Home' Grower : August 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- August 2012
Monsanto closing in on flavour gap
ON a visit to the Melbourne markets, Ed Ayala noticed
The Monsanto director of business development-
vegetable consumer traits, based in the United States,
said of all the food stalls at the markets, one had a
considerably longer line than the others.
Which one? The American Donut stand.
Mr Ayala used the example to open his presentation on
exploring consumer needs without sacrificing
profitability at the Hydroponic Farmers Federation
conference at Ballarat last month.
He said the long line for the fast-food option was a
relevant example of how difficult it was for fresh
produce to compete for its "stomach share".
This was further complicated for seed breeding
companies who he said had to balance everything the
consumer wants, with the difficulties in growing the
He said there was sometimes a divide formed by
growers not knowing what breeders are capable of
doing, and breeders not aware of what traits growers
prefer. Another major hurdle to him lay on the other end
of the supply chain -- getting customers to take-up a
"Generating consumer awareness is a very big
challenge," he said.
"Increasingly, they are saying: 'I want flavour and
Mr Ayala's interactions with major retailers have
highlighted to him the art of marketing and packaging
"They need to delight their customers so they return,"
"You can get someone to buy but if it doesn't taste any
good, they won't return."
He said retailers often talk about a 'flavour gap', where
for certain months of the year they cannot supply the
quality of a particular out-of-season fruit as they would
Figures compiled by Monsanto in the US showed that
winter rockmelon and honeydew consumption is less
than half that of summer.
While demand generally decreases in the cooler
months, Mr Ayala said an argument could be made that
poorly flavoured winter melons contributed to the
He said in the US, customers appear willing to pay
more for flavour.
In recent years, Monsanto has pushed to identify and
commercialise new products from around the world.
One such is the Melorange -- a rockmelon that is 30
per cent sweeter than imported products, and boasts a
dark orange flesh.
Monsanto conducted extensive publicity on the
Melorange but getting directly to those who might eat it
was the key.
"To keep it simple, we handed out samples of the
melon in supermarkets," Mr Ayala said.
-- ASHLEY WALMSLEY
Monsanto director of business development-
vegetable consumer traits Ed Ayala says
breeding traits is a balancing act.
Horticultural trainer Ben van Onna with Protected Cropping Australia's outgoing
chairman Graeme Smith. Mr Smith says about 90 per cent of those in the
horticultural sector have no formal greenhouse qualifications.
Skills red alert for
By ASHLEY WALMSLEY
CALLING for a national
training facility for the
horticulture industry, former
Protected Cropping Australia
chairman Graeme Smith said a
major skills shortage was posing
huge challenges for greenhouse
"About 90 per cent of the
industry has no formal greenhouse
qualifications, access to training at
all levels is lacking, and most
producers are travelling abroad at a
considerable cost to attain it," Mr
He was speaking at the
Hydroponic Farmers Federation
conference at Ballarat last month.
In response to this situation,
Australian Protected Cropping
Industry developed the Pathways to
Production training program for
growers. The program is under way
at the Virginia Horticulture Centre
and focuses on improving grower
skills, knowledge of plant
physiology, growing systems and
environment management, water
recycling and business
Mr Smith said South Australia was
home to the "greatest
concentration" of new greenhouse
and hydroponic development and
new technology investment in the
country but would greatly benefit
from a coordinated training facility.
SA has about 600 growers who
operate 0.4 hectares under
protected cropping on average,
bringing the total greenhouse area
in the State to about 240ha. The
Sydney Basin is the second largest
area for greenhouse development,
with about 400 growers.
SA has a long history of protected
cropping but it is only in the past
five years that many growers have
made the transition to medium and
One of the biggest leaps has been
the introduction of tall glasshouses
to replace lower-height polythene
"Any operation's success depends
on how well it utilises plant
physiology and manages the
environmental elements. The taller
glass houses har vest light ver y
effectively and maximise it for plant
production. They also allow
optimum air circulation and
exchange," Mr Smith said.
"Over the years, growers have
gained new skills through our
workshops and international study
tours to Holland -- the world leader
SA leading greenhouse centre
Tall glasshouses big leap for-
Hydroponic meet a success
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