Simon Tolley is a busy man. As well as running his wine company, cellar door and accommodation in the Adelaide Hills, he offers contracting services to vineyard and winery owners in the Woodside region.
From complete vineyard management to seasonal contracting work, Simon looks after about 30 customers. His decision to stay within the biosecurity bubble of the Adelaide Hills offers many benefits.
“I could easily grow the business outside of the Woodside area for contracting work, but I just don’t have the time. It’s been a good decision logistically to just stick to local – and it keeps our farm-gate hygiene activities uncomplicated,” Simon said.
“I don’t have to worry as much about people, vehicles and tractors transferring nasty stuff from one vineyard to another. I prefer to work in a local bubble.”
Simon has established a high standard of cleanliness in his business which he has also instilled in his staff. Transferring weed seeds and virus-spreading vectors from one vineyard to another are Simon’s biggest biosecurity concerns.
“Arriving to each vineyard clean is something that I’ve always tried to do. And I’ve always tried to ingrain those good habits with my staff,” he said.
“Between each vineyard, we make sure, as much as is practically possible, that we get all the weed seeds off the machines. If we’re mowing, we’ll get the bulk of the weed mass off on-site and leave it on-site before we go to the next site.”
Simon cleans with air and water. “We have an air compressor that we carry around with us for cleaning, but most properties have an air compressor on-site that we use to give the machines a good blow off before they go to the next vineyard,” he said.
“We also minimise leaves and shoots getting transferred from one vineyard to another. Giving machines a basic wash, or a blowout with the air compressor gets rid of the weed seeds, the leaves, the shoots, and anything that’s visible, as best we can. It’s about being as clean as we can be with the resources and time we’ve got.”
Simon does charge a transport and hygiene fee to do a basic clean between properties and he said most vineyard owners understood the need for clean machinery.
He said if there were better facilities in regions for people to take their machines and get them properly cleaned or disinfested, farm-gate hygiene practices would improve.
Simon is also committed to good record keeping. He is moving to GPS capability in all machinery and equipment. “So not only do my guys get sent electronic job sheets, but we also know how long each job takes and exactly where they are,” he said.
“This is great for biosecurity. If a weed problem pops up somewhere, we’ll know which machinery has been in that area, which is important for traceability and weed control.”
In addition, Simon matches machines and equipment to vineyards in a zone, to minimise each machine’s exposure to different vineyards. “It’s partly about working efficiently, but it’s also good for biosecurity,” he said.
As well as the biosecurity work he does in his contracting business, Simon has a common sense approach to biosecurity at his cellar door and accommodation.
“We have fencing around the vineyard so that people can’t enter. And we have Vinehealth biosecurity signs in the car park and at the vineyard,” he said.
“There’s a sign at the cellar door asking people to let us know if they’ve come from interstate, so that we can ask a few questions and talk to them about biosecurity. We’ve also got a footbath at the cellar door for people to use.
“And in the conditions of our accommodation we make it very clear that if you’re coming from interstate, then we need to know for biosecurity reasons.”
Simon always purchases vine material from certified nurseries for his vineyards, and for his customer’s vineyards. “We’ve done that for years – it’s a no-brainer. You need to make sure you’re investing in a healthy, high-quality vineyard from the beginning.”
Simon was a participant in a recent ‘Biosecurity for Vineyard Contractors and their Customers’ pilot training program run by Vinehealth Australia and Liz Riley from Vitibit, in Hahndorf.
He said the development of an online training program for contractors covering key biosecurity risks and controls would be a good practical step forward for the South Australian grape and wine industry.