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Agriculture stories

The following stories relate to Tasmania’s Agricultural sector:

Record pumpkin on the weigh

A southern Tasmanian farmer is on a mission to grow Australia's heaviest pumpkin. Shane Newitt from Sorell is confident the giant vegetable he has been growing for the past six months – which already measures 1.8m wide and 1.2m high – will soon tip the scales at 743 kilograms and smash the record. Newitt holds two Tassie pumpkin records and told ABC News: "We're hoping to get a personal best this season and beat my old state record, which was 455.5 kilograms, and at the moment this pumpkin is taking good enough figures to achieve that … tapering somewhere around the 600kg mark.” And it seems giant vegetables are not for the faint hearted. Mr Newitt revealed his secrets of success to ABC News, and they include dusting the pumpkin with baby powder every morning to reflect the sun, setting up portable air conditioners to keep the pumpkin cool on warm days and playing music to keep vermin away.

19 March 2019, Edition 203

Predatory mites tackle blackberry woes

Tiny redberry mites have been a big problem for Tasmania’s blackberry growers, causing uneven ripening and creating a berry that is half-black and half-red. This greatly reduces a farmer's potential to grow premium fruit. But now, researchers from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture [TIA] think they may have the solution, and it lies with the introduction of other tougher predatory mites – Typhlodromus occidentalis and Typhlodromalus lailae – to wipe out the red mites. Predatory mites were identified as a potential pest management solution after the TIA surveyed crops last year in the early stages of its red mite project. TIA researcher, Dr Stephen Quarrell, told The Advocate: “This means we may need to tip the balance in favour of predators, by supplementing the natural population with some commercially reared predators.”

19 March 2019, Edition 203

TasFoods steams towards profitability

Growing agribusiness TasFoods is continuing its drive towards profitability, buoyed by a growing demand for premium Tasmanian produce. The Launceston based business reported an increase in Sales revenue of 25 per cent to $38.39 million in 2018. It also had a net after tax loss of $1.36 million, which represents an improvement of $5.45 million in 2017. Executive chairman Shane Noble told The Examiner it was a year of growth and operational improvement: “The board believes that the long-term fundamentals of TasFoods' businesses are strong, with increasing demand expected for premium foods, especially in the premium dairy and free-range chicken segments. The company's strategy will be to continue to expand through leveraging its Tasmanian heritage and the premium provenance of its brands to grow its distribution footprint in existing and new markets." Interstate markets accounted for 13 per cent of total sales for 2018, up from 7 per cent in 2017.

19 March 2019, Edition 203

Global farm conference a Tassie coup

World experts descended on Launceston when Tasmania recently hosted the 22nd International Farm Management Congress. The theme of the 2019 conference was “excellence in farm management through innovation, diversification and integration with tourism”. The high-profile event – which organisers described as ‘a coup’ for the state – gave Tasmanian farmers the chance to glean a global perspective on issues. New Zealand consultant Charlotte Glass, from AgriMagic, told Tasmanian Country that the Canterbury region is similar to Tasmania and faces similar challenges, and much can be learnt from shared knowledge: “Because we are so far away in New Zealand, it’s really important we get a global view early in our career.” Dutch researcher, Willy Baltussen, focused on meat production and said he was surprised Tasmania had “no slaughter capacity”. Event organiser, Donna Lucas, said the conference provided an opportunity for Tasmania to showcase its agricultural sector on a global stage.

19 March 2019, Edition 203

Tassie shines in Japan

Premier Will Hodgman has returned from his trade mission to Japan calling it “an important opportunity to showcase the best of our state and support Tasmanian businesses in this key export market". He said key advances include a new Memorandum of Understanding between Tasmania and Japan to pursue research and field trials into Japanese vegetable crop growing in Tasmania. The trade mission also included discussions with Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research on the potential for establishing an office in Hobart and enhancing Antarctic and southern ocean research exchange. Local producers also took centre stage at FOODEX, which is Asia's largest exhibition of food and drink products, along with discussions about ways to promote investment in primary industries, forestry and mining. “With more than 80 per cent of Tasmania’s international exports in Asian markets - and Japan now our second largest export market - it is vital that we maintain and enhance our connections with this key market,” the Premier said.

19 March 2019, Edition 203

Brewing up success

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Avocado, wasabi, and saffron. Tasmania’s innovative producers are finding great success with the most unexpected crops, including tea.

19 March 2019, Edition 203

Grape expectations

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The 2019 vintage is off to a flying start, and it comes with news that Tasmania’s area under vines has grown by 25 per cent over the past two seasons.

19 March 2019, Edition 203

Sweet smell of success

The Bridestowe Lavender Estate, in Tasmania’s north-east, is celebrating after a record summer which saw visitor numbers jump by 38 per cent. During December and January, 58,000 tourists enjoyed the farm at Nabowla, east of Launceston. The growing success of the popular attraction is also reflective of the fact that the tourism boom continues to flow into regional areas. Bridestowe is the world’s largest, privately-owned lavender farm – with 650,000 plants spread out over 260 acres – and it rocketed to international fame during the 2014 Tasmanian visit of Chinese President, Xi Jinping, who took home one of the estate’s purple, lavender stuffed bears. The now iconic ‘Bobbie the Bear’ became an overnight sensation in China, and so did the beautiful farm with its fields of purple.

14 February 2019, Edition 202

Inspiring rural excellence

Helping farmers to prosper is the aim of the new Cultivating Rural Excellence program. Organised by Rural Business Tasmania, it gives valuable professional support to those on the land. This includes one-on-one mentoring sessions to help implement and progress goals towards ‘rural excellence’. It also provides expert advice and help around personal goals. As well as networking opportunities, industry leaders will also present seminars and talks to the 35 participants. Rural Business Tasmania Chief Executive, Elizabeth Skirving, told The Examiner: “Over the years we have realised a real need for a targeted program that motivates, inspires and compels Tasmania’s farmers to new benchmarks of excellence.”

Anyone interested in the 2019 program can obtain details at: bpmanager@ruralbusinesstasmania.org.au.

14 February 2019, Edition 202

Remote vineyard reaps rewards

Tasmania’s most remote vineyard is getting ready for its first harvest. A family farm at Marrawah, in the far north-west, is the first to grow grapes in the region, with the nearest vineyard more than 100 kilometres away. Stafford Ives-Heres planted the vines three years ago on the farm that was established by his great-grandfather, and he is expecting an unusual wine from the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes he planted: “We’re targeting something unique, that’s for sure. Something that has a unique taste to it, grown right here on the North-West coast,” Ives-Heres explained to The Advocate. “The extreme weather we get – you’ve got to be pretty insane to come up with an idea like this!” Ives-Heres is looking forward to his first vintage this autumn, and so should wine buffs who are looking for a new unique Tasmanian wine.

14 February 2019, Edition 202

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