Hillwood Berries farm manager Simon Dornauf spoke about the future of the Australian berry industry at BerryQuest International in Launceston on Tuesday.
As chairman of the conference organising committee, Mr Dornauf delivered a wrap up of the four berry sectors: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
“I think the future is the key to think about when it comes to these type of gatherings,” Mr Dornauf said.
Starting with strawberries, as the biggest berry product within Australia, he said most were still grown in open fields, making them prone to the elements and at risk of rain damage and heat stress.
However, he sees that many of those issues could be eliminated with raised tabletops and substrate growing in polytunnels, like Hillwood Berries has done.
“That has allowed us to open up the door to a lot more labour. We still attract backpackers, but we’re also attracting new Australians who see an opportunity in Australia to create a new life, with this type of work a step for them to move into a community,” Mr Dornauf said.
Most Australian states now produce strawberries, which allows a 365-day supply nationally.
“In the last seven years Tasmania has come into its strength, along with South Australia and Western Australia. Strawberries are the backbone of our [berry] industry,” he said.
Raspberries have taken longer to gain a foothold, but many growers are now taking advantage of protective cropping.
“Tunnels have been a game changer for raspberries, but I believe there will be big changes with substrate crops,” Mr Dornauf said.
Blackberries are the “smallest” of the berry sectors, with Tasmania and Victoria the prime growing regions.
Mr Dornauf finished with blueberries, which he sees as a key berry sector.
“This year we’ve seen the largest [blueberry] crops produced out of Coffs Harbour, which I think is really helping grow the market.”