Esperance grower groups under the microscope

Grower groups on the south-east coast will be scrutinised as part of the Grower Group Alliance (GGA)’s latest research initiative to “tap into new opportunities and secure investment commitments” for WA growers.

Local groups Asheep, North Mallee Farm Improvement Group, Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network, Neridup Soil Conservation Group and South East Primium Wheat Growers Association will be included in the evaluation that is set to be complete in August 2017.

The local groups are just a few of the 45 groups in the study commissioned to determine monetary and social capital value.

The independent review into the groups will be undertaken by Agknowledge and will include grower groups, industry stakeholders, funders, sponsors, members and non-members.

The study will be funded by the Royalties for Regions program. 

The initiative is the first time the value of these groups has ever been quantified. 

GGA executive officer Annabelle Bushell said there was a long history of local grower groups playing an important role in agricultural research and development.

“Grower groups also play a critical role in supporting the social structure of regional and rural communities in WA, whether it’s building future leaders or the revamping of the local sports club,” she said. 

“They provide a far-reaching connection to farmers and provide the opportunity to spread information and knowledge to improve production systems, farming businesses and the overall agricultural industry.

Annabelle Bushell is originally from a farming property in the Avon Valley. Photo:  Grower Group Alliance/website

Annabelle Bushell is originally from a farming property in the Avon Valley. Photo: Grower Group Alliance/website

“They are mostly overseen by volunteers and they all have varying staffing levels that support them, while some have none.”

Ms Bushell said she hoped the review would provide a benchmark that would give tangible evidence of grower group’s benefits.

She said it would also investigate the role of groups in growing and supporting human capacity in regional WA, the value to the community in terms of productive business and social support and the role of grower groups in influencing practice change.

Ms Bushell said the results from the study will allow grower groups to see the real value in what they do and it will also provide key information for targeting activities for the GGA and grower groups into the future.

“Ultimately, it will enable groups the potential to tap into new opportunities and secure investment commitments to sustain grower groups as cost effective service providers across WA’s agricultural landscape,” Ms Bushell said.

Mic Fels was the recipient of the Syngenta Growth Award in the productivity category for his considerable skills in developing technologies that improve the productivity, sustainability and profitability of the Australian farming community.

Mic Fels was the recipient of the Syngenta Growth Award in the productivity category for his considerable skills in developing technologies that improve the productivity, sustainability and profitability of the Australian farming community.

Esperance farmers have often been dubbed the most innovative in Western Australia and sometimes Australia, with grower groups playing a key role in local agricultural development. 

The region’s proof was in the pudding when local farming icon Michael Fels took out the top gong for productivity and profitability at the prestigious Syngenta Growth Awards for 2016. 

Out of 57 nominees for the award, Mr Fels was one of seven winners from across Australia. 

The final report for the grower group review will be presented at the Grower Group Alliance’s annual forum in Perth, in August 2017.

People who wish to contribute to the study can contact Annabelle Bushell on 6180 5759 or email abushell@gga.org.au