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Industrial hemp, flax, and bushfoods such as Gubinge (the Kakadu Plum) are just a few examples of alternative crops attracting attention due to the global trend in “superfoods”. These nutrient packed foods are rising sharply in popularity and consumer awareness, and will be just one of the hot topics unpacked in this years’ TECHSPO conference and Ag Tech showcase in Wagin this August.

Ann Maree O’Callaghan, Director and founder of Strategy Matrix, will be participating in one of six deep-dive breakout sessions that tackle some of the big questions for the future of farming in Australia. Her session, “Future Crops and Systems” will be looking at a myriad of emerging industries, and how farmers can diversify their crops to capitalise on this opportunity.

O’Callaghan is pragmatic about what is required from farmers to take advantage of the superfood boom. “While there are opportunities and challenges throughout the supply chain to capture value, research and prefeasibility work focused on these superfood crops has identified eight key focus areas that are critical for success. They include knowledge of the plant and its agronomy, cultivar development, processing technologies and systems, a whole supply chain focus, development of end products and markets, partnerships and collaboration and of course, attracting finance.”

Her presentation will aim to unpack these opportunities and challenges, with delegates having the opportunity to ask questions directly in an intimate environment.

Joining Ann Maree will be two researchers from the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM), a national research centre focused on research into crop diseases of wheat, barley, canola and pulses. Dr Lars Kamphuis and Dr Fran Lopez-Ruiz will be alongside O’Callaghan for the session, sharing their latest projects and their implications for future crops and systems in Australia.

Kamphuis’ teams’ focus has been on identifying sources of genetic resistance to damaging crop diseases, and helping growers improve overall yield stability and profits through greater adoption of canola and pulses into rotation systems. He will be sharing his latest findings on important wild chickpeas research, and what this means for the future of chickpea production in Western Australia.

Lars will be taking farmers and industry professionals through his recommendations on building genetic diversity in chickpea crops, and how this could open opportunities for developing new, resilient varieties that facilitate the potential expansion of this valuable commodity in Western Australia now and into the future.

On the technology front, Dr Fran Lopez-Ruin, a fungicide resistance researcher, will be showcasing his mobile technology that is aimed at bringing the CCDM’s research out of the lab and into the paddock. His presentation, “small machines, big impact!” will outline how the CCDM has been working to create a new small, yet powerful tool, aimed at improving the detection and understanding of fungicide resistance in WA crops, helping to boost farm productivity.

These emerging opportunities for crop farmers continue to be a passion point for Southern Dirt, the grower group who conceptualised TECHSPO and have seen it go from strength to strength over the past few years. Tracey Hodgkins, Southern Dirt CEO, reiterates the importance of a future-focus when it comes to cropping. “Understanding and development of new cropping industries offer land owners an opportunity for greater flexibility and profitability in a challenging marketplace, as well as a way to bring diversity into our systems. Profitable break crops need to be developed carefully and collaboratively. Research shows we need to stay ahead of food trends, global competitors and bring a value add focus to our region in order to remain sustainable in the future.”

With another five breakout sessions on day one of the conference ranging in themes from Transformational Farming, Livestock Health and Wellness and Livestock Value Add and Processing, TECHSPO looks to have something for not only crop farmers, but livestock farmers and agricultural industry professionals seeking to understand more about new technologies and opportunities.

To view the full program of events and purchase tickets, visit www.techspo.com.au. Tickets are selling fast, and there are strictly no door sales.