How do you develop and achieve integrated EMS? Learning outcomes from working with horticultural industries and catchment management bodies.
Queensland Primary Industries & Fisheries, Redlands Research Station, 26 Delancey St Cleveland Qld 4163, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past nine months two horticultural industries have been engaged to develop two separate EMS systems. This presentation will explore the learning outcomes from the EMS development process. In the first instance the stages of exposure are explored in relation to primary industry service providers’ and producers’ reaction to EMS in light of their various backgrounds. The process of adoption and resistance to change are then explored from stakeholder fears and the various points of view from the landholder, industry, Natural Resource Management catchment groups and agricultural scientists.
The presentation discusses the balance required when developing a new tool to complement those existing in the industry, with the aim being to provide a comprehensive EMS without replacing any that have been accepted and adopted in each of the industries. The important points of an EMS are discussed with particular emphasis on knowing where to stop and how to ensure validity and accuracy of information, and its application to specific industry practices.
The case study will also compare and contrast the style of EMS implementation for each production industry. Including the overarching question: What will producers gain from EMS? Thus deriving the aims of EMS for each industry, the case study then explores how the tools and programs are structured to suit industry needs and what industry representatives hope to gain from using an EMS.
Integrated EMS, EMS development, producer tools, stakeholders.
The Queensland flower and turf associations are joint partners with Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPIF) in an environmental management systems (EMS) project. A successful application resulted in funding for one full-time staff member for three years. The project aims to develop, trial and deliver a farm management system (FMS) for each industry.
The aim of the project is to describe best management practices for crop nutrition, environment, business and finances. At present, the project has been running for one year and final drafts of the tools for turf and cut flower producers are available. The tools have integrated existing industry management guides, such as workplace health and safety (WH&S) and business/financial management. In consultation with Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups, the FMS program has also been expanded to meet specific catchment guidelines and aims, for example, in relation to soil management and nutrient control.
The Queensland cut flower industry has gross annual returns of $125 million. Flower production in Queensland consists of traditional species grown largely in hydroponic and climate-controlled facilities, as well as in-ground native flower production. The majority of native flowers are exported to Japan and Europe, while traditional flowers are very popular for Mothers’ Day and Valentine’s Day. There are approximately 150 growers in Queensland, 50 of which are members of Flower Association of Queensland Incorporated (FAQI).
The turf industry of Queensland has an annual gross income of $81 million, with the majority of turf used domestically for new housing developments, sports facilities, council parks and roadsides. There are approximately 152 turf producers in Queensland, 84 of which are active members of the Queensland Turf Producers Association (QTPA).
This paper outlines the process of EMS development within these horticultural industries. Important considerations and lessons from the past twelve months of progress will be discussed, along with some of the methods used to engage a number of diverse stakeholders. It has been a challenge to integrate the specific needs of each stakeholder group in order to provide a comprehensive EMS program which meets the many different needs of each industry. The current EMS approach for each industry will also be explained, along with trends in the uptake and resistance from producers and future directions of the project.
It was important to research the backgrounds of the industries and producers to understand the history, tools currently available, concerns and any barriers to the uptake of EMS. It was also useful to consider the geographic location of producers and NRM catchment groups for engaging them in the drafting process. Current turf and cut flower research projects and results were reviewed and collated with the help of QPIF scientists and extension officers. The industry association structures and processes have also had an important role in the development of the program.
In general, producers of native flowers are small-scale family businesses, while traditional flower product is mostly provided by larger businesses. The cut flower industry does not receive public criticism about its production processes, and native flowers in particular use little to no water and nutrients. In the past, flower producers in Queensland have received few environmental grants and funding, possibly due to their low impact on the environment and the smaller size of the industry.
FAQI has previously tried to use a quality assurance program. This was not accepted as producers found it to be too detailed, invasive and time-consuming. Currently available producer tools include a WH&S manual, a financial cost calculator, and some specific flower variety manuals (e.g. wax flower from Department of Agriculture and Food WA, and the Environmental Management Guide for Cut Flowers from NSW DPI). There has been no EMS for cut flower production in Australia to date. At an international level accreditation programs and ISO 14001 are used, particularly in the European Union. Some mixed-crop farmers who produce cut flowers have been exposed to EMS through landcare groups.
The turf industry includes some larger producers who supply the Queensland department of roads, council parks and green areas, as well as specialised turf for sports venues. The smaller producers provide turf for local shires, landscapers or developers. Historically, there has been shire and consumer controversy over turf production techniques (e.g. soil removal and nutrient run-off management). In the past turf producers in Queensland have received grants for water monitoring equipment, and recently the QTPA received funding for climate change workshops.
The QTPA board had rejected a turf accreditation system just prior to the start of this project, on the grounds that it was not comprehensive. Currently available producer tools include a WH&S guide, turf production environmental guide from Department of Agriculture and Food WA, and a computer-based EMS system (E–par). Internationally, accreditation programs are used in the turf industry, though turf-specific EMS is not common. Queensland turf producers are familiar with quality standards as many of them produce licensed turf varieties, although few are specifically familiar with EMS.
