By Kara van der Berg
The Hortgro Technical Symposium returned to entertain and inform participants about the present and future possibilities and challenges for the deciduous fruit industry with the theme “Future Thinking Today”. “I believe in the current business environment; agriculture, specifically, is becoming a very complex arena. The challenge we have from Hortgro’s perspective is that we must balance long-term strategic issues with short-term operational issues,” said Hortgro Executive Director, Anton Rabe, in a pre-recorded video message, played on the first day of the symposium.
The event returned after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19 and lockdown regulations. The first three days took place at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West, while the last two days were field days in Grabouw and Simondium, respectively.
Over 1100 people attended the 5-day event. Each of the days centred around a different theme, with speakers being selected to talk on topics that fit with these themes. Day one was the business strategy day which focused on the political and economic factors that influence deciduous fruit farming, logistics and exports in South Africa. It included talks from former public protector, Prof Thuli Madonsela, and motivational speaker Joey Evans.
Evans, who broke his back and was paralyzed, was able to complete the Dakar Rally on his motorbike ten years later. His talk revolved around the message: “You didn’t get this far to only get this far.” Evans’s own life story, filled with setbacks, challenges and triumphs, gives hope to our industry, which has faced many hardships over the last few years.
Prof Thuli Madonsela stressed the importance of people in the fruit industry. “If you want prosperity for a year invest in crops. If you want prosperity for about ten years or so invest in trees. If you want prosperity beyond a hundred years invest in people.” Madonsela closed her speech by quoting a Chinese proverb. “I would say let’s invest in both trees and people.”
The second day was the pome fruit day, while day three revolved around stone fruit. Experts talked about various technical and operational aspects of farming pome and stone fruit and both days included lively panel discussions. The field days were more hands-on and saw guests being led into different orchards by experts who discussed practical issues and solutions that can be seen in pome (day four in Elgin/Grabouw) and stone fruit orchards (day five in Simondium).
Hortgro Science General Manager, Prof Wiehann Steyn, said to really assess the value of an event like the symposium, one needs to ask the attendees what they got out of it. “Maybe what struck a chord was Joey Evans’s motivational life story inspiring a down-on-luck farmer to knuckle down and keep on going, or maybe it was Nigel Cook, Graeme Krige, and Willie Kotze’s insights into how growers can make more money by changing their focus to produce more export grade fruit. Maybe it is a greater awareness of an existential threat like the polyphagous shothole borer, the changing rules of the game in the EU market, and big-picture changes on the horizon that Tanja Hichert spoke about. Maybe it is an understanding of how Hano Maree and Rachelle Bester researched the cause of plum marbling or seeing some of the best new plantings and heading the warning of Angelique Pretorius and team about the pitfalls of planting vigorous trees at high density. In my opinion, a good symposium inspires, informs, educates, challenges, and shows the way.”
Pictured here: Tanja Hichert, Dr Ilse Trautmann and Prof Thuli Madonsela at the Hortgro Technical Symposium 2022.
Hortgro wishes to thank the various sponsors for making the event possible, as well as the speakers and all those who attended.
- Presentations can be found here: https://events.hortgro.co.za/hortgro-technical-symposium-2022/
- And videos of some of the speakers can be found here:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8Q2I9JfqYy5b6DPA80NbLjeED–Ux1Bt
- Please note that our team is still working on a special edition of the Fresh Quarterly that will include the most relevant presentations/topics. We will communicate with the industry when this special edition will be published.