Australia’s Northern Territory continues to enhance its reputation as one of Australia’s leading destinations for conferences relating to the agricultural sector, across a variety of specialisations.
With the Northern Territory Farmers Association indicating it hopes to see the value of the NT plant industries double within the next 10 years to A$600 million, combined with the NT’s close proximity to Asia via its port and aviation connections, there is every reason to see this continue.
Whilst beef cattle production dominates the NT’s agricultural sector, with Darwin being the largest exporter of live-cattle in the world, mango and melon production are also significant in the NT, along with vegetables, plant nursery products, turf and hay.
Conferences held in the Territory often shine a light on local expertise through presentations delivered by NT-based speakers as well as technical tours to locations which showcase NT fields of excellence.
Conference delegates gain insights into the NT’s unique proposition as a place for industry and business, as well as enjoying cultural interaction and the relaxed, informal NT lifestyle.
Following another highly successful Northern Food Futures Conference staged in Darwin in July 2018, later in the year Alice Springs hosted the Australian Entomological Society (AES) Scientific Conference, which had a strong focus on the importance of insects to natural ecosystems, agribusiness, health and land management, including pest management and biosecurity.
In 2019, Darwin will again be a very relevant host destination, this time for the 12th Biennial Australian Mangoes Conference, with the Northern Territory traditionally providing up to 48 per cent of Australia’s national crop.
The conference is expected to attract approximately 300 delegates when it heads to Darwin in May. Kate Gowdie, Conference Manager with the Australian Mango Industry Association Ltd. talked about why Darwin was selected as the preferred destination for the 2019 conference.
“The proximity to regional locations allows us to provide an agricultural conference that has the best of both worlds,”she said.
“Modern conference venues with adequate capacity and picturesque backdrops, as well as the booming horticulture and agricultural industry on Darwin’s doorstep. We can visit many local farms and businesses, all within an hour’s drive of the CBD.”
She made mention of the excellent assistance provided in the NT.
One of the conference decision-makers was hosted by the NT Convention Bureau on a familiarisation visit to Darwin in 2018 to assess the destination’s capacity and capability to stage the event.
The conference has also received funding support via the Bureau, to assist with event promotion to attract maximum delegate attendance.
“Through the NT Convention Bureau, we were exposed to a range of service providers and were given direct access to government representatives, all willing to think outside the square to help us create our bespoke conference in a unique location.
“With both the AES and Mango Conferences, the topic’s relevance to the destination, availability of locally-based guest speakers, strong Government support and the opportunity to undertake field trips as part of the conference, all played a part in attracting these events to the NT.
The AES Conference provided a prime example of how the NT was able to assist with thought-provoking topics for discussion, case studies and speakers.
The Conference received significant support from the NT Government as a key sponsor which included assistance with keynote speakers, Organising Committee representatives and funding via the Northern Territory Business Events Support Fund, which assists eligible events to promote and attract maximum delegates.
The AES Conference Committee was co-chaired by two senior representatives from the NT Government Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR). One of them, Mary Finlay-Doney, a Research Entomologist with the DPIR, talked about the AES Conference and how it had been beneficial for the NT agricultural sector.
“These kinds of events are a great way to keep informed about research happening around Australia and internationally,”she said.
“We had delegates from Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines talking about mango pests and the information that they shared is integral to safeguarding Australia’s A$180 million-dollar mango industry, over half of which is produced in the NT.”
Ms Finlay-Doney indicated that connections forged between various delegates at the conference will see a number of them return to the NT in the coming year to pursue collaborative research.
The AES Conference dealt with a broad range of issues of relevance to the agricultural sector including pest management and alternative pest control, biosecurity detection, surveillance and eradication, fruit fly pest control as well as other pest issues relating to sweet potato, sugar cane and grain crops.
Sarah Corcoran, Executive Director for Biosecurity and Animal Welfare with the NT Government’s DPIR, was one of a number of NT-based expert speakers at the AES Conference.
She has worked on a range of emergency responses to incursions of exotic pests and pathogens across the biosecurity continuum, and has led national eradication programs for red imported fire ants, electric ants, banana freckle, browsing ants and most recently citrus canker.
Ms Corcoran said the NT was an entomologists’ paradise and to host the conference in Alice Springs was a huge drawcard for entomologists from across Australia and around the world.
“It was an extremely valuable conference that provided great networking opportunities and knowledge sharing,”she said.
Rebecca McCaig, the Director of the NT Convention Bureau spoke about the bureau’s very targeted approach to attracting conferences of specific industry relevance to the NT.
“We believe taking this strategic position is advantageous not only for the economic, social and intellectual wellbeing of the NT but it also ensures delegates obtain maximum benefit from their attendance. Conference organisers bringing relevant events to the NT can also gain access to a wealth of support across a range of agencies,”she said.
“Our NT Business Events Support Fund has so far committed over A$1.3 million to assist in attracting 34 conferences and events which will ultimately bring more than 10,000 delegates to the NT, with the majority visiting in 2019. We look forward to attracting more conferences which are relevant to the agricultural sector in the Northern Territory.”
The Northern Territory Business Events Support Fund was launched in 2018 and offers financial assistance of AU$100 per delegate for qualified conferences which are at the consideration or bidding stage.
The funding is focussed on events which align with the Northern Territory’s priority business and industry strengths which include agribusiness, land management, renewable energy, mining, oil and gas, education, defence, health, tourism and the creative industries sectors.
For further information on meetings, conventions and incentives in Australia’s Northern Territory, visit: www.ntconventions.com
This article was first published in Leading Agriculture.