Make your tree stats count

Two growers share their accounts of using the Australian Pome Fruit Tree Registry as AgFirst looks for more grower participation to gather the tree statistics the industry needs to make informed decisions to increase grower profitability.

By Richard Pentreath

By now most growers will have heard about the Australian Pome Fruit Tree Registry, but many growers have not yet visited the site and entered tree statistics. In this article I would like to talk about the purpose of the Tree Registry, why it is an important initiative and why the success of project depends on all growers getting involved. Two growers who have already entered their tree data talk about their experience and why they chose to participate.

Background

Last year, Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd (HIA) – then HAL – was advised by its Apple and Pear Industry Advisory Committee that a lack of quality industry data was a major weakness for the industry. As a result the Industry Data Collection Project was initiated.

AgFirst have been commissioned by HIA to carry out the project with support from APAL. Accurate industry data on variety mix and productive capacity will empower the whole industry including individual growers, the supply chain and peak industry bodies. With good data, peak industry bodies can make more informed decisions, supporting continuous improvement of profitability and sustainability for Australian apple and pear growers.

The Pome Fruit Tree Registry has been developed by AgFirst to specifically address the need for accurate industry tree statistics, which is a major component of the Industry Data Collection Project.  Other components of the project include a national packhouse survey to collect historic 2014 crop data (underway in March/April 2015) as well as an effective crop forecasting model which was completed in January this year and reported in the March edition of Australian Fruitgrower.

How does it work?

The Tree Registry is an online database that all Australian apple and pear growers can access with a personalised log-in. Growers have been sent an email from the ‘Tree Registry’ including a link that takes the grower to a personalised log-in page where they can select a password and enter the Tree Registry site. Growers can be sure that data entered in the Tree Registry can only be viewed by themselves and the database administrator. All individual grower data is stored for the purpose of this project alone and will not be provided to any third party.

A short video tutorial has been prepared by AgFirst to help growers get started.

If you have not yet received an email from the Tree Registry or you cannot find it, please get in touch with APAL or your local project advisor who will need a few basic details including your business name and email address to get you set-up.

Once you have logged into the site, it will take between one and two hours to enter tree statistics for an average sized orchard, the first time around. Any subsequent updates will be relatively quick and simple meaning that you can easily update your records from year to year.

What’s in it for growers?

In addition to contributing to an industry resource that will benefit the entire industry, growers entering statistics receive a number of benefits including a Tree Schedule Report for their business and a number of benchmarking reports that compare an individual growers’ statistics to state and national averages. All the reports can be accessed from the website at any time and either downloaded or printed for a variety of purposes.

What are growers saying?

Mark Scott is an orchardist in Western Australia with a total planted area of 20 hectares, of which eight hectares are planted to apples and pears. As a member of APAL and Pomewest, and a previous member of other fruit grower committees, Mark believes that, “up to date tree statistics provide critical information to help guide industry investment in research and development”. For this reason alone, Mark was willing to enter his tree statistics, but he also valued the opportunity to update his tree planting schedule for the 2015 season.

On a more personal level, Mark says that having access to information on national variety mix and average tree age will mean he can predict future supply and demand by variety, and plan development of his own orchard accordingly. Mark says he found entering his tree statistics into the Tree Registry for the first time was “relatively easy”.

APAL member Ian Armour is an orchardist in Victoria with over 36 hectares planted to pome fruit. Ian says his main motivation for entering his tree statistics was, “for the good of the industry and its growers – it is important that we have this type of information”. Ian also said it was a relatively easy decision because he already had the data, which he uses for a number of reasons including productivity analysis, product traceability and spray diary requirements.

Ian entered his statistics fairly early on and therefore the ability to benchmark his stats against industry was limited, however he looks forward to having access to good industry benchmarks in the future. Ian believes that if a high percentage of growers enter data, there will be good reason to continue updating his own statistics even if this requires some additional effort. Ian initially had trouble logging onto the site using an older version of Internet Explorer but this problem was solved by using Google Chrome to access the site (up-to-date internet browsers such Google Chrome and Firefox can be downloaded for free if you encounter this problem).

Your industry needs you!

The success of the Tree Registry depends entirely on the voluntary participation of the industry’s growers. Ultimately all growers lose if they don’t participate because grower levy funds are partially funding the entire project. Growers are busy people and often don’t spend a lot of time in the office, but if every grower sets aside an hour or two (after harvest if necessary), the industry will be rewarded with a robust tree planting database that has not been available before now. Better still, it can be easily updated from year to year with minimal investment of growers’ time and industry funding.

We’re here to help

If you think you will have trouble entering tree statistics yourself, please contact your local project advisor or AgFirst who will be able to help:

VIC (Northern): Tony Filippi, ido@fgv.com.au, 0400 795 539
VIC (Southern): Jabbar Ali Khan, fido@fgv.com.au, 03 5825 3700
NSW: Anthony Spruce, aspruce@eem.com.au, 0429 383 276
QLD: Stephen Tancred, stephen@orchardservices.com.au, 0407 762 888
WA: Susie Murphy-White, susiemurphywhite@gmail.com, 0429 413 420
SA: Susie Green, aplnpear@ozemail.com.au, 0417 451 999
TAS: Ian Cover, office@fruitgrowerstas.com.au, 0409 849 155
All states: Richard Pentreath, rpentreath@agfirst.co.nz, 0064 27 221 4835  

Acknowledgements

The Industry Data Collection Project is funded by apple and pear growers through the apple and pear levy administered by Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA). It is implemented by AgFirst with the support of APAL. 

About the author

Richard Pentreath, Horticultural Consultant, AgFirst, New Zealand: +64 6 872 7080, +64 27 221 4835 or r.pentreath@agfirst.co.nz.

By |March 19th, 2015|Industry Data, Tree Registry|

About the Author:

Horticultural Consultant, Agfirst, New Zealand