Thursday, 21 August 2014

A personal bulletin from the International Horticultural Congress (IHC)

It’s been a roller coaster few days at the IHC2014 for ACIAR, beginning with the set up, and its usual furniture and technology problems…where can we hide the boxes!!  Phew, we finished setup 5 minutes before the fabulous IHC opening event – enough time for myself and Richard Markham, ACIAR’s Horticulture Research Program Manager to put on fresh shirts.  

The writer at the ACIAR booth
The 3,000 IHC2014 delegates are invited in and it’s time to meet and greet.  As an office based worker, it’s great, even funny, to finally put a face to a name you’ve emailed for a months or even years.   

The Pacific Community has a big presence and gorgeous display – not all display materials made it through Australian quarantine in time, but with billums, provincial dresses, woven bags on a large tapa (cloth made from paper mulberry tree) – it all makes beautiful centre piece for the walls of bamboo, grasses and leafy plants.   

Display by ACIAR partner Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Up bright and early the next day.  I’ve never been to Brisbane, so a pre-breakfast run to the City Botanical gardens – not a lot going on there – so I check if there are any tickets left for the early morning tour of the Roma Street Parklands (sub-tropical landscaped garden built on old railway yards) tomorrow.

ACIAR has a big day today (Monday), both morning and afternoon presentations from ACIAR funded projects, but before that, are the Plenary sessions. Julian Cribb paints a dire picture of both impending global hunger due to population growth and current morbidity rates fuelled by over-consumption.  

Solutions have been previously seen in science-fiction movies – glass sky scraper grow-towers, desert farms, huge floating fish farms…

Do any ACIAR projects include these technologies? Is there any connection to developing country small holder farmers or to the Tassie farmer I’m sitting next to?   The speaker moves onto algae farming as another key to the future.  My ACIAR colleagues suggest there could indeed be a future here – algae for fuel, stock feed, textiles, chemical production, health food.  If this alternative future isn’t tickling your taste buds – I suggest you try indigenous foods, cultured meat, bio-cultures and 3D food printing...!

Julian Cribb’s Plenary talk “Sustaining Lives: Global Food Security”
Dr Shenngen Fan, is the second speaker. I realise I’ve been chatting to him in the hotel lift.  His question is, ‘what is our food agenda post 2015’. Dr Fan says hunger, malnutrition, micro-nutrient deficiencies and stunting are still effecting over half the population in developing countries.  The numbers are similar for chronic disease related to over-nutrition. Of note is the dramatic increase in childhood obesity in Asia.

These distorted childhood diets have direct links to chronic disease in adults.   Dr Fan wants the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals  to be people focussed, pragmatic, and with time‑based targets – sounds good, I agree!  Dr Fan comments on negative outcome of the green revolution, was it’s taking over of horticultural farmland to produce a narrow band of grain crops. 

Both speakers mention value chains to reduce post-harvest loss.  In fact there is enough food produced globally, however poor distribution and consequent wastage means access to food is not equal or in fact fair.  

Got to go – I’m manning the ACIAR booth…

A great tide of visitors come to the booth over the next few days – ACIAR sponsored and project sponsored delegates, project leaders, and Australian and overseas based project partners. 

ACIAR staff Richard Markham, John Oakshott (Philippines), Nick Austin and Munawar Kazmi (Pakistan) operate the booth
CEO Nick Austin; Horticulture Research Program Manager, Richard Markham; ACIAR Project Leader, Stefano De Faveri
In equal numbers are those whom have never heard of this Australian government agency ACIAR – pineapple farmers from north Queensland, fruit and vegetable importers based in Dubai, horticultural scientists from India, Canadian post-harvest experts, and hopeful Burundi and Nepalese partners.  

Of particular interest to me, are two overseas born Australian young agriculturalists, interested in working on ACIAR projects. I am equally interested in meeting the women associated with ACIAR projects – Philmah Seta-Waken from PNG, Ayesha Arif from Pakistan, Endang Sulistyaningsih from Indonesia, Reny Gerona from Philippines, and Australian women Suzie Newman, Natalie Dillion and Julie Lloyd.  We invite anyone we omitted from our invitation to ‘the ACIAR networking event’, happening on Monday evening.

The ACIAR Horticulture Networking Event, held at the College of Tourism and Hospitality, South Brisbane, is attended by nearly 100 ACIAR related people.  The vibe is friendly and relaxed.  Our CEO, Dr Nick Austin, speaks and is followed by Luseanne Taufa, from the IHC2014 Committee and Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries, Tonga.  Luseanne thanks ACIAR for its support of Pacific Island attendees and throws out a challenge to Pacific women to meet tomorrow as a group.  There are six lucky business card draws, prizes include produce from Canberra based small holder farmers.   Pakistan scoops three out of the six!

I’m tired, but another day for me to go yet...collecting talent for interviews for ACIAR’s you-tube channel...stay tuned and eat your indigenous vegetables!

Joy Hardman, Program Support Officer, Crop Improvement


  1. For a desk bound employee I really enjoyed your blog, it's given me a lovely personalised piece of insight into the great work our people (ACIAR staff) and partners do.

  2. Wonderful pictures and story, made me wish I had been there!

  3. Great blog Joy! Great to see ACIAR utilising its excellent internal resources. Keep up the good reporting, look forward to your YouTube videos :)

  4. I agree, Joy has captured the atmosphere very well. I attended the event for a day, and can say I was most impressed. Such a gathering of diverse people, all with the same goal in mind - to learn more about horticultural research and work towards collectively solving some of our globe's most pressing issues.

  5. Hi Joy, you did great and I think you got natural talent for being story writer......

  6. Thanks Joy, I wasn't there but your post captured the spirit of the event and of ACIAR

    Greg Johnson


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