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Future Orchards: Creating positive change within your orchard (Part I)

Industry Best Practice

This article was written by Jonathan Brookes, Horticultural Consultant, AgFirst, and was first published in the Winter 2022 edition of AFG.

In this 3-part series, Jonathan discusses how growers can build a roadmap for change with data and good planning. Part I highlights the importance of understanding the challenges and opportunities in your orchard to help you to make positive changes.

Key points

  • Plan your changes.
  • Play to your strengths.
  • Aim for excellence.
  • Make decisions based on data.

It is a well-known fact that things in life do not stay the same. To ensure you not only keep up, but also thrive, you need to be willing and able to embrace change in a continuously changing world. You need to be equally aware that while not all change is positive, doing nothing eventually means getting left behind. Positive change needs to take place in a way that is well planned and targeted to achieve future business goals. Often, we know that things need to change, but the hard part is knowing what to change and when.

To achieve the future improvement results you want, it is critical to first understand:

  • your individual challenges and opportunities, whether at orchard or block level
  • the goals you want to achieve.

From there you can build a roadmap of how to get to where you want to be.

Understanding the challenges and opportunities

The objective of the Future Orchards® program is to inform and empower growers and to drive quality decision-making to ensure Australian apple and pear growing is a thriving, prosperous industry, continually innovating and evolving.

Previous iterations of Future Orchards have focused on multiple targeted Future Business themes. These are based around identifying potential key areas where positive change might be required, such as labour, trees, production, packout and climate.

Measurement tools, techniques and ideas were introduced to help growers to assess and quantify the current state of their blocks and orchards, and to tease out these critical macro questions:

  • What are my risks or opportunities for labour supply?
  • Do I grow preferred varieties and tree canopies?
  • Are the production levels I am achieving financially sustainable?
  • Am I achieving a good recovery of market-acceptable fruit?
  • How suitable is my orchard for apple and pear production from a climate risk point of view?

To create positive changes within your orchard you need to be able to quantify or rank how important each of these factors is to your specific situation and then identify what you should focus on.

This should be done on every block to allow for a big-picture understanding of what needs to be done and what is working well for you. It also allows you to identify themes that need current and future focus, which can then be developed into specific goals and plans across your orchard.

Part II will look at defining goals as a key part of making changes in the orchard. Part III will show you how to build a roadmap for the future of your orchard, based on informed decision-making.

Soil drainage in this block is currently poor and the orchard has become deeply rutted during heavy rain events. Installing tile drainage could be the best way to ensure this block is future-proofed and can produce excellent yields in seasons that are climatically challenging.

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