Juggling a number of tasks as the manager of a large-scale orchard, fifth generation Ardmona horticulturist Mitchell McNab takes a diligent approach to research, planning and preparation — underpinned by real-time data collection.
His family’s HV McNab & Son business has had a strong presence in the Goulburn Valley for 110 years.
Mr McNab, who has been running a 70ha orchard since 2009, attributes the business’ enduring longevity to analysis and adoption of latest technology across all facets of the operation.
‘‘From record-keeping on-the-go, to orchard management, picking, packing and transport, new innovations drive our productivity gains and ensure we are producing the highest quality apples, pears, peaches and plums that we can,’’ he said.
Diversification has also been a key factor to success, with the family installing computer-controlled cool and dry storage operations with capacity for 8000 pallets that is used by several local growers, establishing a Murray Grey cattle stud and setting up a fodder production facility.
With this wide-ranging spread of enterprises and managing many casual staff at peak periods, Mr McNab said accurate tracking and monitoring of tasks from the field to the packing shed, during transport and right through to market was pivotal.
‘‘I can be pruning, harvesting, packing, planning or dealing with human resource issues on any one day,’’ he said.
‘‘So I need to know what my workforce is doing in the orchard and when the fruit leaves the trees so I can maintain a handle on agronomy practices and costs.
‘‘Good record-keeping is essential in this business of growing and supplying top quality produce so consumers have a good eating experience and repeat-buy our fruit.’’
To achieve this and improve business efficiencies, the McNabs have introduced the Agworld platform to capture, store, analyse and share their production and business data with advisers and their workforce.
It is particularly useful for real-time recording and monitoring of tasks and costs associated with integrated pest management, disease control and other agronomic practices in the orchard.
Mr McNab said the app-based Agworld platform allowed them to track these activities, analyse enterprise operations and trends over time and undertake long-term strategic planning.
‘‘Before we used Agworld, most of our record keeping was done manually. This was very time consuming, not very accurate and made it difficult to keep track of costs on-the-go.
‘‘Our workers now access a job description and information they need for the day through the app on their smart phone, iPad or laptop and can carry out the job as quickly and efficiently as possible.
‘‘They log their activity in the system when they are finished and we assign the associated costs.
‘‘This enables better, timely and informed decision-making and has increased efficiencies by allowing us to manage any problems as they occur, while controlling and containing costs during the season for each orchard block to boost overall business profits.’’
The McNab family’s IPM adviser Steve Booth, of GV Environmental Monitoring Services, specialises in creating pest control programs based on data collected from monitoring pests in the orchard.
‘‘From the time I step on to the orchard to when I leave, I now record — straight into the Agworld platform — any pest and spraying activity in terms of products used, location and rates,’’ Mr Booth said.
‘‘I then base my follow-up advice on this technical data.’’
■Agworld is available via web browser or from the Apple App Store. For more information, visit: www.agworld.com.au