Both horticultural industries have the common concern of using land for production near residential areas in the larger Brisbane region. The industries are small in relation to other agricultural production in Australia and there is little industry-specific research and experience in environmental management. There has also been minimal monitoring and scientific investigation of environmental effects and production processes compared to other agricultural industries (e.g. nutrient requirements for turf and native flower varieties).
It was important to focus on engagement with catchment NRM bodies which had a substantial number of producers in their respective areas. Turf and cut flowers are grown along the eastern coast, with clusters in Atherton Tableland, Townsville and the larger Brisbane area. The corresponding catchment NRM bodies in Terrain, the Northern Tropics and South East Queensland have been valuable in providing awareness of environmental issues, catchment plans and environmental asset targets. They were also helpful for providing feedback on drafts (e.g. preferred description styles in best practice assessments) and in future they will be a good link to environmental grants and workshops for producers. Already, turf producers in the Northern Tropics area have used the FMS draft to receive grant funding for irrigation monitoring equipment, adding motivation to participate in the EMS program. Using catchment plans and goals during the drafting process and sending the catchment bodies only NRM topics for comment helped the EMS development process.
Communication skills are vital for the development of an EMS, particularly in relation to industry associations, as they should be encouraged to engage in and own the project. It is essential to understand the industry associations’ roles, structures and processes, as this will streamline the consultation process. For example, open communication allowed for the awareness of issues, such as the requirement of a particular voting process by the QTPA board members, and the request by FAQI to receive reports in writing which initially led to confusion due to the written reporting style. Sharing information is not always on the agenda of associations, yet it is important in order to obtain valuable input from other stakeholders and to achieve an integrated and aligned EMS. It was found that face-to-face communication is the preferable method of communication, as it is useful to analyse the personalities, concerns and agendas of the people involved.
The EMS program is a great tool to extend current research to producers, through workshops and updates of guides and best management practice descriptions. QPIF resources have been invaluable in regards to current turf and cut flower research (e.g. current investigations into energy efficient lighting used for flower production). Extension and research staff were engaged in the EMS drafting process, and in future, the aim is for the program to be kept current via an updatable website.
The existing EMS approach has been customised for the turf and cut flower industries. In addition to the considerations described earlier, consumer demands, community perceptions and resistance to change have shaped the final scope and some of the topics of the EMS program.
Both industries are currently using a farm assessment tool, where practices are ranked from ‘A’ for best practice down to ‘D’ for areas that need attention. They are also using an on-farm scoring action plan sheet, and a guide that provides references and contacts for all topics and workshops. There are also guides for training opportunities and assistance in areas where growers find they need more information to achieve best practice. It is important to achieve a balance in ensuring that assessment tools are neither too easy nor too difficult to complete in practice. Producer tools must be designed to be user-friendly and not too time consuming.
The difference between the EMS programs is the adaptation of these producer tools. The cut flower industry is using a self-assessment FMS purely for interested growers. In comparison, the turf industry have applied the system as a turf accreditation process (TAP), with producers who pass being eligible for an advertising logo.
To date, four workshops have proved most popular with the cut flower producers, where the FMS was used in group situations on a topic-by-topic basis. There has been little interest shown in the on-farm assessment at this stage, with only 7 growers completing the FMS. Advanced, well-established cut flower producers have not reported any benefits from the FMS at this stage. A few producers have communicated opposition to the program because they have seen the sugarcane FMS used for legislation of the industry.
The TAP has been very successful to date, with 21 producers completing the process, 10 more signed up and one field day held. The $330 cost to the producer has not lowered uptake and only in one case has lack of time been a barrier. Clear marketing benefits are helping with the turf EMS program, with councils and shires starting to look for quality and environmentally accredited turf. Public perception and producer grants from NRM catchment bodies have also contributed to the EMS uptake. Some turf producers will not be a part of the program, as other industry members are at accreditation status; these growers are unlikely to ever be a part of industry movements.
Traditionally, smaller agricultural industries such as turf and cut flowers are not exposed to government assistance or extension, this has enhanced the success of the current program. In addition, increased access to training opportunities and assistance from support staff has also benefited the industries.
The turf and cut flower programs will further integrate with new tools and information emerging from research, interstate and national industry bodies. It is planned that tools will be made available via a website and staff will be available to help producers and check in on their progress.
The cut flower FMS will soon be launched at the Native Flower conference with a sign-up sheet, and there is potential to produce a logo for producers who are part of the program.
The next stage for the turf program is communication with consumers and advertising about the program. The ultimate aim will be to align TAP with the Queensland Department of Environmental Resource Management requirements.
The process of identifying and engaging all stakeholders is important for an integrated EMS system. Consultation between all stakeholders is necessary for the development of an EMS which will be widely accepted and adopted. EMS programs should reflect the attitudes of the public, and in particular, the consumers of the relevant industry products. For this reason, an EMS should be a tool that continually changes along with the needs and attitudes of the community. New research and development of technology will encourage improved environmental management outcomes into the future.