Grain growers go beyond the farm-gate on Rabo Knowledge Tour
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Australian grain growers go beyond the farm-gate on Rabo Knowledge Tour

Category Global Farmers

Stepping onto another farmer’s property and having a full and transparent insight into how that business is run provides invaluable food for thought, and grain growers from across Australia recently had this opportunity thanks to Rabobank’s Domestic Grains Tour. 

During a six-day tour through South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, growers were welcomed onto cropping operations featuring various soil types and rainfalls, and heard first-hand how these operations were mitigating challenges and value adding.

On the eve of harvest on Ty and Rachel Kirby’s Western Australian broadacre cropping property, the couple continue to reflect on the tour, and believe the experience of getting a group of like-minded growers together, all who implement similar farming systems, was second-to-none. 

“The opportunity to get farmers together and the network you make on these tours is very valuable, whether it’s learning on-farm or causally sharing stories on the tour bus, there were plenty of take-aways,” Ty said. 

“As grain growers, we all do the same thing, just slightly different, and this gives us a chance to look at our own business with fresh eyes and ask ourselves ‘can we do it better?’ or ‘why do we do it the way we do?’”  

Having never been to the Yorke Peninsula, the couple was also curious to explore the farming region – Ty concluding it was ‘an awesome part of the world to live and farm.’

Managing and growing cropping enterprises with rising land values

A farming landscape that is driving land values across the region, this year a Yorke Peninsula property sold for $41,000 a hectare, in reasonably heavy country with approximately 500mm of rainfall a year.

Looking at these land values, and how local growers are managing their businesses in such a high value environment was relevant, Ty believed, to all on the tour.

“As landholders, we’ve all experienced rising land prices and have grappled with how to justify growing our businesses.”

“Across the Yorke Peninsula the infrastructure was all very efficient, farms were neat and tidy and you could see where they’re diversifying and value adding.”

On-farm the tour group met with farmers using a new boom sprayer kitted out with the latest GPS spraying system by Hardi and heard from a drone operator on paddock mapping of weeds and how they build algorithms to allow for selective spraying out on the field.

Farming in the Great Southern region on a 100 percent winter cereal cropping operation, the couple is progressive when it comes to adopting new technology and innovation, and implemented Controlled Traffic Farming some time ago. 

Following the tour’s on-farm demonstrations, the Kirbys’ are now keen to explore camera and targeting spraying technology, and are also keeping their eye on the automation space.

“Although since owning an Electronic Vehicle I’ve decided that autonomy in the ag industry may be a while away,” Ty laughs. 

Tour provides a big picture outlook

As well as visiting growers on-farm, the group was also privy to first-hand insights and reflections from within the local industry, pre and post farm gate. 

The tour visited Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) laboratory to experience the science of plant breeding, and as the Kirbys deal directly with the company for their seed, Ty said it was useful to spend time understanding their processes, and the efforts that go into breeding the various seed varieties. 

A visit to the newly opened T-Ports at Wallaroo, which is based on a transhipping model from storage to ships at a mooring bypassing the need for deep water ports, also proved inspirational.

“T-Ports was truly amazing, there was a lot of determination and effort to take a risk and make that vision become a reality as quickly as it did,” Rachel said. “It really exemplified the opportunity there is for regional infrastructure progression within the ag industry.”

A tour of Dublin Clean Grain to explore their purpose-built facilities, boasting 780 tonnes of silo storage capacity, was also on the agenda, as was trial site inspections with 60 local producers who were all members of the Northern Sustainable Soils group. 

And there was plenty of time for fun also, with a tour and lunch at Pindarie Wines – which has been transformed from a once run-down and over-cleared farm to a sustainable and regenerated property.

The group was also joined by a cohort of local clients one evening for a networking dinner at Watsacowie Brewing Co, which came complete with a talk from guest speaker Brett ‘Birdman’ Burton, ex-AFL footballer and mental health advocate – a timely discussion coinciding with ‘R U OK?’ day.

Learning together for a shared vision

Whilst Ty has been on a number of grain tours in the past, including the previous grain Rabo Knowledge Tour to Moree, NSW in 2018, this was Rachel’s first. 

“It was certainly valuable doing the tour together, and it was really interesting to see how other grain growers are getting the best returns from a range of diverse soil types and cropping rotations,” she said.

“Plus, some of the ideas Ty runs past me may get more traction now that I’ve seen them in practice!”

Rachel admits she was blown away by the generosity of the clients hosting the tour, opening up their farms and sharing their stories honestly. 

“To hear what’s worked for them, and what hasn’t, was really insightful, and made even more so by the shared knowledge and stories of other farmers on the tour, it really was a unique and rich learning experience.”

“Having the opportunity to walk onto these farms and have first-hand access to the ‘ins and outs’ of the business is a huge privilege, and it’s an incredible reflection on Rabobank, and its commitment to helping Australian farmers thrive.”

“Danny Shepherd and Mark Northcott led the tour and together with the rest of the local team, couldn’t be more helpful,” Rachel said. “We also had RaboResearch Analyst, Vitor Cacula Pistoia, on the bus with us, and to have his ear for the full tour was incredible – going forward we wouldn’t be afraid to contact him with a question, which is such unique access.”

“As a bank, Rabobank go above and beyond providing their clients with the opportunity to expand their horizons, self-improve and expose ourselves to new and different ideas to improve our business – and for that, we thank and applaud them.”