VICTORIAN horticulture producers are being encouraged to join a new farm monitor program.
Agriculture Victoria says its Horticulture Farm Monitor Pilot will provide producers with critical business insights to help them understand their profitability, improve recovery and drive future growth.
The pilot is collecting information from farm businesses across a range of crops including apple and pears, cherries, strawberries and summer fruit.
Victorian Strawberry Growers Association chairperson and AusBerry chief executive officer Miffy Gilbert says it is an extremely valuable tool for growers and is encouraging more growers to be involved.
"The strawberry industry was really keen to participate in the Horticulture Farm Monitor Pilot," Ms Gilbert said.
"We are full of anecdotal evidence on our industry and our businesses, but we don't have the data to back up our claims.
"When the pandemic hit and we were asked how many workers we needed as an industry, we didn't really know. We had anecdotal evidence, but nothing based on defendable facts."
Several farm businesses are already involved in the data collection phase of the pilot program, and Ms Gilbert is calling for more farmers to be involved.
"This program will provide us with clarity around our industry and the true cost of production," she said.
"It will help individual business set their base costs and base sale prices, understand where they can make savings and where they are competitive compared to the industry average. It will even be useful when individuals are applying for banks loans."
Ms Gilbert said some individual industry groups had collected data in the past, but this industry-wide program would provide deeper insights into business profitability, while protecting the farmers who provide their business data.
"It's all beautifully done with total anonymity," Ms Gilbert said.
"All the data is de-identified so no one knows where it's from, but they do know it is accurate, representative data of their industry and their production type.
Agriculture Victoria's Sze Flett said industry groups have renewed their call for real data to help them navigate recent challenges.
The pilot is similar to Agriculture Victoria's long-running and highly successful Farm Monitor programs in dairy, beef and sheep industries.
"Collecting data on horticulture businesses has always been a challenge due to the complex and fragmented nature of the sector, with so many different industry types with varying capacity to collect data," Dr Flett said.
"But we know this is the best way to provide businesses with a clear, accurate picture of the state of their industry."
Farmers who would like to be involved in the program can contact Horticulture Farm Monitor Pilot program manager Andy Clark on 0436 804 656, or e-mail: email@example.com
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