Sunnyside Instant lawn is run by Andrew Rowett who is a 3rd generation farmer who used to be in horticulture. Sunnyside started with 25 acres of turf and has now expanded out to up to 150 acres and now has 8 employees.
Q & A
What has been the biggest change in the industry since you began?
The biggest change for Sunnyside was joining the Sir Walter group, which then evolved into the Lawn Solutions Australia group. This opened doors to opportunities for the business and strengthened the business having the backing of a national brand.
What are the challenges facing turf growers these days?
Managing environmental conditions in South Australia has been our biggest challenge. Water is poor quality, we need to watch what products are used to control salt and keep soil healthy. On a broader scale challenges include; keeping up with government regulations in water consumption, the environment and WHS requirements. AusGAP is playing an important role in making this easier for us to keep ahead.
Why did you join the AusGAP program?
It became a requirement for all Lawn Solutions Australia accredited businesses to be certified by AusGAP. Sunnyside was happy to join because it is a proactive approach to both quality and compliance, which answers the market needs as well as providing a national level of compliance for the industry.
Has AusGAP been a good addition to your business?
It is still early days, but on the farm, it has been a positive. Staff are now more aware of the requirements and why they are in place. In the 15ha of Sir Walter on the farm, all of the staff would be able to walk you to any contaminants and tell you how they have been treated. All treatments and actions, since the implementation of AusGAP, are now logged on a farm management software program along with the other recording requirements that are involved. This keeps your farm proud and, on its toes, so it is proactive with WHS and MSDS records.
What has the AusGAP program done to change your business?
It has initiated a more formalised approach to employment and training at the farm. Instead of the old days where employees were put on over a hand shake and put on the tractor, there are now official contracts of employment, site inductions, duties and expectations of employment documented.
How much of the AusGAP program is totally new to your business?
Biosecurity policies and procedures, the knowledge that something had to be in place was there but the AusGAP program has ensured that it is in place and followed.
Have your staff changed at all since the introduction of the new systems?
All of the staff on the farm at the moment have come on since the introduction of AusGAP, so they have been brought in with the AusGAP protocols at the forefront. AGRIMAP is now used for all recording and staff training and TBT’s are now a regular occurrence.
Do you feel AusGAP has changed the industry?
I believe it has the potential to and that is why we are happy to be on board, so we are a step ahead of the others.
Where do you see the turf industry in the next 20 years?
There is a bright future ahead for instant turf. Greenspaces are getting a lot of traction in the big cities and government is conscious of the need to keep them in all areas. We need to keep turf in the public eye, AusGAP will help with this.
Has AusGAP got a place in that future?
Definitely, people are now more socially and environmentally aware and are choosing products that reflect these views. Environmental and biosecurity policies are answering these needs and area also putting A grade turf out there for consumers.
What areas of your business has AusGAP helped with improvement?
Definitely safety culture, increased knowledge of requirements and we made sure we are up to date with licences, tickets and training etc. Quality has always been a focus on the farm and this just reinforces the need to focus and keep it up. It has also helped with customer service and will help in using this as a marketing point in the future when consumers are more aware of the AusGAP program. Streamlining has come with improved records and procedures.