Avocados Australia’s special Avo Connections shoulder event at the 2021 Hort Connections included a range of useful, and interesting updates for the Australian industry.
We are proud to offer recordings of some of the presentations below.
Avocados Australia CEO John Tyas
Australian Avocados Marketing Manager Adele Nowakowska
Note: the audio is quite soft in this recording.
Check out the latest activity from the marketing team on our 2021 blog here.
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Principal Supply Chain Horticulturist Noel Ainsworth
Note: the audio is quite soft in parts, in this recording.
Applied Horticultural Research General Manager Adam Goldwater
Check out the latest month’s retail quality reports over in the Retail module.
This AvoGrow Research Update webinar on 12 August 2021 presented research outcomes from four current avocado projects funded in part or in whole by the Hort Innovation Avocado Fund, including:
- Estimating carbohydrate levels in avocado using non-destructive methods for commercial development (AV19006)
- Managing flies for crop pollination (PH16002)
- Is fruit quality meeting consumer expectations? (AV18000 and AV19003)
- Avocado Irrigation Summit Outcomes (AV17005)
Watch the full recording
Watch the update from AV18000 (supply chain)
Managing flies for crop pollination (PH16002)
Click on the image below to view video.
Estimating carbohydrate levels in avocado using non-destructive methods for commercial development (AV19006)
Managing flies for crop pollination (PH16002)
- Read more about the project at Hort Innovation.
- This portion of the webinar had to be cancelled however a link to Dr David Cook’s presentation appears above. You can also check out Dr David Cook’s presentation to the Western Australian regional forum in the BPR Library under Event Proceedings.
Is fruit quality meeting consumer expectations? (AV18000 and AV19003)
- You can find the latest retail monitoring reports in the Retail module of this BPR.
- Five videos from AV18000 project exploring the best practice of handling avocados from farm to ripening have been collated into a playlist by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries here (YouTube link). The videos include Did firmness at assessment affect the 2019 data collected, Time spent in avocado supply chain stages in 2019, Avocado supply chain temperatures, Temperatures at shed departure, and Did the 2019 fruit quality results meet the 2021 target? These videos have also been embedded in the relevant sections of the BPR: Ripening, Transport, and Packhouse.
- You can also find more reports from both these projects in recent editions of Talking Avocados, including: Fruit quality trace-back casestudy (AV18000, Autumn 2021), and Monitoring avocado quality in retail (AV19003, Autumn 2020).
- Read more at Hort Innovation on AV18000 and AV19003.
Avocado Irrigation Summit Outcomes (AV17005)
Monitoring critical for fruit quality through the chain
Monitoring is one of the key tools helping the Australian avocado industry meet its target of supplying top-quality fruit to consumers. The Avo Update webinar on 12 May 2021 was a chance for those in the supply chain to learn more about the results of the industry’s retail monitoring, and the latest insights into fruit quality and supply chain temperature management.
Noel Ainsworth (Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) provided valuable insights into fruit quality and supply chain temperatures from grower to ripening/wholesale after sampling five regions for a two-year period for the Avocado supply chain project (AV18000). Noel explored reasons for poor quality and the recommended best practice to prevent and manage identified issues.
Adam Goldwater (Applied Horticultural Research) followed on with an update on the retail performance of avocados after sampling carried out in metropolitan stores during the last 12 months as part of project AV19003. Here, attendees were provided with valuable insights into how quality is tracking at retail and explore trends by retail market city, retail display formats and further quality attributes such as age, ripeness and internal defect levels.
Where can I find more information?
- The retail quality monitoring results are updated monthly in the Retail module of the BPR: click here.
- You can also learn more about the avocado supply chain project in the BPR. Five videos from the project exploring the best prac of handling avocados from farm to ripening can be found here (external link), and these are also embedded in the Packhouse and Ripening modules.
- Both Noel and Adam provide regular updates in the Talking Avocados magazine, and in the fortnightly Guacamole. (Not a subscriber? Click here to find out how to join our mailing lists.)
Who can I contact for more information?
Avocados Australia Market Development Manager Hayleigh Dawson, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07 3846 6566.
