Organic shines at Agribusiness Awards

Posted by Isobel Drake on 24th November 2008

From operational efficiency, to sustainability, to best technology – organic can add value.

That’s according to the results of the 2008 NAB Agribusiness Awards, which have recently recognised three businesses adapting organic into their operations for a forward-thinking and innovative approach to agriculture.

Chris Clyne, General Manager of Clyne Foods (winner: NAB Rural Enterprise Award) believes organic is a real option for large scale production, when efficiencies were balanced. “We decided to go organic because there were no certified organic 100 per cent Australian dried fruits available – organic is a growing sector and our sales figures are beginning to show the benefits,” he proclaimed.

But he says a sharp eye on farm efficiencies is needed to help keep organic product affordable. “We put a lot of effort into learning how to improve organic yields with low inputs, to the point where we could use organic economies-of-scale to keep the product cost competitive.”

He says learning how to sustain yields naturally has helped improve conventional operations. “We’ve been able to reduce chemical sprays used on our non-organic crops by more than 2/3rds using similar production methods.”

Robert Radford from R Radford & Son Pty Ltd (meat processors, wholesalers and winner: NAB Environment & Energy Management Award) noted that facilitating organic meat supply, and a closed loop system approach to waste and energy management has gained them numerous accolades. “We treat all our own effluent, and eventually disburse recycled water onto our surrounding pastures, removing excess nutrients in the process. Manures and regularly changed-out sawdust stock pen flooring are blended and provided as compost to local organic farmers,” he reported.

Mr Radford said their involvement in organics began eight years ago – when there was “no one” servicing the organic meat market in Victoria. “Since then organics has reached 6 – 7 per cent of our total production. Over the past two years, the organic component of our business has grown by around 60 per cent- it’s a niche market we’re pretty proud of.”

Radfords also work to help local livestock producers understand how to get the most from stocking organic sheep and cattle. “To enter the certified organic market you have to be prepared to deal with the protocols – it deters some larger operations but organic remains a unique opportunity for those willing to put in the effort,” he advised.

Also keen to grow organic activities is one of Australia’s largest produce wholesaler, grower and marketing groups, Moraitis (finalists: NAB Agribusiness leader of the year award).

Jake Wearing, Moraitis Organic Business Manager said the group remained committed to improving the sustainability of the food supply chain.

“Our experiences have shown conventional farmers can learn a lot from organic farmers, but don’t have a lot of contact with them,” he said. “We’re working to implement knowledge of sustainable farming based on organic farm principles across Moraitis’s total operations.”