Almost exactly one year ago, while people in workplaces around the country were preparing for the final few weeks before knocking off for Christmas, Allan from the Clyde River Berry Farm was preparing to defend his property from bushfire.
The Currowan fire which had started in late November took just days to get to his farm as it mercilessly forged a path north and east, only eventually stopping when it reached the familiar shores around Bawley Point and Pebbly Beach.
As it tore through the berry farm, Allan managed to protect a lot of his plants but was unable to stop it destroying infrastructure such as bird netting, the irrigation system and water pumps.
Like many small businesses in the NSW South Coast region, Clyde River Berry Farm faced some unique challenges in their recovery. They received some initial support from the Government, and also from the people at Rotary, but they were unfortunately unsuccessful in securing a low interest loan from the Government to rebuild their lost bird netting.
It might surprise some people to learn that netting an area like they have at the Clyde River Berry Farm could cost up to $150,000. But without netting, how do they keep the birds off the fruit, and the fresh berries coming up to our Market?
Allan’s answer is very 21st century – they’re trialing the use of drones and lasers.
“The way of the future is going to be drones and lasers, anything that’s not uniform,” he explains.
“It has to be spasmodic and irregular. The thing about the fire is it has shaken up a lot of the ecosystems birds rely on, so we’ve had to think on our feet to keep them out of the paddocks.”
“They have solar setups with little solar panels and batteries, so they’re virtually independent once they’re set up and you’re not getting things like rips in the nets. So far I’ve been quite impressed with the laser stuff – it’s not 100% but neither was the netting.”
These new systems also fall in line with other sustainable practices that the berry farm already conduct. They don’t use any sprays on the fruit and use an environmentally friendly cardboard packaging.
This year has been a bumper crop, and while Allan and his berries won’t be in Canberra this weekend, they will be attending every Market from the 12th of December into January.
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