Delivering delicious nutrition by the tonne

This summer Abundant Produce harvested a bumper crop of super-sweet cherry tomatoes, and donated around two tonnes of these delicious vegetables to SecondBite, delivering delicious nutrition to Australia’s neediest families and individuals.

Over a million Australians regularly go hungry, and this food insecurity exposes them to increased risk from a range of diet-related illnesses including cardio-vascular disease and diabetes prompting Ian and Simone Carson to establish SecondBite in 2005, determined to deliver fresh nutritious food to those most in need.

SecondBite has now delivered over 50 million kilograms of food to over 1,300 community food programs across Australia and, following their commitment to nutrition, 75% of their food deliveries are of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Food security is at the core of what we do,” Abundant’s Chief Research Scientist, Dr Nabil Ahmad said, “All of our plant breeding takes place under harsh Australian climactic conditions. We deliberately expose the plants to stresses like diseases and high temperatures and salinity, then we select the plants that do best under these difficult conditions. This is completely different to conventional breeding, which takes place under optimal conditions and favours presentation rather than nutrition.

Our plants produce vegetables with less fertiliser, less pesticides and less temperature control, decreasing the impact of horticulture on the environment, and as well as increasing sustainability, our plants will grow better in those parts of the world where the food is needed most, places with harsh climates like Australia’s – in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Abundant’s tasty tomatoes are now being delivered by SecondBite to community food programs in the greater Sydney region, naturally providing some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens with essential vitamins and minerals.

Abundant Seeds is a collaboration with Sydney University’s Plant Breeding Institute,” Dr Ahmad said, “so helping to feed the billion hungry people worldwide is an important part of what we do and we won’t ignore the hungry on our own doorstep.

A sweeping change

A change is sweeping through Australia’s cucumber growing industry, yielding big results.

Australian cucumber growers faced a challenging winter, dealing with extended cold periods, often with ice coating their greenhouses and losses of up to 40% of their crops due to cold strike (fruit scurfing).

Now they are planting summer crops and, with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology placing an 80% likelihood on hotter than average conditions (day and night) for November to January, heat stress is a major concern. Plants subject to extended periods of high temperatures, particularly when the thermometer doesn’t give them a break overnight, become more susceptible to pest and disease outbreaks, and can react by aborting their fruit. Grower yields plummet and, at worst, crops fail completely.

An expanding cadre of growersare facing the change of seasons with new confidence because they have a secret weapon. Plant Abundant Seeds. Making one tiny change, growers report greater cold and heat tolerance, more vigorous growth and fruit production, a longer picking cycle, and fruit with improved colour, shape and uniformity.

Abundant’s plants are healthier” “Abundant’s plants are more suited to my growing environment” “Next winter the full crop will be Abundant” “Will grow only Abundant cucumbers again next summer” These are some of the comments from growers who trialed Abundant cucumber seeds in 2018.

Sound too good to be true? Why should Abundant’s seeds be so much better?

Abundant Seeds teamed up with Sydney University’s Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) in 2011, and since then, plant scientists have been breeding cucumbers suited to Australian conditions and low tech (unheated, uncooled) greenhouses. This is in stark contrast with internationally sourced horticultural seeds bred in high tech, climate-controlled greenhouses in Europe or the United States.

Abundant Seeds’ absolute focus is to provide better options and better results for growers, and in turn superior fruit for consumers,” Abundant’s Sales and Operations Manager, Sarah Pearson said. “We produce high quality varieties, here in Australia for Australian production. We, and Australian growers, are enormously fortunate to have this collaboration with the University of Sydney PBI. Their scientists are able to breed plants that offer substantial advantages to growers without the need for major changes in crop management. For our first winter and spring season trials to be so successful and so well received by growers is proof that we are on the right track, and that there is strong demand for locally developed seeds.”

With all the scientific and breeding expertise on hand in Australia, Abundant seeds is also able to offer growers unparalleled after sales service.

We view ourselves as being in partnership with our growers,” Sarah Pearson said. “If they have an issue or technical question, I can get them an answer quickly. We are now working with the growing community on backing up our success over summer with many crops planted in the last fortnight, with a strong strike rate for germination. This sets up both growers and Abundant for an exciting summer and 2019.”