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A gradual approach to implementing an integrated management system in a remote area

Jean Cannon

Enviro Action, Email


Humpty Doo Barramundi is a remote farm situated on the Adelaide River about half way between Darwin and Kakadu. The farm stated implementing an ISO 14001 EMS as part of a group of barramundi farmers in late 2003. There were two groups one based in Darwin and one in Cairns and the Darwin group included the Northern Territory Airports which needed to do an ISO 14001 system but did not have the same budget as the larger cities. Since then the have added occupational safety, quality and a HACCP plan. I recently spent three days with them, two on the farm, doing a full audit of what they have in place and where they still have gaps. The second day was spent largely doing training and workshops with all the staff members.

Their entire system has been implemented using training modules with are VET accredited and FarmBis Supported.

They have a defined course of action now and have finally got the farm onto a satellite broadband but I must comment that it seemed slower than many phone lines in city hotels are. This poor quality of communication does make it much harder for remote enterprises.

They should be ready for certification with an integrated environmental, safety, quality and food safety system within a few months.


Environmental Management System, online training, sustainability, continuous improvement, barramundi farming.


I feel that this is a particularly interesting case study because we have used such a wide variety of approaches in working with this farm.

Barramundi Farming in Australia takes place in widely different areas and there are very different methods used in the different locations. Barramundi are an estuarine species and can live in either fresh or salt water. In northern Australia the fish are farmed either in ponds using salt or brackish water or they are farmed in cage systems in the sea.

Humpty Doo Barramundi operates ponds using water pumped from the Adelaide River about halfway between Darwin and Kakadu. It is a very beautiful place but quite remote and a number of problems are associated with this. Last time I was up there was during the monsoon and they had had highest flood level they had recorded. Thankfully the ponds were not flooded and their fish were ok. The farm had become a flood refuge for large numbers of animals some of whom were more welcome than others. It was completely over run with bush rats so that it was necessary to wash the cutlery and crockery in hot water immediately before each use in case they had been part of a rat superhighway. One of the guys was having a shower when he found a wild pig in the shower recess with him and there was a large number of very beautiful specimens of venomous snakes. There were also lots of wallabies and because the floods had damaged the fencing along the river, there were also crocodiles.

The farm implemented ISO 14001 as part of a group of Barramundi farmers who attended EMS workshops based in either Cairns or Darwin and were subsidised by FarmBis which was very helpful as they all needed to travel large distances from mostly remote places across northern Australia. The Darwin based group was joined by the Northern Territory airports which made an interesting mix of experience in the group.

They went on to use two separate single days of training each nearly a year apart. These used extra training modules to add onto their existing EMS. Recently I worked with them for a further 3 days to audit their system, identify their gaps and train their staff so that they can move forward and complete the fully integrated management system that they want. Their aim is ISO 14001 environmental, ISO 9001 quality, AS/NZS occupational safety and ISO 22000 HACCP. They may choose not to externally audit all of these initially because of the auditing costs but having some parts of a fully integrated system audited effectively ensures that they keep all sections up to date. We are completing this online using a combination of webinars and teleconferences.

I find it is critical to build a system that engages all levels of the workforce, from the shop floor to top management and this has been the case at Humpty Doo. I use training modules mapped to Vocational Education and Training (VET) competencies so that if clients want to record these competencies for their personnel, or use them to access FarmBis subsidies this is available. Certificates are available for their training records. The courses themselves however are very pragmatic and tailored to individual business needs. I have a strong element of coaching to help keep clients moving along and check that they are moving in the most effective direction. The most important feature is to avoid jargon and keep it simple. Cause and effect is far more meaningful than terms like aspect and impact.

We start by building a good foundation and this can include any of environmental, safety, quality or food safety. The environmental module delivers substantial environmental training because it aims to train the business to manage their environmental impacts themselves. The

The modular approach provides a range of options for clients. Some people choose to only do a desktop audit and develop an Environmental Management Plan; other businesses want to build themselves a management system with feedback and others choose to add the extras needed for ISO certification. Some of these become audited while others choose to self audit.

Sometimes groups include businesses with quite widely differing aspirations. Some of those in the group may be only implementing an environmental management plan and others are doing a full ISO 14001 management system and also fully integrating occupational health and safety (AS/NZS 4801), quality (ISO 9001) and /or food safety and traceability (which is increasingly being certified to ISO 22000). Some businesses already have quality systems and use this modular method to add environmental and/or safety management. A mixture of backgrounds within the same group can actually add insight to the entire group as they look at a different viewpoint.

It is not necessary for a consultant or facilitator to know each industry. The business managers are the experts in their industry. The modules give them environmental awareness training, help them recognise their environmental issues and very importantly understand their need for legislative compliance. They make their own decisions. The role of the consultant or trainer is to help them understand how to build a system that works for them.

Increasingly I use mind mapping techniques to help people to identify all their activities. Once they get over the initial feeling of going back to kindergarten, and start drawing stars and lines, they quickly find that they build a much fuller picture of all their operations. They also find that this leads easily into identifying all their other risks, like occupational health and safety and interrelationships with neighbours, suppliers and contractors. Mind mapping is an interesting and easy process which involves both the right and left sides of the brain and is therefore doubly effective than the traditional making lists. This worked very effectively at Humpty Doo where then entire workforce participated enthusiastically even one member who started by announcing that it would never work because she could not think in terms of diagrams.

Once all their “issues” have been identified it is time for risk analysis and this process needs to be done separately for environment and for safety because there are times when the safety risk may be much higher than the environmental risk for a particular issue. The reverse can also be true. When these are built into a system, the work procedures cover the higher risk and should point out to workers what the greater risk is - safety or environmental. An example is using hydrogen peroxide which is benign environmentally as it breaks down to water and oxygen. The safety danger is that it breaks down quite explosively in large quantities and can cause serious damage if splashed into eyes accidentally.

In one interesting correlation in my office involving a wide range of initial audits done by clients has shown that there is a high overlap of impacts. In fact 70-80% of the issues are the same for all industry sectors, even though they may vary widely in severity.

I love working with groups because members build a support group as well as sharing experiences and the outcomes from group training are very good. The biggest problem with the group training approach is a phenomenon described as “group think” where a group collectively decides that something is not a problem and also where they collectively decide to group several problems then discover that they cannot easily set sensible processes in place to manage this collective issue and they get frustrated by having to split the issue and redo some of their planning. The facilitator needs to be aware of this and prevent it otherwise the businesses get frustrated by redoing some of the work as they separate their impacts or effects once they realize the shortcut did not work.

The Managing Director of Humpty Doo Barramundi commented that “As a remote enterprise, we have found the Enviro Action training programs to be well suited to our needs. By breaking each of these quality systems into manageable steps, Enviro Action’s systems make it easy to introduce quality systems through a structured, participatory continuous improvement process”.


Humpty Doo Barramundi has been working under difficult physical and communication conditions to build a world class export business. They are well on the way to certification of their integrated system and have a defined course of action in place. They have finally got the farm onto a satellite broadband but I must comment that it seemed slower than many phone lines in city hotels are. This poor quality of communication does make it much harder for remote enterprises.

They should be ready for certification with an integrated environmental, safety, quality and food safety system within a few months.

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