For David and Trish Vigliaturo doubling the size of their Ardmona packhouse was never the plan.
But in the end, David (44) said “there was no choice”.
The couple built a multi-million-dollar extension 18 months ago with more space for storage, controlled atmosphere coolstore and brought in a second, digital,state-of-the-art apple, pear and stone fruit grader.
Ever since, growers have been knocking on their door and both graders are now in action up to six days a week with 140 bins of apples sorted daily at the height of the season.
With the help of a Victorian Government grant to expand their business, the Vigliaturos now employ 40 staff grading fruit for the local and export markets creating 12 new full-time-equivalent jobs.
“We can run class one unwaxed fruit on one grader and premium waxed and class two waxed fruit on the other without having to re-tip. Some packhouses find that a real challenge,” David said.
Although positive about the industry in the face of this successful investment, David knows that without water he wouldn’t have a business. He believes the modernisation of the infrastructure - occurring through the Connections Project - gives northern Victoria a competitive edge.
“The knowledge that the channel system will deliver water efficiently for irrigators to grow fruit or veggies or crops makes us one of the luckiest areas in Australia,” David said.
“I don’t know any other region with a system quite like ours. The infrastructure that we have will be even more important in the future.
“Keeping water in the district is hugely important now and will be massively important going forward.”
The $2 billion Connections Project is the largest irrigation modernisation project in the country.
By upgrading water delivery systems and services; maximising water retained in the GMID; reducing costs for irrigators and meeting Victoria’s commitments to the environment, the Project is creating a sustainable, viable and vital region for generations to come.
The Vigliaturos are passionate about the future of the region and the security of the delivery network. The family helped build it.
David’s grandfather Vince, as a new Australian arrival from Calabria, Italy, helped build the dam wall at Lake Eildon in the early 1950s.
“And then Dad came out on a ship on his own when he was 15 and he helped make ‘smoko’ for the workers at Eildon,” David said.
David joined the family business after a stint studying business tourism and believes the future in fruit growing looks bright.
“We visited China last year to check out the markets and meet exporters over there. They want the premium fruit. They are so particular about standards,” he said.
“But they love our clean and green image.”
David said water efficiency was a priority on the 12ha orchard.
"We put in microjets and just recently a weather station to monitor moisture. This means we can use less water and we are not relying on guesswork anymore,” he said
The Vigliaturo property sits on Central Goulburn number four channel which was remediated and upgraded during the Connections Project 2018 Winter Works.
At this site 2km of channel was lined with a Geosynthetic Clay Liner (GCL), generating water savings of about 505ML annually.
Connections Project Director Frank Fisseler said when the Project is complete, an estimated average annual water savings of 429GL will be achieved and irrigation water use efficiency will be increased from about 70 per cent to at least 85 per cent.
“For farmers the Project is automating water delivery across the region,” Mr Fisseler said.
“Dethridge Wheels and manual gate and channel systems are being replaced with automatic systems that allow irrigators to get water when and where it’s needed.”