Home' Grower : March 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- March 2012
Growers invited to
tackle big issues
By TONY BURFIELD
HORTICULTURAL growers in
Virginia are committed to reaping
the benefits of working together
at a time when the food industry in
Australia and worldwide is experiencing
Under a program initiated by HORT-
EX members Trevor Linke and Tony
Burfield and funded under a
Community Action Grant from the
Federal Government's Caring for our
Country program, soil, hydroponic
greenhouse and paddock growers with-
in the Virginia area are establishing
Producers in these groups aim to
ensure they are in a better position to
understand and influence the dynamics
impacting on their businesses.
They see best practice in their resource
management as a critical part of a sus-
tainable strategy to improve food quali-
ty: optimising their use of their available
water and improving soil health.
Two initial key initiatives in this area
*Ongoing meetings being run to
increase the growers capacity to access
expertise to improve their production
systems, such as integrated pest man-
agement and using compost soil
amendments. These practices have
been demonstrated to increase yields
and can help to reduce the application
of pesticides and fertilisers in some
crops leading to flow-on benefits in
cost reduction and natural resource
Leaders in the group of greenhouse
soil operators have encouraged many
other growers to make changes in these
areas that have reduced losses and costs
and significantly improved the health of
The groups are becoming a focus for
trialing new production strategies, for
example there have now been success-
ful trials of biological pest control on
several farms, including two with con-
ventional greenhouse structures.
A similar greenhouse soil grower
group has also been established by
ARRIS as a result of a highly successful
production skills training program they
conducted, and is also applying for
funds to assist growers and conduct tri-
als that will complement existing
Hydroponic growers are being assist-
ed to manage emerging water compli-
ance issues and pursue maximum water
use efficiency in their high-yielding sys-
In particular, the hydroponic grower
group met in late 2011 with the
Environmental Protection Authority to
work through issues related to a new
fee-structure for operators of reverse
This forum enabled growers and the
EPA to understand and appreciate their
There is now an ongoing process of
very positive engagement, resulting in a
well- balanced draft policy for hydro-
ponic run-off water that addresses the
obvious need for longer term soil and
water management and also takes into
account the critical need of growers to
maintain financial capacity to properly
develop their food business.
Growers are also vitally interested in
taking a much more pro-active role
beyond production management so that
they can gain greater certainty and return
on effort for running their business.
Examples of issues they intend to
address as these groups progress include:
• Building market awareness and
industry strategies to enhance the
consistency, value and branding of
quality products within the selling
and distribution process.
• Developing a coordinated industry
response to the impact of peri-urban
issues on their operations. This cov-
ers many things, including supply of
water and other resources and plan-
ning policy and decisions that need
to constructively accommodate their
proximity to housing expansion.
HORTEX will assist growers to create
a stronger link with local councils so
that the industry can have greater con-
fidence in its relationship with councils
based on their recognition and partner-
ship in managing limiting issues and
threats to growers viability.
• Developing deeper industry coopera-
tion and capacity in critical areas of
industry profile and concerns to
ensure all levels of government are
fully aware and committed to pre-
ser ving the advantages of a modern,
dynamic peri-urban horticulture sec-
Overall, it is vitally important that
growers continue to develop a shared
understanding of the bigger issues so
that they can embrace and drive change
in a confident and empowered manner.
Initially. The HORTEX Alliance has a
strong commitment to enhancing
grower businesses, promoting and
maintaining the Virginia horticulture
area as a major food- producing area.
Details: If any growers would like to learn
more about how they can join these grower
groups, contact Trevor Linke 0403 444 104 or
Tony Burfield 0401 120 857.
Costa Farms is the fresh produce market face of the
Costa Group business at Pooraka.. Citrus is grown in
Renmark, Loxton and Paringa.
The company sells produce at APM: berries, all citrus,
avocado, bananas, grapes, kiwi fruit, nectarines,
mangoes, onions, pawpaw, peaches, persimmons,
pineapples, raspberries, sweet potato, tangelo and
The Costa Group dates back to the late 19th century
when Francesco Costa, a wine producer from Salina,
Italy, came to Australia to raise funds for his vineyard.
He worked in Melbourne, Colac and Geelong before
returning to Italy in 1895. In 1903, Francesco sent his
two eldest sons away because the vineyard could not
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the business
continued to grow and change and it began supplying
fresh fruit and vegetables to supermarket chains. By
the 1980s Costa Company was trading directly from
Melbourne Wholesale Markets in Footscray, with
distribution centres in Werribee South, Shepparton and
Monbulk. The operation included pre-packing, shipping
and interstate trade. The company is one of Australia's
largest wholesale distributors and exporters of fresh
fruit and vegetables.
Costa's operation runs multiple farms and horticultural
properties throughout the country, growing a range of
produce. It farms more than 4000 hectares across
Australia, including 20ha of protected glasshouse
production. More than 40 farming, wholesale market
and distribution operations nationally and the company
supplies and services retail, wholesale and export
During peak seasonal periods, the company employs
about 4000 people
Costa supplies produce to all the major Australian
supermarket chains, as well as independent grocers and
a range of food industry stakeholders. About 20 per cent
of produce is exported to North America, South America,
Europe and Asia.
Costa also sources and sells produce from many third
party growers across Australia. enabling it to supply
customers all year round -- with locally sourced
produce where possible -- arriving fresh to customers.
Third party alliances help meet this need.
Keys to success:
The main point of difference that third party growers find
when working with Costa Farms is that the company, too,
is a grower -- not just an agent or broker.
Costa Farms Pooraka's Andrew Christophides says
because the company grows its own produce and
operates farms, it has a real understanding of the
challenges facing farmers.
"We can work with them, transferring knowledge to
create strong harvest and business innovations," he
"As one of few vertically integrated businesses in the
industry, we value our role as a market leader and strive
to improve in order to maintain this position.
"We work on planning and development, paying close
attention to the needs and demands of the market, and
seeking like-minded development partners and third
party growers where relevant.
"We have a reputation for service excellence and
varietal development that we value highly.
"Our unwavering goal is to provide the best quality
produce to the end consumer via a supply chain with
quality control ensured at every step in the process.
CostaExchange prides itself on the end-to-end quality
control of our products -- from farm`gate to market."
Research and development is a core part of the Costa's
commitment to quality, with the company at the
forefront of varietal development.
"The emphasis on food R&D is always about improving
the quality of and access to fresh produce for our
customers and consumers," Mr Christophides said.
Going orange is okay by Costa Farms' Paul Derham and Paul Roberts with some of the company's
MYPOLONGA S.A. 5254
Ph. 8535 4188
Fax. 8535 4271
for all your
to discuss further how
we can assist you
with the 2012 season
Chemicals, Seed, Hardware
Granular & Liquid Fertilisers
Personal Safety Equipment
HARDI Spray Equipment
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