Regional Winner | Sustainability category
Adam Schreurs is a vegetable grower at Schreurs & Sons and a 2020 Growth Awards Regional Winner in the Sustainability category. Read on to learn more about Adam.
What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
In the past five years, we have relocated our whole vegetable growing business from one location to another 100km away. We re-established the enterprise in the new area in South Gippsland which had never seen any vegetable farming or anything like that. We were growing vegetables (principally celery) in the Cranbourne area and urban growth had gradually encroached on our farm. We spent years looking for a suitable area and ended up near Wilsons Promontory and it’s been a very good move. It wasn’t an easy feat. My cousin and I bought the family business out eight years ago and then leased the land back from the family to grow vegetables while we established the new farm. All the locals said we were crazy and it would never work and now they are all asking why it didn’t happen before.
How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
I’m so passionate about agriculture that I will talk about it with anyone who will listen and anyone with a common interest! We hold a number of field days and field walks on our property each year and I am constantly talking to people while they are visiting. Our conversations may not be specifically about what is at the demonstration site or trials but the broader industry. The groups I’m involved with like to share what they know, with participants coming from as far north as Queensland down to here in Victoria. I am also part of an industry-wide committee on soil health and I have a demonstration site on one of my properties where we showcase new technologies and research and development and the information from those trials is published on a website. I am very open to sharing anything I’ve learnt.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
Moving to a new climate means we have gone to a much cooler area. We’ve knocked off a few degrees and negated 40 or 50 years of climate change impacts in one move. We feel we now have a competitive advantage in the summer as we don’t get those really hot 40C days. It’s about 3-4C cooler and we get much better rainfall and therefore more reliable water collection in dams. We feel we have a competitive edge from a climate point of view to grow vegetables as well as having plenty of water. The farm was set up in a pristine area with koalas, kangaroos and deer and about 70ha of bushland. We have a strong sense that we want to be sustainable for the health of the soils and it’s something we are passionate about. There is also the opportunity to market the fact that we are growing our vegetables in such a pristine environment and that’s a nice bonus but it’s not the reason we do it.
What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
Certainly market vulnerability with COVID-19 and not knowing what the summer is going to hold for us could be a barrier to success. We have big plantings of spinach and rocket going in and it’s just the unknown of what market they will be sold into. We have done okay so far, and it hasn’t had a huge effect on us, but the market for salad crops that go into restaurants basically fell in a heap because there are no restaurants. It has helped now the other states have fired up, but it is an unknown about how demand will play out. There is also a lot of competition out there now, especially with celery which is our major crop. It has been performing excellently over the past few years and that has attracted new players into the industry without a market behind them, and their celery is flooding the market - so that will be a challenge for us over the next six to 12 months.
What is the biggest challenge Australian Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
The availability of labour is certainly going to be a big issue. It is getting harder and harder to get unskilled labour. It’s not too bad for us with skilled labour for machine operators but guys on the ground are hard to come by for industries like ours. Climate change in general will also be an issue and locally, it’s the changing weather patterns which could affect our profitability. The increasing number of storms we are getting is just as big a risk for us as we can have nice weather one day and a huge storm with hail the next.