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Hort Connections 2024 gets underway in Melbourne

The largest horticulture conference and trade show in Australasia has opened in Melbourne today, with organisers expecting a record attendance expected for this year's event. The three-day program, features a range of events with people travelling from across Australia and overseas to take part in a range of plenary sessions, industry meetings and the trade show.

AUSVEG CEO, Michael Coote says Hort Connections 2024 is shaping up as another major success, with in excess of 4,000 delegates expected through the doors by the time the conference closes on Wednesday evening.

"The fact so many delegates – and particularly growers – have been drawn to Hort Connections highlights how important events like this are," Mr Coote said. "Particularly in light of the challenging operating environment many in the industry are facing. Hort Connections is not only an opportunity for growers to keep up with the latest trends, innovations and technology to enhance their business profitability, but also a chance to connect and network as an entire industry experiencing some tough times."

The annual event, which started in 2017, brings together members from right across the vegetable, fruit and floral sectors and showcases exciting new products, services and technologies to help shape the Australian and New Zealand industry.

On the agenda is set to be presentations on solutions in agricultural technology, finance, labour, energy and environmental sustainability.

"The Hort Connections program has covered off on the major current challenges, opportunities and issues facing the industry," Mr Coote said. "While also recognising exceptional individual and business achievement through the Horticulture Awards for Excellence. Events like this are a massive undertaking, so we must also thank and acknowledge our co-host, the International Fresh Produce Association – Australia and New Zealand, as well as all event partners, sponsors, exhibitors and delegates, who all contribute to the ongoing success of Hort Connections."

The opening day of the conference featured several farm and off-site tours. One of those went west of Melbourne; first to Boomaroo Nurseries to learn about their automation in greenhouse seed production of salad products. Then it stopped at Tripod Farms to see a live demonstration of Carbon Robotics' LaserWeeder, which killed the weeds in the salad growing fields with high-powered lasers. The final stop on that tour was Boratto Farms, where delegates learnt about the history behind one of Victoria's top salad producers and got an explanation of "Onside", a New Zealand-created Farm Management App.

Among the other tours on the opening day of the conference was a retail tour, Epping Market and Yarra Valley Farm, a structures tour and a Mornington Peninsula Farm Tour.

There were also affiliated events aimed at different industry groups, including: Fresh and Secure Trade Alliance (FASTA) Research Forum, the Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar and Avo Connections.

The next two days of the conference will feature a busy program of speaker sessions, plenary sessions including the annual State of the Industry Panel and demonstrations in the trade show, before wrapping up with the Gala Dinner on Wednesday evening.