Horticulture leads smart water consumption race

Smart usage of water from current irrigation practises has elevated the Horticulture industry toward a farmgate value of a record $12.4 billion in 2021–22

As well as growing potato crops using irrigated water across a larger land area Xavier Toohey from Wallace Victoria grows canola, wheat, lucerne and hay with effective irrigation

Irrigation for horticulture to grow fruit and vegetables (excluding grapes) has by far the largest users of stored water to the value of $1.782 billion of the $5.489 billion estimated to be spent on water by all farm sectors in 2021-22.

This water usage helps to ensure horticulture as one of our most secure agricultural sectors.

In the winter and early spring of 2021, prices of fruit have remained high due to seasonal conditions.

Growers from this sector have been coveted in awards at recent presentations, some of them by video due to COVID-19.

Using irrigated water across a larger land area was 36-year-old potato grower Xavier Toohey from Wallace Victoria who was named the 2021 Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the Year.

From a crop of 14 shortlisted nominees from across all states, Xavier was recognised as the best in his field based on his achievements, commitment, ingenuity, and the active role he plays in horticulture.

“Xavier is a deeply passionate potato grower who has demonstrated significant skill and acumen to grow his business to increase the scale of his potato production, which has added flow-on benefits to the local community,” said AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.

“He is an active member of his local community and readily imparts his knowledge to other local growers to help them improve their growing practices and grow their own businesses.”

“Xavier has adopted technologies and processes on his farm reduce his energy and improve water use, and has a strong focus on improving soil health, reducing the risk of pests and using cropping techniques that have produced yields of up to 10-20% above district averages.”

“I congratulate Xavier on his award and his commitment to improving his business and his local industry.

“The horticulture industry needs more young people involved, and it is important that we recognise the achievements of young growers such as Xavier to ensure we foster our next generation of leaders,” James Whiteside concluded.

Corteva Agriscience’s Nick Koch said it was a thrill to present Xavier Toohey as 2021’s Young Grower of the Year.

“Xavier’s tenacity and enthusiasm for producing potatoes are incredible. He’s just the sort of passionate grower our industry needs,” Nick Koch said.

“At a time when other people were leaving the potato industry, Xavier committed to it and invested in it. He now has two farms, and it’s a real credit to him.

“What made Xavier’s achievements more impressive is the fact he’s developed his business rapidly with limited external support.

“Not only has he built a successful and sustainable business in a short space of time, but he’s done it off his own steam.

“A lot of young people have help to get them started in farming, but Xavier did it on his own through sheer hard work and determination.

“He’s also stepping up and taking leadership at an industry level and incorporated smart irrigation practises in his operation.

The Young Grower of the Year Award is about the horticulture industry recognising exceptional young growers like Xavier.

This national award celebrates outstanding young growers who champion the horticulture industry’s success and show a commitment to innovation in an effort to define the next generation of future leaders.

Caitlin Radford has achieved a lot at 22 already implementing changes such as Bio fumigation, strip tilling and biodynamic methods

Tasmanian nominee, 22-year-old Caitlin Radford, works on her family’s multi-generational farm. She said she’s thrilled to have made the award shortlist and plans to make the most of the opportunities that come with being a Young Grower nominee.

“I feel incredibly humbled and proud to be nominated for the 2021 Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the Year award,” Caitlin said.

“I’m excited as it will be my first Hort Connections. We’re making the journey to Brisbane to get as much out of the experience as possible. I really look forward to meeting and networking with the other finalists.”

Marlon Motlop has worked hard for The Native Co in Adelaide to preserve some of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s oldest surviving flavours

Marlon Motlop, 31-year-old Director and Farm Manager of The Native Co in Adelaide, is also delighted to be nominated. He hopes the recognition will be an opportunity to bring awareness to the native food industry.

“Being nominated is a huge achievement and great recognition for a lot of hard work,” Marlon said.

“My driving force is to shine a light on the world’s oldest surviving flavours and inject them into the new world.

I expect this to create opportunities for the community throughout Australia to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and ancient farming.”

Jake Ryan is making his mark as a third-generation Manjimup grower by being creative and applying different solutions to both current and old growing issues

Third-generation Manjimup grower, 26-year-old Jake Ryan, is also shortlisted. He said the nomination was unexpected and that the national awards were essential for the industry development.

“I was surprised at first, but I’m very grateful and excited to be nominated,” Jake said.

“It’s important to honour young growers to keep inspiring them to be creative with their approaches to current issues. It also helps to show older generations that there may be different solutions to current or old issues and sometimes change is needed.” AUSVEG, the industry representative body for the Australian vegetable and potato industries, manages the 2021 National Awards for Excellence, including the Young Grower of the Year Award.