Regional Winner | Sustainability category
Stuart Grigg is an adviser at Stuart Grigg Ag-Hort consulting and a 2020 Growth Awards Regional Winner in the Sustainability category. Read on to learn more about Stuart.
What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
I am leading the way with precision agriculture in the horticultural space. My brother is heavily involved in precision ag in broadacre production using variable rate applications and soil mapping.
About five years ago, I wanted to get into precision agriculture in vegetable production and that involves more than just aerial precision agriculture and the use of drones but also grid mapping and soil sampling and variable rate applications for fertiliser. Understanding how this can be used in vegetable production will improve productivity, improve soil nutrition across paddocks and improve yields. It will also drive sustainability around vegetable production. I’ve been the one leading the industry in this space and that is rewarding.
How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
The way I share information is by social media, by field days and by direct contact with the growers I work with. I use twitter quite a lot to get messages out. We’ve also had to find new ways of getting information across during COVID-19. Andrew Bulmer and I were instrumental in getting the East Gippsland vegetable field days off the ground nine years ago and this year we wondered if it was better to put a rotary hoe through the whole site as it didn’t look like it could happen. Instead, I called in my brother who is a professional videographer to turn the field days into a virtual event. We recorded all the information on the trial sites and 60 videos of the trial were made for growers to see. Not only did it provide a means where growers could still learn but it will also act as a lasting legacy to the trial and demonstration work.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
We are negotiating the purchase of my first farm which is 148 acres and has the potential to grow vegetables. At the moment, it is covered in trees so will need remediation work and infrastructure building to achieve our goal. I grew up on a vegetable farm which my parents sold in 1986 and I still love the days I spent there. I am really passionate about the industry and would love to do it myself. It wouldn’t take away from what I do in my consulting business, this would be a sideline in conjunction with the business we have.
What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
The biggest barrier to developing the farm is financial. It will take a lot of money to develop it and it is a big loan to service but there are opportunities as well. It is really important to have structured planning – a five year plan is of utmost importance because if you don’t have it and that guidance, with steps to follow, even though they might change over the course of the development, things can go wrong.
The land is locally undulating in terms of hollows and highs where the trees have been so we will need to level, use precision ag, grid mapping, soil testing which will all need to happen to get the asset right before we go any further.
What is the biggest challenge Australian Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
The growers I work with would say staff and labour are the biggest issues for agriculture and I would agree. Be it getting staff at all, getting good staff, reliable staff, staff that work efficiently and even the cost of labour. I see it as a major challenge too because the growers I am working with are challenged in that space. I need to be able to help them have less staff in the system.
I also need to be able to find ways for the growers to equip all their staff to make good decisions rather than rely on the manager. We can do things like install moisture monitors so that less skilled workers can be educated to make more efficient use of water. Adding technology can make it an easy conversation to have with someone and demonstrate what needs to be done.