Located on the slopes of Mount Canobolas in Orange NSW, Cargo Road Wines has grown into one of the region's oldest vineyards. Established in 1983 on Cargo Road, at an elevation of 860 metres, it boasts a rich variety of grapes, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Zinfandel, Lagrein, Nebbiolo, Shiraz, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.
Over the last 27 years, James Sweetapple, holistic manager and winemaker at Cargo Road Wines, has expanded the vineyard through holistic management principles that promote the well-being of the entire vineyard ecosystem. They have full time staff, wine buyers and visitors who come to the vineyards for tastings and enjoying the beauty of the vines.
James has always been aware of dangerous weeds and biosecurity risks due to past experiences with biosecurity breaches. As the properties or business or operations grew, more and more people were coming to the vineyards, and with increased visitors, came increased biosecurity risk.
Managing biosecurity for people coming to the farm was being done by email, which was not only a tedious process but also took away time from high-value business including sales.
James had trouble keeping pace with the biosecurity needs of his expanding vineyards. He recalls how a visitor brought a weed infestation to his vineyards.
"I had a grape purchaser, a winemaker, visit in February with the sole purpose of buying grapes. Unfortunately, he had been to vineyards outside our region infested with Farmer's Friend or sticky weed. His legs were covered in black seeds from this weed. When I pointed it out, he acknowledged it casually, and despite immediate removal, the weed seeds found their way into my vineyard. Now, I'm left dealing with Farmer's Friend in my vineyard for the rest of my life.”
James experienced another biosecurity outbreak with the infestation of sheep with Bathurst burr, a common and economically significant weed in Australian agriculture. James quickly controlled the infestation before it spread, but the problem still continues to persist on a small scale.
After Bathurst burr, he was also concerned about the risk of phylloxera which was a “real and present danger.”
“If phylloxera comes to this region, or another unknown biosecurity risk to the vineyard comes to this region it would be devastating financially.”
After a spike in biosecurity incidents, James wanted a simple and easy solution that could keep visitors and staff educated on biosecurity risks before they came onto the property.
With Onside, James saw several benefits in managing his vineyards:
1. Biosecurity measures
Onside made it easy for Cargo Road Wines to manage biosecurity through using digital check-in, hazard maps, and before long, they fostered a culture of biosecurity awareness on the vineyards.
The custom biosecurity questions during check-in are a game-changer as it allows James to pre-screen and educate visitors. Prior to Onside, biosecurity education relied on verbal or email communication.
“Having people booking online for wine tastings or tours or camping gives me the ability to send [the Onside app] directly to them. And if they want to come here, they need to download it and fill out the questions.”
Talking about the visitor who infected his farm with a weed infestation, James said:
“If I had Onside earlier, I would get him to check in and identify that he'd been to multiple locations and hopefully it would have prompted him to stop and think about the weed seeds all over his legs. The more we can educate people and businesses, the more we can significantly reduce the spread of weeds and diseases."
In addition to streamlining everyday operations, Onside plays a role in emergencies such as bushfires where you need to know who is onsite in real time: “it's going to save thousands of hours - Onside is a time and money-saving prevention tool in an emergency situation."
2. Visitor visibility
In addition to biosecurity education, Cargo Road Wines have four staff using Onside to check in and out each day.
“There is an advantage in knowing when they're on site and when they've left the site. When we have contractors for periods of pruning in winter, we might have 10 to 20 contractors that we know have been to other vineyards so we get them to check-in using Onside.”
3. Health and safety
James explains how people visiting the farm keep themselves safe using the digital map of the property in Onside.
“We are able to identify where our beehives are which might be a risk to people that are allergic to bees. It identifies where our dams and water sources are, so that's a safety process. It also identifies where our Agri chemicals are stored.”
“It helps with our work health and safety on the property to keep everybody educated and informed about what's happening and where we have tractors operating on the property using the digital maps.”
4. Emergency preparedness
Onside’s emergency communication features provided real-time visibility and contact details of staff and visitors on site - both critical during emergencies like bushfires.
"It works a little bit like a Bundy time clock. If there is an emergency, I can account for everybody on the property."
5. Task management
Another big win for Cargo Road Wines was in the task management features enabling on-the-go task management.
“I'm enjoying the use of the task option for us on site when we are out in the vineyards. If we see tasks we can geotag them. We can take a photo, we can write a description, we can Include a list of tools that may be needed and then that builds a task list. For us to go back and fix things.”
With Onside, Cargo Road Wines sees a massive change in the way they run their day to day operations, however the biggest impact has been in:
Biosecurity awareness: Onside has made it easy and time efficient for James to educate visitors about biosecurity risks, preventing potential threats from entering the vineyard. “I can't afford my vineyard to be infected with any biosecurity risk at all, ever. It's so simple, the app makes it very, very easy to manage biosecurity for anyone coming to the property.”
Task management: The app's task management feature makes it easy to assign and manage tasks on the go.
Emergency preparedness: Onside's tracing capabilities can prove invaluable during emergencies, offering real-time staff and visitor insights.
National impact: Cargo Road Wines aspires to contribute to a nationwide biosecurity movement, encouraging shared responsibility. James feels “it's part of my responsibility to help educate the public about biosecurity.
“I have always seen Australia as an island and we have the ability to protect that island. So our border patrol and border security need to do a very good job, but on the home base, I need to do a very good job looking after the property I own. Onside brings biosecurity to the front of mind and I really would love to see everyone in Australia using Onside and a greater education and awareness of the biosecurity risk.”
— James Sweetapple