In May 2016, MRA Consulting Group received nearly half a million dollars in funding under the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More Organics Market Development Grants Program, netting $210,160 for its Recycled Organics Professional Development for Rural Advisors project, a joint initiative with Fertcare®; and a further $279,646 for its Organics on the Farm – Central West project.
Both projects aim to improve regional producers’ access to information about and sales of recycled organics in regions across New South Wales, with the aim of boosting compost takeup by farmers and commercial growers across the state.
Rural ‘one-stop shops’ for compost
The Recycled Organics Professional Development for Rural Advisors (ROPDRA) project, a joint initiative between MRA Consulting Group and Fertcare, is using the EPA grant funds to "develop the skills and knowledge of farmers, sales staff and advisors so they can provide advice on the environmental and productivity benefits of compost", explains Virginia Brunton, Principal Advisor - Organics at MRA Consulting.
"Rural advisors will become 'one-stop shops' for information, advice and services that support soil fertility, and the sales and supply of approved composts in rural areas," she says.
The ROPDRA project will tap into existing training provided to rural advisors, integrating regionally-focused information about recycled organics into their sales knowledge.
Professional training will be developed and delivered via Fertcare, the voluntary training and accreditation program for members of the fertiliser industry.
Rural advisor training to help rural agents promote compost sales have been delivered via workshops in several regional NSW hubs: North Coast, Northern Tablelands, South East, Central West, Central Tablelands, Southern Highlands and Riverina, says Brunton. "Each workshop has involved compost producers from the surrounding region."
The project will see ‘Recycled Organics competencies’ added to the Fertcare Accredited Advisor (FAA) component of the program.
The ROPDRA project is also helping establish business agreements between recycled organics producers and rural agents so as to “normalise the purchasing of recycled organics within the broadacre agriculture sector”, Brunton says.
The compost information-and-distribution initiative is designed to:
- improve agronomic services’ capacity to provide accurate, up-to-date and useful advice about and sales of compost products; and
- forge stronger links between agribusinesses and composters, with the goal of boosting ongoing sales.
The potential: boosting compost takeup state-wide
The overarching goal of the ROPDRA project is to give farmers and commercial growers across the state access to consistent supplies of suitable compost through “traditional rural retail outlets”.
Which means regional primary producers considering using compost as a complement (or alternative) to increasingly pricey mineral fertilisers will be able to do so without undue hassle, wherever they’re based.
“We believe that the project will expand the marketing and use of recycled organic products across NSW,” says Peter McLean, executive officer at the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA), a supporter of the MRA-Fertcare initiative.
Watch what this commercial grower had to say about the benefits he found in using compost in his greenhouses.
Organics on the Farm – Central West project
MRA Consulting Group received $279,646 under the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More Organics Market Development Grants scheme for its Organics on the Farm – Central West project, with Australian Native Landscapes (ANL) as the project partner.
The aim of the project is to “normalise the supply chain for recycled organics to a massive potential market” across New South Wales’ agricultural regions.
ANL has established a strong reputation as a reliable supplier of high-quality, fit-for-purpose compost that provides consistently reliable results.
"With the groundswell of interested farmers, compost will become a common and regular farming input into a whole range of agricultural systems throughout the Central West region of NSW," assures Brunton.
MRA and ANL are taking a multi-pronged approach, leveraging research that demonstrates the benefits of adding compost to soils across regional NSW to “educate rural advisors, tapping into the Landcare network to engage farmers, and integrating recycled organics into the existing supply chain”, she says.
It is estimated that the project will boost the market for recycled organics in the region by at least 14,000 tonnes.
About MRA and Fertcare
MRA Consulting Group is one of Australia’s foremost experts on waste management, waste strategy, organics recycling, planning and compliance. Fertcare is a joint initiative of industry body Fertilizer Australia and the Australian Fertiliser Services Association (AFSA) that trains and accredits the agronomists who advise farmers and producers nationwide.
For further information about the Organics on the Farm – Central West project, contact Virginia Brunton, principal consultant for organics at MRA Consulting Group, on 0438 496 834 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
For details on the Recycled Organics Professional Development for Rural Advisors project, contact Virginia or phone Jeff Kraak, program manager at Fertilizer Australia, on 0407 663 535.
This project is supported by the NSW EPA as part of Waste Less, Recycle More, funded from the waste levy.