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Australia: Focus on precision ag at Strawberry Growers Gathering

Strawberry growers have converged on Ashbern Farms in Beerwah to hear about how technology can help their farm business.

by Susie Cunningham, Growcom

About 20 growers attended the free Strawberry Growers Gathering, which Growcom and Queensland Strawberries hosted on 18 October.

Guest speaker Richard Ward gave growers an insight to Apunga, a full-lifecycle horticulture farm management system developed in partnership with Australian horticulture farmers.

The cloud-based program enables growers to drive efficiencies across their business and to streamline every aspect of farm planning and day-to-day management from land preparation through to planting, fertilising, spraying, weeding and harvest.

Growcom Hort360 BMP Facilitator Ro Beveridge presented on soil management technology, introducing growers to the use of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), Normalise Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Electro Magnetic (EM) soil mapping in horticulture.

Jade King of Green Valley Agriculture further explained the benefits of this technology, facilitating a discussion with growers about where and how they can begin to use LiDAR, NDVI and EM mapping as management tools on their own farms. She showed practical examples and spoke about free and easy platforms like Google Earth Pro.

Before happy hour hit, Queensland Strawberries Industry Development Officer Jen Rowling rounded out the afternoon with an industry update.

“Demand for strawberries throughout the winter production season was high, but production volumes peaked early this year, affecting price earlier than usual,” she said.

“This can be attributed to a number of reasons, including the introduction of Red Rhapsody (Queensland bred variety) to the market in greater numbers. Red Rhapsody has performed exceptionally well, producing good yields of high quality fruit consistently throughout the season.

“Because of the high volumes of fruit being produced over the winter season, we are looking further into potential export markets to try to reduce some of the strain on the domestic market, plus investigating opportunities to use second grade and waste fruit.

“We are also continually looking at opportunities to help growers reduce production costs. Workshops such as the one being held today are a great way for growers to stay up to date on new technology which may benefit the long-term future of their business.”

Hort360 BMP Facilitator Anna Geddes encouraged growers to get involved.

“Technology and precision agriculture should not be feared and can be profitable if you choose the right tools and solutions,” she said.

“The Strawberry Growers Gathering was aimed at the strawberry industry, but we’re looking to engage with other commodities in the Pumicestone Catchment, as well as the Lockyer Valley and Fassifern Valley.”

For more information or to book a property visit, contact Ro Beveridge on 0417 783 313 or [email protected] or Anna Geddes on 0413 902 218 or [email protected]

The sediment and nutrient management program is conducted in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
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