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Hort Innovation: Growing horticulture through protected cropping innovation – research partnership

Opportunity for

  • Researchers, entrepreneurs, startup/scaleup, SME, corporates with expertise in protected cropping seeking research partnerships.

Opportunity description

Industry challenge:

The purpose of the Advanced Production Systems Fund (APS) is to invest in strategic research & development programs for “Increase productivity & profitability of Australian horticulture through integration of genetics, automation and crop intensification”. To achieve this, partners must deliver crop productivity and profitability outcomes and address cross-industry issues by supporting effective R&D and extension solutions. Our key stakeholders are horticulture growers, delivery partners in Australia and overseas, state governments and the Australian Government through the Department of Agriculture.

Overall, the APS fund seeks to address the gap between innovations in crop biology; crop systems and management; and automation which poses significant barriers to reducing on farm labour costs, managing farm inputs, and building resilience for the Australian Horticulture sector. The outcome of the fund is to increase farm profitability for horticulture growers through the implementation of “Future Smart Farming” systems.

Three investment themes have been identified as follows:

  1. Understanding crops for ‘future smart farms’
  2. Improving crop systems and management
  3. Enabling tools and technologies.

You can find more information on the Advanced Production Systems fund on our website or by following the link below.

Current opportunity:

Hort Innovation is seeking applications from suitably qualified researchers, entrepreneurs, startup/scaleup, SME, corporates for strategic research and development programs. The Program will invest in R&D which supports The Australian Protected Cropping Strategy 2021-2030 (visit website for attachments).

The investment will be structured as a program approach informed by the industry R&D strategy and comprised of 5 key investment themes as described below.

The program approach was identified through extensive industry engagement, including the Protected Cropping Summit held in Melbourne in March 2023.

Respondents are invited to indicate the contribution (R&D services and Co-investment) for one or more theme, for part or all of the 7-year program. Successful respondents will be expected to engage collaboratively with other service providers to provide an integrated program of work, including the resourcing of a coordinator. A coordinator will be engaged by Hort Innovation or through a respondent after the contracting of the core program activities to fit the needs of the program.

In preparing your submission, you will need to clearly identify:

  1. Industry partners with clear problem definition and focus on impact / benefit cost
  2. International linkages
  3. Commercial partners and co-investment required.

Opportunity background:

Theme 1: Sustainability

Sustainability is a significant opportunity for the industry. Growers need to be aware of tools and support available to monitor their production systems and identify their sustainability metrics. This will include the data capture and tools for benchmarking, particularly in the areas of Energy, Plastic, Water, Green House Gas emissions. Tools could also support growers undertake lifecycle assessments of their operations and products to ensure multiple stages of sustainability metrics are tracked. Potential work streams may include, but not limited to:

  • Sustainability data capture, assessment and dissemination
  • Delivery of tools, metrics and benchmarking to assist growers to monitor their sustainability
  • Communication of industry sustainability to local and international market.

Theme 2: Advanced Agronomy

Advanced Agronomy was identified as an opportunity to continue to improve the performance and management of crops under protected cropping systems. The advanced agronomy theme focuses on solving targeted production issues for growers. For example advancements in genetics and the development of PC centric varieties which are designed to perform in Australian PC systems, agronomic practices to improve quality and shelf life and other post-harvest quality measures. Potential work streams may include, but not limited to:

  • Targeted genetics for PC
  • Next gen pest and disease management
  • Crop management principles for post-harvest quality
  • Communication and extension of information to solve production issues and drive adoption.

Theme 3: Market Development and Insights

Improving the diversity of and access to markets, both domestic and international, to continue to support the growth and development of horticulture. Increased understanding of customers through data and insights to identify and develop product market fit and allow growers to better market their crops. Value adding, packaging and supply chain innovation. Understanding and development of export markets and pathways for protected cropping may also support PC growers through market diversification. Investments will be complementary to existing trade and market insight activity. Potential work streams may include, but not limited to:

  • Domestic and export customer and market insights
  • Development of metrics and measures to inform and underpin existing or new marketing claims
  • Development of industry messaging and story to improve industry perception (link to theme 1) - Increased broad communications to increase the profile of the industry Post harvest, packaging, and supply chain innovation, including gas, temperature and traceability
  • Development of PC specific export protocols to increase export market penetration

Theme 4: Attracting and Retaining People

Attracting early career professionals to protected horticulture and informing them of the opportunities in agriculture was identified as a key priority for this theme. The requirement of skilled staff could be a limiting factor for the growth of protected cropping in Australia. Upskilling existing workers through managerial, business and, technical education. Technically skilled individuals in agronomy and technology sectors to enable the adoption of high-end cutting-edge research into protected cropping businesses. Potential work streams may include, but not limited to:

  • Support for work placements
  • Technical education and training support
  • Management and leadership training
  • Interstate and international study tours
  • Communication and extension resources demonstrate opportunities of protected cropping workplaces eg career attraction resources.

Theme 5: Identification, Evaluation and Adoption of Technology

Identification evaluation and adoption of technology was seen as a high priority investment theme. Investments in this theme would understand agronomic issues, scout international research organisations for potential solutions, evaluation of solutions, identification of return on investment for growers, commercial validation, and adoption support. The focus of this investment theme will be on solving production problems, test, evaluate and de risking high tech investment for protector cropping, and support for growers to trial and implement these technologies. Potential work streams may include, but not limited to:

  • Implementation of artificial intelligence within protect cropping systems
  • Robotics and mechanization to reduce labor requirements
  • Evaluation of emerging technologies and their application in protected cropping systems for greater profitability and sustainability.

Opportunity type

Research partner

Express interest by

Friday, 10 November 2023 14:00 AEST
Visit website

Opportunity led by

Multiple industries
Alternative protein Cross industry Fruits Nuts Other rural industries Pasture, fodder & feed Vegetables

Hort Innovation

Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australia's horticulture industry. As one of the nation's 15 Rural …

Multiple industries
Alternative protein Cross industry Fruits Nuts Other rural industries Pasture, fodder & feed Vegetables
  • Location


  • Organisation type

    Research funding body

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