This report summarises the findings of a 2004 overseas study tour which hosted 3 growers and 2 processor representatives of Australia’s Beetroot industry.
The Tour group analysed the processes and operations of the American and European beetroot industries.
The Study Tour covered the following topics :
- Analyse the seed production and selection process of our major seed suppliers.
- Investigate the availability of new varieties more suited to the Australian environment.
- Compare and contrast the operational activities of Beetroot production in America and the UK with Australia’s activities.
- Compare and contrast the retail offering of Beetroot products in the UK and America and investigate and analyse new product innovations.
Analysis of the Major Beetroot Seed Producers
1. The level of understanding of both the customer and supplier requirements regarding Australian Beetroot seed requirements was relatively low.
2. There were noticeable differences in the level of professionalism and business focus displayed by current Beetroot seed supply companies.
3. All seed companies displayed a wish to work closer with Australian producers.
4. Workplace order of European businesses visited was well above the Australian standard.
Investigation into the availability of new varieties more suited to the Australian Environment
1. There are many more varieties being used commercially overseas and available for trials in Australia than the industry had knowledge of.
2. There is detailed information regarding the breeding and subsequent characteristics of different varieties currently used and being trialed however this information has not been made available in the past.
3. Open pollinated varieties currently being used by Australian producers are not being supported by seed companies, and that when taking selections of this material for seed production Australian requirements are not being considered.
4. There are alternative sources of the open pollinated varieties used by the Australian industry available.
5. Australian producers need to continue variety trials focused on both production suitability and optimum planting windows.
6. There is the opportunity to have varieties developed specifically for Australian conditions and requirements.
Compare and contrast operational activities of Beetroot production in America and UK with Australia’s Beetroot production activities
1. Australian production is based on an American model.
2. Australian soil and environmental conditions are very different to both the US and UK.
3. UK farm production has a much higher focus on value adding before sale to processors.
4. There are considerable differences in farm production requirements, environmental conditions and grower support between the US UK and Australia.
5. Economies of scale of farming suppliers are generally larger in both the US and UK, harvesting equipment is more advanced in both cleaning ability and harvesting rate.
6. Processor capacity in Australia is larger than most OS operators, processing and particularly packing equipment in general is more advanced in Australia.
7. There were noticeable differences in efficiencies at all stages of the production process between the different processors visited.
8. There is new and advanced beetroot processing equipment available that has the capability to further reduce labour costs in Australia.
Compare and contrast the retail display of Beetroot products in America and the UK with Australia’s and investigate and analyse new product innovations
1. The market for processed beetroot varied considerably between each country visited, and each country was experiencing a different stage of development ranging from decline or stagnation to new product growth.
2. The standard flavour profile between the US and Australia was similar where as the UK was very different.
3. Consumption habits of consumers varied between each country, however in all cases the elder population made up the majority of consumption.
4. Packaging for each country was traditional in that glass or cans in similar sizes to that used in Australia was the main offering; the UK was the only country to be offering new innovative packaging to the market.
5. Australia was the only country to feature beetroot in national fast food chain menus.
6. The declining aged market and the requirement to lift sales in the younger generation is a challenge for all producing countries.
Regarding seeds it seems that Australian producers have not been able to become actively involved in the seed production process nor have they received ongoing information regarding developments in new varieties and treatment techniques that the other producing countries are currently using as standard. However as a result of the Tour it is fair to say that this is well into the process of change.
The growers themselves are now more actively involved in the process and seed companies are enjoying this input. It is fair to say that for whatever reasons the industry has struggled to keep up to date with new varieties and seed treatments in recent years, however this has now changed as a result of the Tour all varieties identified for evaluation are included in trials growers are looking forward to the results.
Seed companies too are now more active in understanding our requirements and so we are confident that this in process of inclusion at all levels will ensure the industry resolves some of the current issues regarding this topic.
The different growing and harvesting techniques witnessed were a real experience for all Tour participants. Some of the techniques and equipment will be able to be considered for Australian production however it is recognized that soil and environmental conditions in Australia will mean they require some adaptation prior to successful usage.
There was also much to be learnt from the different processing factories visited, however due to the inability to take photos in these establishments we were unable to show this graphically. In general there was no factory that was a standout in all facets of production however some were definitely better than others overall, each factory including Golden Circle had facets that did comparatively well with and some they don’t.
The challenge for the Australian industry is to work toward ensuring that they improving those parts of there operation that were identified as being done better else where.
The Australian marketing of Beetroot would appear to be ahead of OS competitor in regards to total consumption, consumer demographic and product availability via fast food outlets.
More work needs to done on innovative packaging and it would be fair to say that the UK is leading in this regard, the super market in store support of this new packaging will ensure its success and replication in the Australian market would appear to be an obvious opportunity for Beetroot and any other product with a similar usage.
One obvious risk to all markets is the decline of the current major demographic being the aged population, the American market is well into decline and the ability to get Beetroot consumed by the next generation is a challenge for all producing countries.
We would like to extend sincere thanks to Heidi Martin QDPI for her exhaustive efforts in assisting us in the original HAL application for funding and organising many of the visits and contacts made during the Tour.
Also the non Touring organising team comprising of Peter Lerch, Ashley Zelinski, Nigel Todd thank you very much for your efforts.
The touring party also made considerable contribution and we thank them also. Considerable in kind contributions were provided by seed and equipment companies including :
- Tony Hubbard and the Team from Bejo Seeds
- Uffe Jensen ASA – LIFT A/S
- Barry Donahue and the team from Syngenta seeds
- Martin Strickson and James Wilson from Elsom’s Seeds,
- Difang Chen and the team from Alf Christianson Seeds
- Tom Janssen and the team from Janus Equipment Sales.
Your input, friendship and day to day direction was what made this Tour the incredible learning experience it was and we look forward to a long lasting friendship.
We would like to thank our Travel agency Flight and in particularly Tracey Provost for her diligent efforts resulting in a very smooth trip.
We would also like to thank all the growers who allowed us their time, effort and access to their operations. We greatly enjoyed the sharing of information and friendships displayed, and look forward to returning your hospitality in the future.
Thank you to Dr Per Rydahl and Dr Svend Christensen from the Department of Agricultural Research Denmark, their futuristic research in Agricultural production was a fascinating and we look forward to reading of future results.
Thanks to Dr Irwin Goldman Associate Professor of Horticulture Department of Horticulture University of Wisconsin-Madison for his incite into the history of Beetroot breeding.
The project team gratefully acknowledges the financial support of Golden Circle Limited, QLD Department of Primary Industries and Horticulture Australia Limited
The Australian Government provides matched funding for all HAL’s R&D activities.