Panel tackles cities and social media

Panel tackles cities and social media


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SESSION: State of the Nation panellists, Ausveg CEO James Whiteside, PMA A-NZ CEO Darren Keating, University of Qld's Professor Jimmy Botella, science writer and communicator Julian Cribb, with Hort Connections MC, Toby Travanner.

SESSION: State of the Nation panellists, Ausveg CEO James Whiteside, PMA A-NZ CEO Darren Keating, University of Qld's Professor Jimmy Botella, science writer and communicator Julian Cribb, with Hort Connections MC, Toby Travanner.

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Green cities of the future and how consumers view the fresh produce supply chain were key issues in a Hort Connections panel discussion.

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STOP talking about horticulture and agriculture and start talking about food, says science writer, Julian Cribb.

The well-known communicator was part of the State of the Nation panel session held at Hort Connections 2018 at Brisbane on Tuesday.

"You have to close the gap both mentally and economically between producers and consumers. People don't eat agriculture, they don't eat horticulture," Mr Cribb said.

As heard at other horticulture conferences at which he's addressed, Mr Cribb called for an embracing of vertical farms for food production in urban centres.

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"Production is going to move off farm and into the cities," Mr Cribb said.

"Half the world's food is going to be grown in cities using waste water from those cities.

"We humans only eat about 200 different plants. We haven't even begun to explore the earth as to what is good to eat.

"Horticulture is going to be the mainstay in these diets."

But his fellow panellists took a more here and now approach to the issues facing horticulture.

The panel consisted of Produce Marketing Association Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer, Darren Keating, Ausveg CEO James Whiteside and the University of Queensland's Professor Jimmy Botella.

Mr Whiteside posed the question of who will be the farmers of tomorrow?

"That's a much greater challenge than the industry has given thought to," he said.  

"I think there is a whole long list of innovation of how we are going to grow food. That will happen in course.

"The broader question is, how do we go from a relatively agrarian horticulture to those growing in cities?"

FOCUS: PMA A-NZ CEO Darren Keating taking part in the State of the Nation panel session.

FOCUS: PMA A-NZ CEO Darren Keating taking part in the State of the Nation panel session.

Mr Cribb's view of the future was based on green cities.

"Cities are such ugly places compared to what it's going to be when they are covered with plants and trees," Mr Cribb said.

Futuristic hydroponic cities cost money though, a point not dismissed by Mr Whiteside.  

"The issue is we have enormous potential to grow more food but it takes capital and it takes people taking risks," he said.

"We can't assume our food will be grown within 20 kilometres (of major cities).

"Fundamentally, we are in the business of feeding our fair share of the population."  

Away from the production issues, PMA A-NZ's Mr Keating said one area of concern was how consumers viewed the food supply chain through the lens of social media.

"The way people eat and interact with food has changed over the years," Mr Keating said.

"When you look at the number of conversations people are having with food, it can be overwhelming.

"A big part of this problem is the billions of customers being face to face with social media.

"It may not always be well informed but it will impact your business.

FUTURE VIEW: Ausveg CEO James Whiteside says the horticulture industry needs to think about who will be farming fresh produce in the future.

FUTURE VIEW: Ausveg CEO James Whiteside says the horticulture industry needs to think about who will be farming fresh produce in the future.

"We can't control the discussions but we can add our voice."

Professor Botella pushed the case for innovation and technology as a means of creating change for both growers and consumers.

"Adopt technology and adopt technology early," he said.

Mr Keating suggested technology as a way to engage young people into horticulture.

"Don't fear the technology. There is a way to be involved in agriculture and food which doesn't mean you have to be living in a regional area," he said.

Mr Cribb also reiterated his call for "a year of food" for every school on the planet.

"We need the Stephanie Alexander model of a farm in every school," he said.

"When kids grow their own vegetables, they eat their vegetables. Broccoli becomes delicious."

The conversation also covered part of the conference's theme - halving waste.

"The other side of the coin is waste. Having a good conversation about how the product gets there and in good condition, is a tough one," Mr Keating said.

"The waste part is a really important conversation to be had.

"Packaging is easy to call evil but it's also the thing that can minimise food waste. Getting to something that works is important."

Mr Cribb said recycling needed to become second nature.

"We've got to build these large recycling plants. We've got to recycle everything," he said.  

The story Panel tackles cities and social media first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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