By Michael Doran
The soils of Millgrove and the dedication of Luciano and Heather Corallo have long combined to produce lush, delicious strawberries from their Strawberry Springs farm.
In recognition of their pioneering work the couple have been awarded the 2019 Australian Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year, announced at the national awards ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday 6 March.
Luciano said that he didn’t set out to win any awards and it has been an evolution that started with their approach to hygiene and quality control.
“I guess we were environmentally conscious from the beginning and we built that into how we grow on a commercial scale,” he said. “I love the valley and the waterways so sustainability has always been part of who I am.”
Strawberry Farms was commended for its proactive pursuit of best practices in farm management, quality assurance and biosecurity procedures. Luciano said he didn’t begin with a biosecurity checklist and the journey started years ago when he decided to automate the production process.
“That involved a lot of monitoring, auditing and putting things in place to give us full traceability of our product from start to finish,” he said. “We had special software developed that allows us to trace every berry back to its source and monitor what is going on.”
To manage biosecurity any vehicle entering the production areas has to be clean, picker movement between farms is controlled, grasslands are maintained throughout the farm and there are no dirt tracks. The farm vehicles are fitted with special low-traction tyres which minimise soil disruption and reduce the transfer of weeds around the property.
“We were the first in Australia to put strawberries under nets to buffer the extremes of wind, hail and frost,” Luciano added. “The bonus was we reduced water consumption by 30 per cent due to less evaporation, and it was the computer systems and data collection that showed us that.
“The quality assurance, biosecurity and sustainability systems actually work really well together and they enhance each other and produce higher volumes of quality product.
“There is always an improvement to be done, something you can find to do better and success comes from paying attention to the detail in everything,” he said.
Heather Corallo summed it up by saying “The driving force behind it all is to grow the best possible product we can and that’s what we do this is for. We have such pride in our product that everything we have done, be it water, soil or cleanliness, is to present the best possible product we can.
“We want to keep our environment as pristine as possible and at the end of the day the proofs in the pudding with the quality of the fruit we produce.
“It wasn’t until I read the submission that I realised we were doing some amazing things,” she said. “To go from a cow paddock to what it is today has been really quite a journey.”