THIRTEEN grain growers from the York and Beverley areas recently enjoyed a three-day study tour to Esperance hosted by the York branch of Nutrien Ag Solutions and supported by Bayer Crop Science.
Darren Chitty and Jono Rippey from Nutrien and Glen Bradley from Bayer led the tour, which started with a visit to Lucky Bay Brewing, the only WA brewery sourcing barley direct from local farmers.
Brewery owner Nigel Metz explained the objective was to make beer using local grain to celebrate WA produce, but most barley grown by WA farmers for malt was exported and craft breweries in WA were unable to buy WA malt to brew beer.
As a result, Lucky Bay Brewing has ventured deeper into beer science and pioneered making craft beer using up to 75 per cent raw barley, Mr Metz explained.
It also sources wheat from specific locations in the Esperance region and the Wheatbelt which is used to produce a wheat beer.
After inspecting the entire brewing process, the tour group put the Lucky Bay product to the taste test.
On day two the group visited Esperance Quality Grains, with owner Neil Wandel providing a thorough tour of his business.
The growers were interested in the process of grain drying and cleaning through to exporting of pulse grains.
During the visit containers of field peas were being packed for export and the tour group was impressed by the diversity of pulse grains grown in the Esperance region, something not seen in the Central Wheatbelt.
On the same day the group took an opportunity to gain further understanding of controlled traffic farming (CTF) with a visit to Mark Wandel's family farming operation.
Controlled traffic is a major consideration on the farm with potential for up to a 20pc increase in production, the group was told.
To ensure all farm machines stay on three-metre CTF run lines, some innovative solutions have been engineered that may become more widespread in the future.
On the third day the group visited Andrew and Simon Fowler's mixed farming property at Condingup where Simon runs livestock and Andrew runs the cropping enterprise.
According to Nutrien's York branch manager Mr Chitty, the scale of the brothers' enterprise was jaw-dropping to the York growers who asked questions about the availability of farm labour to support the business.
The diversity of the operation was very impressive, from the reclaiming of blue gum plantations, livestock feedlots, lime pits, grain drying shed and silos through to the impressive array of equipment and machinery to support each part of the Fowler's business, Mr Chitty said.
The group also inspected Nutrien's fertiliser facility in Esperance and gained a better understanding of the Nutrien fertiliser range and the growth of this product offering across the state.
In between farm visits the study group found time for some relaxation and managed to drop in a line on a fishing charter.
"The trip was a fantastic experience for York farmers to gain a greater understanding of broadacre and livestock operations in the Esperance district," Mr Chitty said.
"It was an incredible learning experience and we had a bit of fun along the way".
He also thanked Bayer Crop Science for its support to help organise the trip.