Vegetable grower Mr Allan Fong provides niche products to a “foodie” market, and takes his product stewardship very seriously.

Vegetable grower Mr Allan Fong provides niche products to a “foodie” market, and takes his product stewardship very seriously.

High value in veggie education

Education is key in bridging the gap between food production and consumption

Business
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Sponsored: Third generation veggie grower educates conscious consumers

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This article is sponsored by Syngenta.

THIRD generation vegetable grower Allan Fong from Pukekohe, New Zealand receives a steady stream of emails from customers asking about his crop protection choices.

Mr Fong believes that the more he can educate himself on the science behind the products he’s using, the better he can inform his customers on the quality, necessity and sustainability of his growing practices.

Through his brand, The Fresh Grower, based in the hills 50 kilometres south of Auckland, Mr Fong provides niche products such as Asian greens and broccolini to a “foodie” market, often exporting products to Hong Kong and China for customers with the highest expectations.

“There’s growing interest from consumers to know about how their food is produced and where it comes from,” Mr Fong said.

“My customers will email me to find out what products I use, then Google those products and write back to me asking questions about articles they’ve read online.”

While he does his best to explain his crop protection product decisions, Mr Fong says that it’s sometimes challenging to explain the complex science to customers, especially when they have been researching online and don't always have accurate information.

“The world’s evolving all the time and we try to be as transparent as we can,” he said.

“It’s sometimes difficult to explain the nuances between organics and science-based products to customers. They have a world of information at their fingertips but it's not always reliable.”

As a 2016 Syngenta Growth Awards winner, Mr Fong recently returned from a study tour where he visited Syngenta’s Research and Development (R&D) facilities in Jealott’s Hill, UK.

While touring the facility, Mr Fong had the opportunity to meet with researchers and lead scientists to gather more insight into the science and development processes involved in creating crop protection products.

“It was so valuable to ask questions about the manufacturing process and protocols of the products that are produced,” he said.

Mr Fong takes his product stewardship very seriously, working closely with agronomists and input suppliers to ensure he is following best-practice.

He often contacts suppliers to find out as much information as he can about the products he uses, so that he can get the best results and provide clearer and more comprehensive information to his customers.

“The science and testing that’s put into these products is very sophisticated but that can mean it's tricky for growers to fully digest, which in turn makes it hard for us to communicate down the chain."

“It takes around 10 years and US$200 million worth of research and development and thousands of scientific studies to bring a new product to market.”

Mr Fong learned the background of product formulation first-hand and left with an understanding that the quality of branded products relies not only the active, but how the formulation is optimised.

A good quality product is dependent on many things such as, how it breaks down in UV light, particle size and ease of application; and, in addition to the active, its efficacy is also dependent on the hundreds of other present compounds.

“The trip gave me so much more knowledge and understanding about how the process works and I can relay this with a lot more confidence moving forward.

“It really opened my eyes to how much there is to know about the products I’m using. It’s cemented my confidence that I can provide top-quality produce that meets the demand of my customers around the world,” he said.

This article is sponsored by Syngenta.

The story High value in veggie education first appeared on Farm Online.

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