Fruit fly symposium views a bold fruit fly future

Aug. 20, 2023 | 5 Min read
Australia’s fruit fly system is complex, involving many different stakeholders working together to manage fruit fly risks for horticulture industries.

Australia’s fruit fly system is complex, involving many different stakeholders working together to manage fruit fly risks for horticulture industries.

Delegates at the recent National Fruit Fly Symposium heard that understanding the challenges and many interactions in the fruit fly system is key to identifying solutions and improvements for future national success.

The fruit fly system community met face-to-face at this year’s symposium at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide for the first time since 2018 to explore ‘The view over the horizon’. The symposium took stock of progress against the National Fruit Fly Strategy to date and built a collective view of future opportunities.

With more than 120 delegates in attendance, the two-day symposium provided opportunities to listen, engage and contribute to a bold fruit fly future.

Key participants presenting included John Webster, National Fruit Fly Council (NFFC) chair; Dr Lloyd Klumpp, inspector general of biosecurity; Professor David Hughes, emeritus professor of food marketing at the Imperial College of London; Dr Claire Naughtin, CSIRO; Dr Penny Measham, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; Dr Rieks van Klinken, CSIRO; and Kevin Bodnaruk, AKC Consulting.

The sessions were facilitated by Bec Lang, who specialises in designing and delivering engagement initiatives with the community, industry and government.

Input from stakeholders was a key part of the symposium, ensuring the long-term goals for improved fruit fly management address industry aspirations, changing risks, and the need for a cooperative approach.

Day 1: Overview of Australian biosecurity

Day one opened with an overview of the Australian biosecurity system and the importance of collaboration provided by Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia (PHA). The NFFC is convened and supported by PHA.

“Having a strong nationally coordinated fruit fly system remains vital to ensure growers and governments have the tools to understand and successfully manage the fruit fly threat,” Ms Corcoran said.

NFFC chair John Webster outlined the council and the role it plays in bringing together governments, growers and research funders to oversee the implementation of the National Fruit Fly Strategy and to drive the delivery of a cost-effective and sustainable approach to managing fruit flies in Australia.

“We welcome a strong and varied mix of stakeholders from all across Australia, New Zealand and the UK, so we can form a common understanding of fruit fly issues and find solutions to manage this significant threat.

“The NFFC provides leadership and advice on strategic policy and RD&E issues about fruit fly to a range of stakeholders including the National Biosecurity Committee, Plant Health Committee, Hort Innovation, industry, and the community,” Mr Webster said.

Dr Claire Naughtin, co-author of the 2022 CSIRO ‘Our Future World’ Global megatrends report, explained how megatrends are trajectories of change that typically unfold over years or decades and have the potential for substantial and transformative impact.

The world has changed considerably over the past decade, and more specifically, since COVID-19, the war in the Ukraine, and the flow-on impact to global trade. These changes have had a substantial impact on businesses, communities and governments in Australia and exposed new risks and opportunities.

“Think of these Megatrends in the same way wind tunnels are used to simulate different futures and stress-test robustness of strategic responses to help us respond quicker and make decisions faster,” Dr Naughtin said.

This was followed by a series of panel sessions and collaborative discussions to explore the fruit fly system and the all-important trade implications and opportunities.

The importance of the market and economic imperatives for our horticultural industries and Australia more broadly to control fruit flies was debated with a strategic focus.

Mango grower Dale Williams from Bowen in Queensland was part of a panel discussion to explore how the fruit fly system currently works to capture the bold future of trade and what more can be done to change the system.

“Market access is priority number one. Change presents challenges but also opportunities,” Mr Williams said.

Previous and current chairs of the NFFC, Dr Lloyd Klumpp and John Webster, participated in a panel discussion on the potential bold futures in trade with Professor David Hughes; Andrew Bishop, Tasmania’s chief plant protection officer; and NFFC member, Joe Saina, chair of the Australian Horticultural Exporters and Importers Association; and Suzy Green, independent horticulture expert.

“Over the past two decades, we’ve seen a transition to national strategic thinking and improved industry-government partnerships. We have a shared vision and focus, and our challenge is how we get there,” Mr Bishop said.

“Effective critical partnerships are the only way to progress and improve market access.”

Day one wrapped up with Ms Corcoran thanking Dr Klumpp for his outstanding contributions during his tenure as chair of the NFFC.

“Under Lloyd’s leadership, the NFFC has grown in strength, purpose, and direction,” she said.

Day 2: Likely fruit fly future

Day two of the symposium examined a singular, likely fruit fly future, with a series of discussions around the issues contributing to the operating landscape as we transition to a chemically limited future. Experts in the areas of agricultural chemicals and alternate control methods of fruit flies provided an update on past and current work.

Matt Dyck, biosecurity manager of Kiwifruit Vine Health in New Zealand, and Brad Siebert, deputy CEO of New Zealand Avocado, shared New Zealand’s readiness activities in preparation for a chemically limited future.

Professor Phil Taylor, Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) expert from Macquarie University, joined a panel discussion about the different parts of the toolbox in a chemically limited future.

“SIT can be used in various scenarios and is specifically useful in biosecurity,” he said.

The fifth panel discussion of the symposium consisted of growers, trade experts, and agronomists discussing how growers are transitioning to a chemically limited future on-farm.

Dr Heleen Kruger, social scientist at ABARES, expanded on the pre-Symposium Think Tank webinar on Area Wide Management (AWM) and the need to move beyond technocratic thinking or linear thinking to systems thinking.

“Technocratic thinking easily leads to linear thinking and related approaches. The system adjusts to the dominant thinking, for example, funding application requirements and how progress is measured,” Dr Kruger said.

“Technocratic thinking suggests one-size-fits-all solutions, but it is important that we design a system to ensure it can deliver adaptive co-management,” she said.

Day two also comprised a series of workshops around issues, including AWM and SIT, systems-based approaches, as well as extension and engagement, including social research.

The workshops were designed to provide an update on past and current work, draw on successful and practical approaches, look at case studies both locally and internationally, and explore future opportunities and priorities to enable Australia to chart a path and identify the role of each component within the system.

In wrapping up the symposium, delegates summarised the future focus conversation and the role collaboration plays in a successful, bold fruit fly future. The general feeling was that there was real value in having industry and government stakeholders in one room to address fruit fly issues at a national level.

Special thanks to Hort Innovation (Platinum sponsor), Steritech (Gold Sponsor) and PHA that supported the National Fruit Fly Symposium.

Categories Fruit Fly

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