Last month more than sixty people from the horticulture industry in Central Queensland participated in a series of workshops to talk about time saving apps and cost cutting hacks – called Hort Hacks & Apps.

Growers, industry stakeholders and government agencies from across rural areas shared their experiences using various platforms, programs, tools and practices to streamline on-farm record keeping and office administrative processes.    

The series was an initiative of nbn Local and Growcom, who partnered to deliver the workshops in Yeppoon, Gayndah, Childers and Gympie.

nbn Local Business Lead, Deb Mead, in action at the Hort Hacks & Apps workshop.

Growcom is the peak industry body for horticulture in Queensland and is committed to building the capacity of growers in managing the complex and numerous moving parts of running their production.   

Topics covered included audit administration and compliance, workplace health and safety, recruitment, staff inductions and payroll, field monitoring and record keeping, automation, food safety, and quality control.   

Guest presenters came from northern Queensland and inter-state, as well as local growers and local industry stakeholders to share their experiences and insight into specific tools.

They included Berto Shroj of Julum Citrus; Jennifer McKee from Spades; Hannah Clarke from Safe Ag Systems, Adelaide; Joanne Hall from Isis Canegrowers; Deborah Mead from NBN Local; and Growcom’s regional facilitators Michelle Haase and John Targett.   

They focused on software and mobile app solutions that they could personally vouch for effectiveness and reliability.   

Dimbulah citrus grower Berto Shroj, gave up an entire week for the series to share his experiences using an online platform called Farm-in-One. 

He explained the benefits that migrating online for all monitoring, record keeping, decision-making and automation has afforded to his business.   

“Our whole farming operation is connected through Farm-in-One and allows me to remotely manage my irrigation, fertigation, frost protection, spray schedules, and allocate tasks to staff and contractors,” Mr Shroj said.

“Record-keeping is a breeze and that makes audits less stressful; it also allows my aging parents to keep an eye on what’s going on in our farms and be involved in decisions.”  

Hannah Clarke of Safe Ag Systems introduces the tool at Hort Hacks & Apps.

Hannah Clarke of Safe Ag Systems also gave up an entire week to meet with growers in the region, travelling from Adelaide to support Hort Hacks & Apps. 

Safe Ag Systems is an online, subscription-based workplace health and safety management tool used by a growing number of horticulture growers in Queensland. 

Safe Ag Systems uses a QR code sticker system for staff to access Safe Work Method Statements, training videos, instructions from the boss, and to create a record of having read and followed instructions.  

Strawberry, passionfruit and macadamia producer, Tina McPherson, joined growers in Yeppoon to shed light on a tool they use at Tinaberries, near Elliot Heads, which has significantly freed up precious time previously spent managing employees and payroll. 

Being reliant on a large number of employees, and a fluctuating workforce size that’s dependant on the season, adopting Employment Hero has been a game changer.  

Mrs McPherson explained how Employment Hero adjusts the hourly pay rates according to the parameters that they set according to the Horticulture Award which means they’re not having to manually calculate this every payroll. It also has saved many hours in the office, plugging in bank account, visa and residential details. 

Isis Canegrowers manager, Joanne Hall, presented on adoption by cane growers of a free web-based form building app called Jotform, which assists in record-keeping. 

“We’ve created some templates for our growers to use which are fully customable to their specific farming system,” Mrs Hall said. 

“Our growers have found them so easy to use for calculations, record keeping, monitoring and reporting their fertiliser, spray and irrigation practices.” 

Also on the agenda was a program called Spades – agricultural compliance management software developed by Innisfail entrepreneur Jennifer McKee.

With a background in government policy, resource management and compliance, Spades has been developed by Jennifer specifically to support growers and other primary producers to be ready for audit at a moment’s notice.  

“It became apparent to me that farmers would benefit from a digital tool to improve the way they manage their records,” Mrs McKee said.

“I started this as a project to digitalise compliance management in the horticultural industry, and it’s developed into my full-time business.”

Hort Hacks and Apps workshops finished up with a demonstration to use Growcom’s best management practice (BMP) program, Hort360, to develop a Farm Business Resilience plan.

Hort360 is an online platform and extension program for commercial horticulture growers featuring a module to assess business resilience and an online planning template to create a plan.

“It’s an important tool that can identify inefficiencies both in the paddock, and in the business,” Michelle said.

“We have four dedicated Farm Business Resilience Facilitators who are available to work with and assist Horticulture growers in preparing their plan.”

Further information on Hort360 and contact details for the Farm Business Resilience Facilitators can be found here.

The Hort Hacks and Apps workshops were funded and supported by NBN Local, the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund, and the Queensland Government’s Drought and Climate Adaptation Program.  

Hort Hacks n Apps downloadable resources:

Hort Hacks & Apps – Downloadable Resource

Spades presentation

Safe Ag Systems presentation

nbn contact details

BOM online tools

Jotforms presentation, by Isis Canegrowers

Hot Hort Tips presentation, by BFVG

– ENDS –