In a matter of minutes, daylight turns to night, the air thickens with smoke, and prime farmland is surrounded by flames.
In what’s been a tumultuous year, last summer’s bushfires can seem long ago. But for those caught in the devastating infernos, the memories are still vivid.
At Justin Costello’s family farm, outside Corryong in north-eastern Victoria, locals rallied to protect his home as the firefront hit.
“They’ll drop everything to help their neighbour,” Justin says of his townsfolk and mates. “It’s just amazing how everyone works together in the face of adversity.” He lost hay sheds, stockpiled silage, paddock feed and water infrastructure – but the house was saved.
In the wake of the disaster, Justin set his sights firmly on the future, not just for himself – but for the community he services through Costello Rural, a livestock agency and retail business.
Finding a better way to farm after adversity
“Working really hard, on my journey back from the fires, I thought ‘How can we do this in a way that would make everyone get a little bit more control back and be successful,’” Justin says.
“You’ve got all the day-to-day jobs, dramas and family commitments, whether you’re up to feed the cows or trying to keep the family balanced – you can feel like a lighthouse. We’ve lost too many farmers to the rigours of farming, through stress and feeling isolated.”
He saw a solution in AgriWebb’s farm management software. “Being in control, you can plan out better,” he says. “You’ve got more time for jobs that need doing, and can delegate more easily knowing everyone is on the same page .”
As well as helping with day-to-day operations, farm management software also promises long-term benefits, Justin explains. “It’s about opening the farm to more insightful assistance, safer market access, and greater productivity so that farming can be sustainable in the Upper Murray for future generations.”
Will Bruce, AgriWebb’s Country Manager for Australia, is quick to praise Justin’s determination to future-proof farming in the Upper Murray region.
“Drought turned into fire, and fire turned into COVID-19 – three challenges it’s hard to imagine dealing with as a small business owner,” he says. “Justin’s response was amazing. He said, ‘Okay, that’s happened, but how do we prepare this community for the future? How do we get people involved in an exciting industry that is evolving rapidly, with technology at the forefront?’”
Sitting down and talking to other farmers, Justin knew well how the fires had affected their outlook. “It really unravelled some families, and they realised they needed to change rapidly, to manage their exposure to risk,” he says.
While they had been comfortable with the status quo, change presented challenges. Justin sees AgriWebb helping them plan and look at transition into the future.
Delivering a new level of service
Justin and the Costello Rural team have now joined AgriWebb’s Partner Program, designed to help advisors better collaborate with farming clients, to drive more-informed decisions on farm.
It means he can offer innovative products, such as a digital inventory service. The team at Costello Rural will update your AgriWebb inventory as products are purchased from the store, saving customers time and helping them remain compliant. “It gives farmers better purchasing power, efficiency gains and more transparency for accreditation,” he explains.
That’s just the start of the benefits Justin sees for Costello Rural, its clients and the wider community. “Instead of just being a farmer’s agent or their rural retailer, we become a stronger advisor,” Justin says. “That sets up long-term relations and creates a pathway for younger people to be employed in the community to assist farmers at a higher level.
“Our partnership with AgriWebb means the Upper Murray farming community – as well as the wider farming community – has a better way to make decisions for the future.”