Supporting Australian Agriculture


As Australians increasingly come to recognise the importance of agricultural development and the related opportunities of agricultural industry, optimism and investment in the industry continues to show ongoing growth…
The increasing recognition of the value of efficient agricultural practices and need for crop security and sustainability have created excellent market conditions for Peracto, Australia’s premiere applied agronomic research provider, to bloom – a trend which the company expects to remain consistent into the future.

Peracto began operations as part of a larger organisation called Serve-Ag nearly forty years ago, and became an independent corporation under its own branding about ten years ago. Today, the company is privately owned with head offices at Devonport in North West Tasmania and staff located throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The company provides its clients, both public and private, with a comprehensive suite of related services, including independent research, development and related scientific and technical services designed to increase clients’ efficiency, yield and profit while promoting agricultural sustainability.

Phil Frost, Technical Manager with Peracto, has over fifteen years of experience in the agricultural industry providing evaluation and development of crop production inputs, including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, plant growth regulators (PGRs) and nutrients. “The bulk of what we do is agronomic research,” he explains. “We do research on a range of factors related to crop agronomy, pest and disease management, weed management, plant growth regulators, crop variety – these sorts of things.”

In order to best serve clients and meet the diverse needs of the agricultural industry, Peracto has developed a number of services, including contract research, regulatory affairs, residue trials, research and design, diagnostic services and technical services.

This has led to a wealth of knowledge and experience in the application of research and technology. The data generated by the company helps to support clients in getting through governmental regulatory process requirements and on to the implementation and application of the new product. “For example, if a new pesticide is developed in Australia, there are a number of regulatory processes that product needs to go through,” says Phil.

Generally, Peracto’s research is aimed at supporting growers in working as efficiently as possible, including maximising the use of resources such as water, nutrients and even land to support sustainable crop production. “It’s about sustainability as well. So a lot of the practice that we research will allow growers to manage their crops more sustainably in the future, which is important.”

Besides the company’s strong history of creating great outcomes for clients, Phil suggests that the company’s ability to offer on-the-ground support throughout Australia and New Zealand has been a major driver of the company’s continued growth and one of its key points of differentiation. “A lot of the clients that we work for require research done in different production regions throughout Australia and New Zealand.” As the company’s clients are able to receive high quality services across a number of regions through a single provider, there is no need to rely on multiple partners and they have more confidence in the data generated.

Another driver of Peracto’s growth has been the changing landscape of corporate research and development and changes in government funding. In the past, most research and development was accomplished in house by larger corporations or the federal agriculture department, but shifting market places have driven governments and corporations to look outside their doors.

“The government is doing a lot less of that applied research, and our clients have got less internal capability. So it’s more efficient to contract companies like Peracto, rather than having larger research and development departments internally,” Phil explains.

At the moment, the bulk of investment in applied agricultural research is coming from the private sector, with public funding focusing on broader agricultural issues. Peracto expects to see continued investment growth from the private sector as investors identify the potential of the agricultural industry and the importance of ongoing investment in technology and research.

And looking at the industry generally, Phil identifies growing national investment interest in agricultural products. “There have been a lot of investors looking to get into developing their products or technology in agriculture to improve the way we grow our crops, so those are some of the major factors that have helped to grow the business.”

Peracto has been able to consistently provide measurable positive outcomes for the company’s ever-growing network of clients through its applied research techniques, with a focus on improving existing growing solutions and creating new and efficient processes for growers. Increasing efficiency through technology, the company is able to reduce growers’ input costs while increasing yield, which leads directly to greater income for customers. Indeed, “Everything we do has the focus on applied research with practical outcomes for growers.”

A strong example of the sort of outcomes the company produces for clients comes from a recent project involving weed control analysis. Peracto was able to reduce the cost of weed control for a client by over $100 per hectare. With nearly 25000 hectares affected, this solution represents a significant contribution.

One major ongoing project on which the company is involved is the research of a fungal disease called Lettuce Anthracnose which affects the lettuce crops of the country. Peracto is currently developing processes to control the disease and mitigate its effect on the lettuce industry in Australia. The company also continues to work with the vegetable industry to generate and apply data to allow the better management of pests and disease.

Phil identifies the people of the company as its greatest asset and, given the highly specialised nature of the work the company accomplishes, Peracto invests a great deal of time, effort and capital into helping recent graduates build the skill sets necessary to work effectively in the industry. “We’re looking for people who have a passion for agriculture, and our work requires that a huge focus is on quality and timeliness and getting it right the first time, so we have an ongoing focus to make sure that we recruit the right people,” he says.

The people of Peracto represent a diverse wealth of experiences from various backgrounds, including the agricultural chemical industry, government research organisations and private industries. Together, the team at Peracto possesses more than 400 years of combined experience creating research based solutions for clients big and small.

Peracto offers a unique graduate program – similar to an apprenticeship – that employs between four and six university graduates each year, providing entry level training and an introduction to field operations and research.

With block training, which takes place four times each year, graduates have the opportunity to train in varied regions throughout Australia and New Zealand under recognised industry experts while experiencing crops particular to each location. By the end of that first year, Peracto’s graduate program employees have been fortunate enough to receive incredible on the job training.

Peracto Managing Director, Ian Macleod, promotes a strong focus on ongoing professional development for all Peracto staff. “What we do is very specialised and unique in some ways, so we need to provide on the job training for everyone we recruit. It’s very difficult to find people to do the job that we do,” shares Ian. “It takes a few years to learn the job, but the graduate program helps to develop that training and help develop that as quickly as we possibly can in that first year.”

One of the greater challenges the company currently faces is the perception of students that agricultural science offers little opportunity for highly skilled workers. The perception is changing, partly through the efforts of employers like Peracto that have committed a great deal of support for agricultural science study in school. “There’s a lot of potential in agriculture in general, but compared to a lot of other industries, there are probably fewer people coming through the school system and identifying agriculture as a career.”

Looking toward the future, Phil and Ian are excited by the opportunities for growth Peracto has identified, and look forward to continuing to serve the company’s public and private clients in creating innovative and efficient agricultural solutions.

Peracto is certainly committed to the agricultural industry and is looking to continue to expand the company through a number of opportunities it is developing currently. “We want to take on new staff through the graduate program and other ways and grow the company and our capability to deliver for our clients and provide that expertise in the agricultural industry,” Phil says.

With continued growth in the agricultural industry, Peracto has positioned itself well to continue to grow while providing high quality cost saving agricultural solutions for all clients, from small growers to large scale projects and government contracts.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:27 AM AEDT