De Bortoli Wines used to rely on written records in journals and diaries to keep field records for all their farms. Due to the size and scope of their operation this created constraints, as it did not allow for multiple people across their operation to have visibility into the day-to-day operations.
After trialling three different farm management platforms, broadacre Farm Manager Darrell Fiddler chose Agworld as it was the easiest to use and most helpful platform, quickest to set up, and allowed for simplified communication with the agronomist, machinery operators and contractors.
Because of Agworld's user-friendly iPad app, Darrell is now able to create plans, work orders, or update recommendations while driving a tractor or doing something else away from the office. Being able to do this throughout the day makes it easy to multi-task, save time, and proactively communicate tasks with operators and sub-contractors. Through Agworld's planning functionality, De Bortoli Wines now has a clear overview of the amount of inputs needed during the growing season, creating an input-cost savings between 15-20% in the 2021-22 season alone.
De Bortoli Wines
Operation:Broad acre cropping and vineyards
Crops:Rice, cereals, wine grapes
Choosing a farm management platform
The De Bortoli family started farming in the Griffith, NSW, area in the 1920s, and 90 years later they are one of the largest family-owned wineries in Australia. With vineyards in the Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley, King Valley, Rutherglen, Heathcote region, and the Riverina, De Bortoli's grape growing operation is geographically diversified. In the Griffith area the family also grows row crops, with the main focus on winter cereals and rice as a summer crop.
Darrell Fiddler has been part of the agricultural industry all his life, and has been in charge of the De Bortoli's broadacre farming operations at Griffith for twelve years. When Darrell started his current role, De Bortoli's farming operation relied on written field records - something that Darrell set off to change. “I knew that we needed a digital platform as a business so that I was able to share information more easily, especially for when I'm not here - the farming operation can't stop, and so other people need to have visibility into our data just the same as I do”, says Darrell.
After trialling three digital platforms at the same time, Darrel chose the Agworld platform for De Bortoli: “I found that Agworld was easiest to use and the most helpful platform for me; it was also the simplest to set up. Another big advantage of Agworld is the helpdesk in Perth, Western Australia. Anytime I have an issue, the team would just sort me out in a couple of minutes. That's what led Agworld away from the other competitors in the market; the assistance and the ease to set up the platform.”
In his role as farm manager Darrell is in constant communication with many people involved in the farming process, from machinery operators to subcontractors and the agronomist. Having Agworld at the centre of this process, simplifies communication and prevents errors. According to Darrell: “We can now all work together without having to physically meet up, which has been very beneficial - especially during COVID isolation periods. Instead of me having to go with Simon Miller (agronomist, Terra Ag, Griffith) to have a look at a field, he creates observations in Agworld and attaches pictures, so I know exactly what he's looking at and why he makes a certain recommendation.”
Darrel continues: “Agworld also makes it easy for Simon to drop a pin in the field so I can drive to a specific location and have a look at whatever he wants me to see- or vice versa. At the beginning of the season I create a plan for our crops in Agworld, which means that Simon has access to them as well - that way we both know how we're looking to execute our season. At the same time as creating a plan, we also create a budget for the next 12 months, which is quite easy as all we have to do is enter the required financials per crop template, and Agworld does the rest. It only takes an hour or two, and then we have a 12 month cropping program all uploaded with all the financials and other information included. This process has made budgeting a lot easier for us than it was without Agworld.”
“I'm also more efficient with my time when I use Agworld”, says Darrell, “Because I can use Agworld wherever I am, on a tractor, in a field, at home, or at the beach, it's quick and easy to amend a recommendation or create a work order, and send that through to an operator, contractor or whoever else needs to have access to that information. Agworld also creates a record and leaves a digital paper trail to make sure the jobs are all done properly - which is very important when you grow food crops like we do. Agworld's detailed information makes it easy for operators not to make a mistake, because the work orders are very explanatory and show exactly how much goes into each tank, right down to the last tankful, whether it's half a tank or even a quarter of a tank.”
2021 - Challenges and Victories
2021 was a challenging year for everyone but it did have a silver lining for Darrell, by being named SunRice Grower of the Year for 2021. Darrell was awarded for his innovative approach to farming and a commitment to sustainability. Darrell: “I was nominated because we have a very strong focus on water use efficiency, and improving tons of yield per megalitre of water used - instead of just focusing on tonnes per acre, which is the traditional method. The main difference between what we do and the standard growing method, is 'delayed permanent water'.
Darrell explains: “A traditional rice crop stands in water from the day it's sown until a couple of weeks before harvest, whereas with delayed permanent water we grow our crop for about 60 to 90 days without permanent ponding. We just flush-irrigate on moisture requirements and then we go to permanent ponding (on average 75 days after planting). With this system we now use a seed drill to sow our rice, flush it, and then give it three to four irrigations before going onto permanent water. Permanent water is used to control weeds and help insulate the head going through microspore; if the temperature drops below 15 degrees at night and the head is exposed to that condition for too long, the rice doesn't pollinate correctly and this can lead to sterility. So, the water works as an insulation buffer to help with that.”
Darrel: “We also do a lot of trial work, and just physically trying to remember what worked two years ago, or three years ago, like when you planted, harvested, or what the yield was, that is hard with a written record as then you have to dig through a whole bunch of physical records. With Agworld you can just tap on the field, go back three seasons and see exactly what you did in that field for that whole growing period of that crop. When you do trials and experiments like we do, having a digital platform like Agworld to support this is indispensable.”
A challenge for De Bortoli in 2021, and most farmers around the world with them, was the rapid rise of input costs, with some inputs such as urea more than doubling within the span of 12 months. “It's especially years like these, when it's important to forward-order crop inputs”, says Darrell: “With commodity prices rising so rapidly last year, forward ordering has been key for us and Agworld made that possible. Because we plan our season in Agworld we know which products we will use in the season ahead, and we can use that knowledge to forward-order as much as possible.”
Darrell continues: “In 2021 this saved us between 15% and 20% on our crop input costs. While we try to use EM surveys, soil sampling and variable rate scripts where we can to get our nutrition requirements as accurate as possible and not waste anything, we still need a significant amount of inputs. Being able to realize these savings through planning ahead with Agworld helps us stay as profitable as possible.”
"Because we plan our season in Agworld we know which products we will use in the season ahead, and we can use that knowledge to forward-order as much as possible. In 2021 this saved us between 15% and 20% on our crop input costs."
Darrell FiddlerFarm Manager, De Bortoli Wines Griffith, NSW.
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John Silvera works as crop consultant for a number of different growers. Next to providing crop consultancy services, John also helps these growers with their budgets and inputs purchasing program. In order to streamline the three different parts of his service portfolio, John needed a solution that can combine agronomy, budgeting and input purchasing overviews.