Smart Farming for Western Port is a five-year project being delivered by the Western Port Catchment Landcare Network (WPCLN), is increasing awareness and adoption of land management practices that improve and protect the condition of soil, biodiversity and vegetation by farmers in the Western Port catchment. The project commenced in 2018 and will end in 2023.
This project was originally led by the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA. The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA was integrated into Melbourne Water in January 2022 and Melbourne Water is now the delivery agency.
Why this project is important
The project is working with landholders from multiple enterprise types to increase the understanding and uptake of innovative farming practices to improve farmers productivity and local natural resources.
Five innovative on-farm demonstration sites covering a range of enterprise types and trialling innovative practices have been established and are monitored with a specific focus on building soil carbon. Benchmarks will be established and the practices will provide farmers with actual scenarios they can use to relate to their own situation.
While building soil carbon will be the focus, other sustainability indicators such as soil nutrient balance, productivity and resilience will also be monitored. Farmer discussion groups, field days, and smart farm innovation training will provide the agricultural community with skills to assist with on-farm practice change. Project results are communicated through open farms, discussion groups, case studies and field days.
The project builds on the success of a similar project funded by the 2013-18 phase of the National Landcare Program.
- Western Port Catchment Landcare Network
- Bass Coast Landcare Network
- Mornington Peninsula Shire Council
- South Gippsland Landcare Network
- Agriculture Victoria
- Melbourne Water
In 2020-21, the Smart Farming for Western Port project engaged 1,169 people in 65 events (physical and online). This included eight field days, seven on-farm demonstration sites, 48 farmer discussion groups sessions, and one Regenerative Agriculture Training program with 25 farming families.
In 2019-20, the project engaged 1,169 people in 65 events (physical and online). This included eight field days, seven on-farm demonstration sites, two GrazFert programs delivered with 25 farming families trained and 48 farmer discussion groups sessions (including 14 online virtual farm walks). Total participation in the project to date is 2841 people at 128 separate events involving
1112 unique individuals.
While coronavirus (COVID-19) prevented many physical events from occurring, delivery methods were adapted to ensure farmers continued to be engaged and supported. Farmers discussion groups moved online and a videographer was engaged to film virtual farm walks. The success
of these efforts reinforced the importance of keeping farmers engaged with each other to share learnings and experiences.
Towards the end of 2019-20, a YouTube video series on Regenerative Agriculture featuring soil scientist Declan McDonald was also released and has had an overwhelmingly positive response from a wide demographic.
In 2018-19, the project engaged 753 farmers, held 36 discussions and farm walks, activities, hosted eight fields days attracting 589 farmers (including regenerative farming workshops with Charles Massy and Andre Leu), ran two GrazFert programs and established five on-farm demonstration sites.