Nursery looks to tech as way forward

LOOKING FORWARD: Boomaroo Nurseries manager and director Eric Jacometti says there are exciting developments afoot with new technology involved in commercial seedling production.
LOOKING FORWARD: Boomaroo Nurseries manager and director Eric Jacometti says there are exciting developments afoot with new technology involved in commercial seedling production.

ERIC Jacometti is excited by technology accelerating the nursery industry.

As manager and director of one of Australia's highest profile commercial horticulture nurseries, Boomaroo Nurseries, Mr Jacometti is determined to embrace new developments.

Located in Lara, Victoria, the operation has about 20 hectares under production.

It began as a small seedling nursery in Werribee on the family farm of Eric and his brother Michael.

Starting from the ground up in 1986 and then joined by brother their brother Theo in 1988, the business moved from market gardening to seedling production.

Mr Jacometti was at the 2016 National Horticultural and Innovation Expo in Gatton last month.

He said Boomaroo Nurseries was never considered a traditional type of nursery, partly due to its willingness to adopt new ways of doing things.

Although the nursery is almost entirely automated already, Mr Jacometti said there were still bright things on the horizon.

"It's really exciting some of the new technology that's there- the drone technologies and the ability to use software to look at plants and see what nutrients they need and whether they need watering," he said.

The nursery has begun working with Deakin University to explore the concept of the nursery of future.

"How you look at your plants and how you interpret what a plant needs is more than just touch and feel now," Mr Jacometti said.  

"It's really more about a more methodical approach to nutrition and any sort of pest, whether it be a fungus or an insect, it doesn't matter.

"We've now got the ability to create the technology to specialise it to a nursery situation. I reckon we are as good as anyone in the world."

Mr Jacometti has visited nurseries across the globe with an aim of harvesting knowledge from field leaders.

He said his trips to America in the past five or six years in particular have highlighted aspects for Australian businesses.  

"I think they may have surpassed us in some areas," he said.

"The way they approach things and the amount of product that they actually harvest and their approach to the business is absolutely rock solid.

"I think they've got a few little lessons to learn but we are always learning from what other people are doing.

"Their nurseries are horrible over there but their growers are good."

Mr Jacometti's appreciation for the industry in which he works is particularly special, coming from a non-rural background with neither of his parents having agricultural connections.

He said there was a lot to get excited about within the horticulture sector.

"If you are in this industry, you love it. It's a great industry," he said.  

Biosecurity remains strong

DESPITE some recent disease outbreaks and new detections, Boomaroo Nurseries manager Eric Jacometti says Australia's biosecurity system is very tight.

"Biosecurity is very, very difficult but in general terms I think the industry is really strong on this," he said.

"I think they are pretty damn tough on what they let into the country.

"Getting anything through AQIS is incredibly difficult and they are the first line of defence."

He emphasised that biosecurity is the responsibility of the entire supply chain, not just one section.

"I'm not just talking about nurseries but I'm talking about farmers as well, and also the seed companies," he said.

"Everybody is so proactive about it and so conscious about it, I think we are in a pretty good place.

"We shouldn't be complacent and we shouldn't relax, we just need to do the right thing.

"That's absolutely essential. And that is all part of that biosecurity theme."

Thorough farm and nursery hygiene practices are as much a business decision as anything else, according to Mr Jacometti.

"I think in the last decade we have seen a real move toward a professional commercial grower," he said.  

"From a nursery prospective, we consider ourselves to be professionals and we design our business to be able to provide professional people.

"It's very hard to work with people who don't care. In general terms I think the industry is pretty rock solid in biosecurity.

"If a farmer is unfortunate enough to have some sort of outbreak, the first thing he'll do is if he's going from farm to farm, he'll start his own sanitary programs.

"I think most would have solid procedures and processes around that. I guess there are still a few farmers around that are little bit behind."

This story Nursery looks to tech as way forward first appeared on Stock & Land.