The concept of sustainability is undergoing change. Once, it referred simply to the land and our natural resources. But in business and for primary industries like farming and horticulture (and viticulture, in particular), the definition of sustainability has broadened. It now has wider connotations that include people. Health and safety are important components of this. 

A case in point is kiwifruit orchard KW Kiwi, near Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. There, Phillipa Wright and Stephen Kenna grow 15 hectares of gold kiwifruit on steep, difficult terrain.

To viably work their property, they rely on teams of skilled workers who manage their vines by pruning, thinning and picking throughout the seasons. Phillipa says there is a shortage of labour in the kiwifruit industry and this results in keen competition for good people. 

But money is no longer the sole criteria staff use to decide whether to accept a job with a particular company. Now, an important factor (primary factor) is culture and companies that can demonstrate they care about and respect their workers have an advantage.

Kiwifruit orchards can be hazardous places. A key danger is broken or joined wires. As vines grow above head height, should a wire snap or the ends of joined wires hang down loose, it poses a major risk to people’s eyes.

The ability for field staff to notify the KW Kiwi management team of such hazards is one of the reasons the company decided to install the Zero Harm Farm system. Staff can be alerted to dangers which helps keep them safe and allows repairs to be swiftly organised.  

Phillipa says, “It’s important that there is collective responsibility to health & safety and Zero Harm Farm helps facilitate this.”

When contractors arrive at the property and log in, they can see what hazards there are to contend with that day and where, for example, shelter trimmers and bee keepers might be operating. All this makes for a safer workplace.

One of the eight sustainability pillars on which KW Kiwi base their business is ‘people’. The others are biodiversity, soil, water, air, energy, chemicals and business. These interconnect and a system that makes inductions, site sign-in and hazard notification easier and more reliable improves efficiency across the board.

However, Zero Harm Farm wasn’t the first system KW Kiwi had tried. Phillipa says, “We already had a system in place, but it wasn’t sufficiently comprehensive or easy to use. When we ran across Zero Harm at the Field Days and it was fully explained to us, we decided to replace our existing system. 

“We’ve been using it coming up three years now and it’s been a great relief. The system is affordable and easy to use, there is good support and it fits our needs.”

While KW Kiwi finds the hazard notification aspect particularly useful, other elements are also important. 

The ability for contractors to easily log in and out, for instance, makes it possible to know who is on the property at any given time and where they are working. Progress on work in the orchard can also be monitored to assist with workflow.

All of these benefits add up to a better run, more closely managed and profitable kiwifruit-growing business.

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