around the world, BerryQuest International 2018 has been labelled a success. The three day event at Launceston in Northern Tasmania was organised by Raspberries and Blackberries Australia (RABA), Strawberries Australia (SA) and the Australian Blueberry Growers Association (ABGA).
Executive Officer for RABA, Jonathan Eccles, said BerryQuest was the largest berry event ever held in Australia.
"This represents how important berries have become in Australian horticulture. By combined value of around $880m a year, berries are now the largest fruit category and growing, with increasing interest from consumers."
Indian grower delegation from Northern New South Wales
Across the 400 registered delegates, there were many attendees from overseas, including New Zealand, North America, Mexico, Italy, Spain and the UK.
As Tasmania faces issues with Queensland fruit fly, BerryQuest focused on another pest of concern - spotted wing drosophila.
"Australia and New Zealand are the only berry producing countries without spotted wing drosophila," said Jonathan.
"Over the two days we have had presentations on this pest. Marion Regan from the UK based Hugh Lowe Farms who is living with spotted wing has already given us her experiences on the costs of managing this."
Aileen Reid of Strawberry Growers WA with Jonathan Eccles
In organising BerryQuest, Jonathan said presenters were chosen in order to cover the broad range of topics growers wanted to hear.
"Some topics are production-focused, such as updated integrated pest management on farms, through to what's happening in the supply chains and retail sectors. The other side is we can learn from other industries and we have Dianne Fullelove from the Australian Melon Association as a presenter. They have gone through crisis management with food safety and incursions of diseases."
Breakout sessions covered a variety of topics over biosecurity, integrated pest management, growing in substrate, new blackberry varieties, strawberry breeding program, accessing international markets, crop management, exports, pollination and disease management.
"As blackberry production increases, the issue of red drupelet disorder is one of our concerns, and we have a PhD student in Max Edgley presenting his research." Jonathan said the focus for Australia's berry sector was on exports into the future.
"Of course this doesn't happen over night but the industry is certainly looking towards exports into the future."
Collaboration between the three national industry bodies is also part of the future with an increasing focus, according to Jonathan, on biosecurity, pest and disease management and exports.
While a single representative organisation may be many years away, increasingly growers are diversifying across different berry varieties.
"Therefore it would make sense in the future to have a single representative group - but that will be a growers' decision."
BerryQuest International 2018 will culminate with four field trips to berry farms in the region today.