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Passionfruit Marketing Group Pty Ltd: AAA-Farm Innovation Program project: speech, Murwillumbah, New South Wales.

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12 June 2003

Passionfruit Marketing Group Pty Ltd AAA-Farm Innovation Program project

Murwillumbah, New South Wales, 12 June 2003

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It's pleasing to see so many people here today at the field day for the Passionfruit Marketing Group.

One of the most rewarding parts of my role over the past six years is having the opportunity to visit some truly innovative farms and agribusinesses and meet some amazing people. But more importantly, to see first hand how your investment as a taxpayer, is paying dividends not only to companies such as Passionfruit Marketing Group Pty Ltd, but importantly, to others in the fruit industry.

The Agriculture-Advancing Australia (AAA) - Farm Innovation Program is one of many Commonwealth Government initiatives making a positive contribution to the rural sector.

I am proud to say that nearly 100 projects nationwide have been funded over two years, with over $10 million allocated to help turn those innovative dreams into reality.

Aquaculture, horticulture, viticulture, grains, forestry, waste management and precision farming are only a sample of the areas the Farm Innovation Program is supporting Australia wide.

The high demand for the program reflects the strong culture of innovation in our rural sector, and the enthusiasm the sector has for new ideas.

The Passionfruit Marketing Group operates in regions across NSW and QLD and in these States alone we have provided funding of more than $4.5 million for 32 Farm Innovation projects over the two years of the program. And New South Wales innovators are undertaking a broad range of innovative projects with their grants.

Some examples of New South Wales include:

● Glenesk Piggeries, of Perthville, have purpose-designed and built

sheds for housing sows, and a unique trickle-feeding system to improve sow and piglet health and increase productivity

● Castlesteads Partnership, of Boorowa, is adopting research to

produce an integrated package for farm management. Combining innovative cropping and soil management technologies. The focus is on both economic and environmental sustainability and to provide rural enterprises with a demonstration site for the package.

● A&B Hydroponics, of Cudgen, have designed an award-winning

hydroponic growing system, suitable for crops such as lettuce and strawberries. Plants receive precise watering and the new system will reduce input costs, achieve vastly higher yields on small plots of land, and lower the use of pesticides and water, as well as making harvesting easier.

● Bau Farm, between Lismore and Ballina, supplies exotic plants to

hardware and supermarket chains. This nursery is trying out a 32- hectare artificial wetlands recycling system to collect water and control nutrient-laden runoff.

The Farm Innovation Program recognises Australian rural business people who plan to adopt innovative technologies, products and practices - as well as supporting them to achieve this outcome. But it is just one part of the Commonwealth Government's broader strategy to help rural and regional communities become more sustainable and competitive.

Backing Australia's Ability - the Government's cross-portfolio innovation package - is providing another $3 billion over five years to do just that.

The Commonwealth is investing funds in numerous programs across all portfolios. The programs in place acknowledge the risks Australian industries - particularly rural ones - take in supporting innovation. More importantly, they provide direct financial assistance to get those innovative ideas into industry and the marketplace.

Innovation, coupled with well-focused research and development, are important components of our rural industries - and critical to their survival.

R&D corporations are helping to achieve profitable, sustainable and competitive rural industries. This partnership between industry and government is one in which all rural Australians can be particularly proud. Our R&D model is well known to be world's best practice.

As I mentioned earlier, the Farm Innovation Program is just one of my department's AAA initiatives.

Another initiative includes the New Industries Development Program to help agribusinesses develop new products, services and technologies. The Commonwealth will invest over $21 million over five years to help them get on with the job.

Other programs that come under the AAA banner include FarmBis, Women in Rural Industries, and Farm Growth through Export Growth.

They are all in place to help ensure rural and regional Australia's long-term prosperity.

The Commonwealth Government has demonstrated its strong commitment to rural Australia by lending a hand to Australians, who are willing to 'give it a go'. And what better example than the Passionfruit Marketing Group, Farm Innovation project we are here today to acknowledge.

Australia's first commercial passionfruit harvester My department is excited about its involvement in Australia's first mechanical passionfruit harvester.

The Australian passionfruit industry produces 3,000 tonnes of fruit a year - 2,500 tonne goes direct to fresh fruit markets and the rest is mainly turned into juice. The passionfruit industry in northern NSW and Queensland alone produces over 70 per cent of Australia's passionfruit. Currently, the Passionfruit Marketing Group processes over 600 tonnes of passionfruit per year.

Harvesting passionfruit manually is an arduous daily task, which limits not only profitability, but importantly, the potential for growth of the industry. The Passionfruit Marketing Group has designed a mechanical passionfruit harvester, which offers economic and environmental benefits through an improved management system for growing, harvesting and processing passionfruit. The management system integrates several technologies in harvesting, processing, packing and waste management that are critical to the successful development of the passionfruit industry in sub-tropical Australia.

Processing, which is a critical part of this industry, has been improved significantly through the way in which the harvester collects and processes the fruit. More fruit is able to be collected at the prime time so that a greater percentage becomes destined for the fresh fruit market. Any remaining fruit is processed much more efficiently into juice and pulp

for the food service sector.

The Passionfruit Marketing Group is also using the by-products from its processing facility in several ways, including supplementing cattle feed and assessing its use in the pharmaceutical industry. The new technology has significant potential to create industry expansion and to reduce cheaper imports from Thailand, Brazil and other South American countries, creating further market opportunities for Australian growers.

Conclusion The development of the passionfruit harvester you will see operating here today is the result of three years of research, and collaboration by senior managers of the Passionfruit Marketing Group who actively manage the business and bring a wealth of experience to the passionfruit industry.

This group realised that in order to progress development of the passionfruit industry in Australia, passionfruit farmers needed to increase their competitiveness and effectiveness - either through cost reductions or product improvement.

This method of harvesting will set a new industry benchmark in passionfruit processing. It will also overcome the shortcomings, which often result in processing inaccuracies and wasted product.

This project demonstrates what industry and government can achieve by working in partnership. Through this program and other initiatives, the Commonwealth Government is putting in place the right strategies to help farmers meet the challenges of the future.

At the same time, we are creating the conditions that will ensure our innovative rural enterprises continue to occupy their central place in Australia's economy.

And that is why I would like you to join me in congratulating the Passionfruit Marketing Group Pty Ltd on its foresight and willingness to take the lead in Australian passionfruit production - in introducing this technology and sharing its innovative farming practices with us today.

Bevan, please accept this plaque on behalf of the Passionfruit Marketing Group in recognition of your group's hard work and dedicated management of this successful project. Congratulations.