THE horticulture industry can benefit greatly from technological tools and online platforms.
That was the take home message for vegetable growers and their workers at a workshop in Lindenow, Victoria, recently.
Billed as an information night for farmers, managers, pack shed managers and irrigation managers, about 40 growers out of the Lindenow Valley heard about integrated software and precision agriculture tools developed for the horticulture industry.
In particular, in-paddock soil monitoring and meteorological tools that measured transpiration, evaporation, soil moisture and helped calculate irrigation and nutrient loads, were highlighted.
Many of the growers attending agreed their changing industry could benefit from the technological tools being demonstrated, to assist many workers coming into horticulture without a farming background.
“Farmers recognise instantly if the crop needs watering,” said Bonaccord director, Keith Ingram.
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“Technology can provide the training tools to bring people into the industry and help take risk out of our industry.
“The farmer can’t be everywhere on the farm and we need to be able to rely on workers to make intelligent decisions.”
Frais Farms owner, Kim Martin, said online integrated platforms, administered nationally but complemented by a local rural merchandiser, could provide a one-stop information base.
“Electronic platforms would help people to access the information that’s available,” Mr Martin said.
“For someone like myself, there’s a lot of information to keep across in horticulture – accreditation and certification, how to comply with the requirements for storage of chemicals on farms and the types of vessels chemicals are to be stored in.
“An online portal could centralise a lot of information.
“And a local merchandiser, like Elders, could negotiate on behalf of their customers for a group discount for auditors.”
Mr Martin said that a lot of training could be offered online, through integrated platforms.
“Food safety training, hazard, farm chemical accreditation, OH&S … these are all courses that could be offered online through these platforms,” he said.
For Bulmer Farms manager director, Andrew Bulmer, he saw opportunities for growing a workforce, using technology.
“We’re recruiting a lot of people now who haven’t grown up in the industry but they understand technology. They use smartphones all the time,” Mr Bulmer said.
“These digital platforms can bridge the divide by increasing farm workers’ knowledge and increase transparency around accreditation and certification.”
He also saw the benefits of improving access to data by installing hardware within the crop.
“Having our own weather data and using our own soil sensing technology, means we’ll make better decisions to manage crops and manage irrigation. We’ll be able to hit our production targets more efficiently,” Mr Bulmer said.
Noel Janz, agronomist with Elders, Bairnsdale, organised the digital information workshop, the first one held by the national rural merchandiser.
“Elders is putting a lot of focus on the digital space,” he said.
“I’m keen to introduce our clients to the possibility of using technology to meet their environmental responsibilities as irrigators.
“Irrigation has changed in the past 20 years and technology can help growers know if they’re hitting the mark with 20 minutes of irrigation or overwatering or underwatering.”