Agricultural store DJ's Growers Services, located at McLaren Vale and Woodside, in South Australia, has taken out the Country Champion Honour for the international Environmental Respect Awards.
The Award, which is sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, is given out each year to recognise industry participants focused on community, the environment and sustainability.
David Oddie, from DJ’s, said they were thrilled to be Country Champions.
“It certainly gives us a great feeling that the track that we are going down is recognised, especially by a company like Corteva” he said. “It is fantastic that we have been recognised for the work we do in our community and for our customers. Working with our environment is something that we do take very seriously at DJ's and try and do the best job that we can."
Mr Oddie said both regions serviced broadacre and horticultural growers, with a large focus on viticulture and other crops such as strawberries, potatoes, apples and pears.
He said urban encroachment was a big issue for many in the region and they worked closely with growers to succeed in this environment.
“We do everything that we can to try and help the grower ease people's concerns and give them the tools to be able to still manage their blocks or their properties effectively whilst keeping their neighbours happy."
Staff and shareholders of DJ’s are encouraged to take part in the community and are given time to participate in a range of activities.
“People within our business, do sit on a number of community organisations,” Mr Oddie said. “We've got shareholders that are involved with McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism. Staff are also encouraged to sit on some of the industry boards and committees, as well as one shareholder and a number of customers that are involved in the McLaren Vale Bio-Diversity project.
“We support the local footy clubs. Most of us live within the communities that we are servicing so we do try and be involved. Ultimately, if we don't have the community, we don't have customers and we're not here."
As well as a key community focus, DJ’s has a large focus on technologies that promote sustainability and the environment.
“We are using a few more different techniques than what your traditional agronomists do,” Mr Oddie said. “We do use a lot of Integrated Pest Management with our customers and that is certainly something that all of our agronomists and all of our staff have been trained in.”
He said their focus to bring in cultural and biological controls and not just rely on chemistries had been very successful for their farmer customers.
Control measures have included releasing beneficial insects via drone over crops like strawberries to encourage them to help control the target pests without the use of broad spectrum insecticides.
“Integrated Pest Management is really just a case of monitoring what's there, both the pests and the beneficials and then using the appropriate course of action" Mr Oddie said.
The action could be a chemical, specific cover crops, or the release of beneficial insects.
“When we are using a chemistry, we are trying to keep it as friendly to those beneficial insects as possible so we can use them as a tool to help improve the benefits of the chemistry as well."
“Some of the potato crops that I deal with, have gone from four or five insecticides in a crop to maybe one or two.”
He said less reliance on chemistry was helping extend the life of the insecticide and also potentially saved the grower money and time by not having to constantly go out and spray.
While IPM technology is a key to the business there are many other elements that contribute to sustainability and the environment.
“We do operate a moisture monitoring business as well,” Mr Oddie said. “We have a hundred soil moisture probes in around McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and out into the Mallee in South Australia to help farmers better utilise their irrigation water.”
DJ’s also support the local bio-diversity groups and offer them advice on weed control. NDVI mapping has been completed throughout McLaren Vale and other areas and the business is working with contractors to develop variable spreading technology for composts and fertilisers.
Mr Oddie said they also conduct a lot of soil tests to ensure growers apply, but not over apply, the proper fertilisers and nutrient combinations.
“We go out and look at people's crops and help them make the decisions in the best way to attack any problems that we might identify."