Environmental Management System (EMS) helps clear the compliance minefield
New Zealand Good Agriculture Practice (NZGAP) has introduced a new add-on to help guide growers through the environmental compliance minefield.
The Environmental Management System (EMS) addon complements a grower’s regular NZGAP audit by adding Farm Environment Plans (FEP) into the suite of tools that NZGAP offers. FEPS are a way for growers to map their property and identify hazards to calculate their environmental footprint, and record improvements over time.
The EMS was developed to meet increasing demand by national, regional and local governments for growers to reduce their environmental impact. The add-on guides growers through the process of developing a FEP specific to their business.
Regional councils such as Environment Canterbury (Ecan) have adopted FEPS as a practical way for all farming activities to achieve freshwater and nutrient leaching goals. Ecan has been very supportive of the EMS and has recognised it as the standard for growers to use.
Allen Lim of Jade Garden in Rolleston says that Ecan’s recognition is of huge benefit to horticulture. “Ecan’s recognition gives teeth to the EMS,” says Allen. “The EMS provides a clear way for growers to navigate the compliance minefield, and is far easier and less stressful than any prescriptive alternative.”
By working alongside regional councils, the EMS add-on allows growers to meet council requirements through their regular NZGAP audit. “This is essential. It allows you to improve your business practice by recording and analysing what needs to be done,” Allen says.
Horticulture New Zealand NZGAP and food safety manager Damien Farrelly says the EMS has been created using a modular approach to futureproof the add-on.“the modular approach means that the add-on will work for fruit, vegetable, and covered crop growers regardless of where they are, be it in Cromwell or Northland,” Damien says.
“We built the EMS to be aligned with industry best practice and the regulators. Getting Ecan’s official sign-off was a huge milestone. We’ve managed to build trust with the regulators across the country thanks to this early success.
“The more growers that adopt a FEP through the EMS, the more credibility the scheme will get. Credibility with regulators gives them the confidence to trust industry through a principles approach to legislation, rather than a prescriptive approach.”
Jay Clarke of Woodhaven Gardens sees the EMS system as the way of the future.“after going through the EMS process, it is very clear that this is the path for the industry to go,” says Jay. “FEPS allow for individual farms, be it kiwifruit, potatoes or leafy greens, to identify their unique risks and put in plans to mitigate them.”
“The whole process was familiar, being quite similar to the food safety audit and taking the same philosophy of identifying risks and ways to manage those risks.there is a clear checklist and roadmap to prepare you for the audit so there aren’t any surprises.
“For someone coming into this fresh, it might be a bit of a shock looking at the business from an environmental perspective. All businesses have an environmental footprint and growing is no different. It’s just a process of stepping back and looking at areas which do contain risk, and then figuring out the best mitigation tools to fix them.
“It’s not scary and you don’t get a black mark if there’s something you need to improve.you use those things to build into your plan and keep improving your business when and where you can. Not everything needs to be perfect on day one.
“The EMS is really the way to go for horticulture,” says Jay.