Avocado quality over time
Australian grown Shepard
The purpose of providing retail avocado quality by variety is to track trends over time, to identify improvements and to empower industry to adopt best practice management to improve avocado quality at retail collectively. This section explores:
- acceptable fruit (<10% internal defects) by production region
- unacceptable fruit damage by type (>10% internal defects) of Australian grown fruit
- average fruit age at retail
- number of 10-fruit samples collected by production region.
General notes to consider when reading these graphs:
- fruit quality is assessed once fruit ripen to stage 5 (ripe)
- percentage damage is calculated by weighing the damaged and undamaged flesh from each avocado
- fruit are considered unacceptable by consumers if more than 10% of flesh is inedible due to bruises, rots etc.
Figure 1. Percentage acceptable fruit (<10% internal defects) – Australian-grown Shepard (2022)
Figure 1 shows the percentage of acceptable Shepard fruit sampled (that is, fruit that meets consumer requirements of less than 10% flesh damage) each month. This is an average of all Australian-grown Shepard.
Figure 2. Acceptable fruit (<10% internal defects) by production region – average past 12 months – Shepard
Figure 2 shows the average percentage of acceptable fruit by growing region since January 2021.
Figure 3. Unacceptable fruit damage by type (>10% internal defects) of Australian-grown Shepard – average since May 2022
This graph shows the percentage of fruit sampled with more than 10% flesh damage, by each defect type. Average since January 2021.
Figure 4. Average fruit age at retail – Australian-grown Shepard, 2022
Fruit age as days from packing to purchase in-store.
Figure 5. Number of 10-fruit samples collected by production region – Past 12 months – Shepard
||No. samples collected
The project is delivered by Applied Horticultural Research, with communications support from Avocados Australia. Please contact Adam Goldwater for more information: email@example.com.
The Monitoring avocado quality in retail (AV19003) project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the avocado research and development levy, and contributions from the Australian Government.
Notes on inductions for Elevating Work Platforms
This is much the same as for any piece of equipment. If purchasing a new piece of plant you should ask the retailer to provide an induction on the use of the equipment when it is delivered onsite (this is a legal requirement for retailers – but is often overlooked). If you have staff who come on-board at a later point in time (eg harvest), a full induction briefing should be undertaken by a senior person (owner/farm manager) within the business. Whether “old” or “new” employees (eg pickers), the initial usage of the equipment should also be supervised by a senior person until they believe the individual is competent in safe use of plant.
Neighbours / Legal Requirements
As per above, to comply with regulations a basic induction with anyone that is to use the equipment should be undertaken. In reality, this would only take 5-10 minutes (assuming the person is already familiar with use of EWPs). They would then be responsible for safe use (including induction of any workers) on their farm. Note – while it’s critical that all guarding and mechanisms are fully functioning at all times – it may even be more important (legally) when lending equipment out like this.
You can find more information about EWPs (national and state) in the BPR Library.
Visit the Hazard Checklist page for a full list of available inspection checklists.
• Checklist – Cherry Pickers Hazard (Word Doc)
Inspect your EWPs annually
In January 2021, Safe Work Australia released a new guide to inspecting and maintaining elevating work platforms (EWPs). Elevating work platforms need to be inspected at least annually.
EWPs are high-risk equipment that have caused nine worker fatalities in the past five years (2015-2019). An inspection, maintenance and testing program is crucial to assess their safe operation.
Employers are responsible for keeping workers safe and this includes ensuring that plant equipment is inspected and maintained.
Employers must also ensure that workers are given the necessary information, training, instruction and supervision to use elevating work platforms safely.
Download the guide here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/guide-inspecting-and-maintaining-elevating-work-platforms.
In the BPR Library/WHS Resources, you will find links to various EWP documentation from national and state bodies. Click here. Additional external resources will be added to the BPR Library/WHS Resources as they become available. These resources are maintained in the Library only, to reduce the risk of outdated information being linked in multiple locations. Current resources include:
- Elevating Work Platform Association (national) – safety & guideline documents, and a good practice guide
- WorkSafe SA – mobile platform guidelines
- Safework NSW – how to safely use an elevated work platform
- WorkSafe WA – prevention of falls from heights.
- Elevating Work Platforms – safety first! Click here to read this article prepared for the Autumn 2021 Talking Avocados. Please refer to the most recent advice when making decisions for your operation.
Competition for workers is intense in 2021, not just for horticulture but also across agriculture, retail and (where domestic tourism is active) the tourism sector.
