Henrik Christiansen has been Managing Director of MacField Farms since 2018. Residing in Rockhampton, MacField Farms is located in one of the oldest cities in the state of Queensland in Northern Australia. This orchard is the only commercial macadamia farm in the entire Rockhampton region, and their expansive size and scale puts them at the upper end of the industry as a continuous farm.
MacField Farms is a low-cost producer that requires accurate and efficient data to grow a large amount of high-quality macadamia nuts. In order to achieve this, daily work is focused on the health of the tree, the health of the soil, the quality of the crop, and the quality of the nuts produced. Monitoring systems must record accurately, while identifying the appropriate daily and annual tasks to keep standards high.
At a glance
Headquarters: Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia
Crops Grown: Macadamias
Double Entering Data
Prior to Conservis, MacField Farms was paper based and the orchard leveraged Excel spreadsheets to collect and store data. This created challenges with the integrity of the information; paper would go missing or get damaged, manual data entry led to mistakes, Excel formulas wouldn’t function correctly, and auditing archived data from previous years was very time consuming.
When looking for a solution to their problems, they found that other planning and data collection software systems either weren’t integrated into the agricultural space or weren’t able to satisfy the needs of their permanent crop operation.
User-Friendly, Efficient Farm Management Software
MacField Farms appreciates that Conservis was built for permanent crops and caters to their way of conducting business without the farm having to change their internal processes. “This applies to tracking our simple farming tasks all the way to monitoring the cost of production per hectare, but also the input of our sales, as well as managing our stock and our stockholding position.”
MacField Farms creates a plan within the Conservis system that gets broken down into daily tasks, which are rolled out to field workers via Conservis Work Orders. “They know the machine that they're using, the equipment, the rates if it's a spray job, and then they can commence that job and finish it,” says Henrik. When workers are given a harvest Work Order, they know which block they're going to and which variety they're dealing with. Some varieties need different harvester machine setups and with Conservis’ direction, they can prepare the proper machinery before they hit the orchard block. “Within that, we're capturing our stock usage, our labor usage, and then obviously capturing and recording when we did it and what we did.” Should rainfall hit, the system can prioritize a series of wet weather jobs, allowing maximum efficiency, despite mother nature’s mood.
“From a permanent crop point of view, the Conservis model is a lot more adaptive to our approach of farming and what we needed to capture.”
Henrik is a visual person who enjoys viewing what’s happening across the orchard. “One of the tools that gives me a quick snapshot of where we're at is the Dashboard and I can customize it to what I want to see,” says Henrik. “It's got a nice little pretty map of the farm with activities that are happening. You can drill down into that and say, ‘Okay, what are my completed activities?’ Then you can drill down into that activity further if you want, but the dashboard is a really good, quick overview.”
“Prior to Conservis, we would have data entry mistakes,” says Henrik. “One of the best parts of Conservis is that we've moved away from a paper-based system which is fraught with danger and you can't interrogate that paper without another data entry step. So the step from paper-based and Excel to a cloud-based system resulted in the amount of errors being dramatically reduced.”
“It's all there from an audit and food safety point of view. We don't have to maintain double-entry data now, which is a big step forward.”
MacField Farms no longer views recordkeeping as a task. After Henrik explains the tedious manual entry of data he once dealt with, he says, “We've just bypassed all of those steps now. It's as simple as a start button, a finished button and that's it!”
Having complete and reliable spray diaries are another win. Spray diaries are a topic that Henrik admits, once kept him up at night, because their accuracy is necessary to his operation’s success. “Conservis puts my mind at ease because we are collecting (in an electronic format) our spray diaries,” says Henrik. “That really is a keystone for me, having the electronic history of data.”
Conservis captures all necessary information to ensure that MacField Farms is ready for an audit at any point. The system records the weather at the time of spraying, along with the usage of chemicals to ensure they maintain accurate records for food safety purposes. “I wanted a system that was going to support and add value to our business," says Henrik. “It saves the piece of paper flying away in the wind or getting wet. It's all there and we can look back multiple years very easily without trying to cobble together an Excel sheet or worse, go back through our paper database, which takes forever.”
Actionable, Profit-Driven Insight
MacField Farms produces seven different varieties of macadamia nuts, which they market individually. They maintain full traceability of the product through the supply chain, so they can then marry that up to a return on investment for each variety. The operation can then compare the economics of one variety against the others.
“You can actually see the cost-benefit in being on top of things.”
During year one, the orchard took an approach of getting their data into the system to understand what they were dealing with and where they needed to improve at an operational level. “Now we're starting to interrogate two years' worth of data, which is always good,” says Henrik. “We're able to see the impacts of not doing things right. For example, if we're not on top of our orchard floor by a certain time before harvest, that has a real impact on our harvest efficiency.” Henrik always had a feeling that that was the case, but now he has the data to prove it. “We can now interrogate it and say, ‘Show us our yield harvest efficiency or cost per hectare on these blocks that we know we had a problem with versus the other ones that we didn't,’ and we had smooth sailing! Then you can actually see the cost-benefit in being on top of things.”
Sustainable, Low-Cost Production
Being a strong producer in today’s climate means paying close attention to input quantities and costs. Sustainability is about doing more with less and using only the quantity of inputs that are needed to produce a healthy crop. Sustainability and efficiency live hand in hand and in any business, time is money. Saving time by streamlining orchard tasks and visibility to what’s been done in the field, puts profit into the business.
“We’ve become a low-cost producer and we do that through providing the inputs that are required to grow a crop and to maintain a healthy tree. No more, no less.”
“Our approach from a sustainability point of view is that we’ve become a low-cost producer,” says Henrik. MacField Farms is proud to provide only the inputs that are required to grow and maintain a healthy crop. “We need to have good systems in monitoring, and good systems to roll out the daily and annual tasks that we do.”
“The experience with Conservis has been really good,” says Henrik. “From day one, the scoping process was really simple. We went and brought in the nuts and bolts of our business and how the information would flow, so that we scoped it correctly. So when it came to deploy it, it was simple.”
Like any business, MacField Farms full team consists of people with varying degrees of comfort with technology. “The education from the Conservis team onsite to the guys who hadn't ever used a PDA (smartphone) before was fantastic,” says Henrik. “We have people that haven't got a smartphone that were able to use the iPads to do their tickets (Work Orders) at the shed or in the tractors.”
“The Conservis team here in Australia have been really proactive in making sure that if it's a simple thing that we forgot or we're struggling with, they’re available by phone or email. We've even had visits to make sure that things are operationally working well for us.”
After about two years of using Conservis, Henrik is pleased with the ongoing customer support that’s baked into the software. “The after-sales service from Conservis has been really good,” says Henrik. “We've manipulated the system, we've improved the system together and we've improved the app over that time. It's been through the Conservis team taking an interest in our business and how our business works! It hasn't just been, ‘Here's a box with a IT system. We'll see you later.’ It's been, ‘Here's a system, we'll continually update it. We'll continually customise it and we'll make the functionality better.’ And I don't think we're at the end yet. We're still going, but the approach and the attitude to continuous improvement was one of the things that really attracted me to the Conservis solution.”