Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australia's horticulture industry. Its role is to advance Australia’s $16 billion horticulture industry by investing in research and development, marketing and trade to build a prosperous and sustainable future for growers.
2024 Nuffield Scholar
Scholar sees sustainability opportunity in maturing Aussie berry sector
Kirsty Dickenson is a horticulturalist, specialising in berries for the last five years. Her role with Costa, owner of the largest raspberry and blackberry farms in Australia, sees her managing pest and disease, production, R&D initiatives and more. Kirsty has seen the rubus industry (berries such as blackberries and raspberries) experience massive growth during her time in the sector. As the industry matures, she’s interested in how it can manage resources effectively to maximise sustainability.
Kirsty's 2024 scholarship is supported by Hort Innovation under the Rubus Research and Development Levy. However, the berry sector in Australia is not without problems. Kirsty cites inflation, labour intensity, changes in the economic climate and management of the physical environment as widespread challenges for Australian berry producers.
“Many businesses have built monoculture environments and after years of farming are beginning to realise the impact of low biodiversity in the system. Pest pressure is increasing, so too is the reliance on agrichemicals. How do we build more biodiversity into the system to support integrated pest and disease management programs and reduce potential biosecurity threats?”
While new technology has helped the sector to better manage resources, Kirsty believes there is significant scope left to explore. She plans to visit berry producers and fruit production businesses within Australia, as well as in the UK, US, the Netherlands and Denmark.
“The markets of the US and Europe have matured and faced many challenges which still lie ahead for the Australian industry. The Netherlands has led the way in high intensity production technology, and Denmark's farmers are leaders in sustainability.”
Kirsty hopes her research into environmental sustainability can help pave the way for a long-term, stable rubus industry in Australia.
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