You may need to consider:
- paying above award wages
- including additional benefits (free accommodation, wifi)
- paying bonuses (over and above the government incentives) for those who meet productivity goals and stay for a set period of time.
Other general advice
Clean up your social media. Potential employees (and their parents) are going to be vetting you online. If you sound like a loose cannon on Twitter, you’re going to the bottom of the list.
Ask for referrals. If you have a staff member leaving, ask them if they can recommend anyone in their circle looking for work. They may not in that moment, but if they’ve had a positive experience in your business, they are more likely to point friends in your direction.
Provide referrals – don’t let a good worker leave the industry!
If you have had a particularly diligent (or even just reliable) employee who is interested in continuing in horticulture but your season is over, don’t just provide them with a referral, give them names and numbers of other avocado growers.
Avocados Australia members, we have prepared a Reference template you can use and it is available in the Member Area here.
Expect to put in more up-front training, and potentially to provide this training more often as staff turnover is expected to be higher.
During COVID-19, growers in other horticultural industries have reported a much higher than normal turnover rate, as employees decide the job isn’t for them after a day or a few days.
Avocados Australia has a range of resources in the BPR’s WHS module here to set up your training materials if you haven’t done so already.
It is recommended that you also provide training in good hygiene practices, and the requirements of your COVIDsafe plan.
Include in the advertisement
- type of work/tasks
- training provided
- pay ($/hr or piece rate)
- length of day (how many hours gives them an idea of takehome and allows for planning for other activities)
- location in relation to regional attractions (eg, a hour from the famous NQ beaches)
- COVIDsafe plan in place (find out what plan or WHS update is needed by state here)
- Fair Farms accredited (this is not so much for some of the potential employees, but their parents who are no doubt helping to vet employers)
- note if there are any government incentives available. You can find more about currently available incentives on the Avocados Australia public website here. Check under the national and state sections, as in some cases, your new employees can in fact apply for both the federal and state incentives.
Consider including in the advertisement
- how many days on, how many days off
- make note that (eg) if raining, no picking, no pay
- is accommodation available on-farm (dorms or caravan sites), what does it cost, what services are included (for example, wifi)
- is accommodation part of the package or an extra?
- is a stocked fridge part of the package or an extra? (or a first stocked fridge)
- are there cooking facilities and a fridge etc?
- include photographs of the accommodation (a recent photograph)
- access notes (sealed road, how many kilometres from nearest centre)
- is there wifi available or at least mobile coverage?
- link to your local tourism site to showcase things to do in the region
- approximate size of the crew they’ll be working in (this lets them know they’ll have people to talk to, which is important)
Hashtags for your social media posts
If you are posting on your social media, take advantage of the hashtags being promoted by the various states.
- Queensland – #pickqld
- NSW – #HelpHarvestNSW
- South Australia – #SeasonalJobsSA #GetASeasonalJobSA
- Victoria – #bigharvest
- Western Australia – let us know if you spot a hashtag jobseekers are searching for
- Tasmania – let us know if you spot a hashtag jobseekers are searching for
Have a tip to add?
Many of you will have your own local media, backpacker hostels, Facebook groups, and notice boards that you utilise. Avocados Australia strongly recommends that you add the Australian Government-supported Harvest Trail to your advertising suite. Most of the current federal, state and territory campaigns aimed at encouraging workers into rural and regional jobs (including seasonal labour) directs these potential employees to go to the Harvest Trail.
- Advertise early
- Advertise extensively. Do not just rely on what’s worked before. Advertise everywhere.
- Let your local backpackers know that your positions are open to both working holiday makers AND Australians. There have been anecdotal reports that some backpacker facilities are turning away Australians who ask to check their job boards. Make sure your local backpackers isn’t one of them!
- Utilise word of mouth. If your harvest is starting as a neighbour is finishing, call them up beforehand and ask them to refer staff to you. (Conversely, if you have good staff finishing up, refer them to someone else in the avocado industry.)
Physical job boards
- Backpackers or other accommodation facilities
- Caravan parks
Online job boards
Please note: some of these are paid services, some are government services.
Staying safe in the orchard and packshed
Avocados Australia has collated a range of tips and resources on everything from WHS to transporting produce on the public section of our website.
We recommend you review this article.