Organic garlic farmer Paul Cooper powered up his new mechanised garlic operation this month, with his entire crop already pre-sold.
Based at Mypolonga, the former banker converted an old citrus property to organic garlic after he identified the opportunity while completing his Bachelor of Business in agribusiness commerce as a mature age student.
In 2015, with the help of an Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (3IP) grant, he made the leap from business plan to working farm.
The 3IP is the flagship element of the $265 million South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program (SARMS), which is funded by the Australian Government and delivered by Primary Industries and Regions SA.
Mr Cooper received $195,000 under the 3IP grant, which helped him secure the farm, convert it to organic status and purchase new planting and processing machinery.
"The SARMS grant has allowed me to take a quantum leap forward - I've been able to go full-time, and the machinery means I'll be able to process up to 1 tonne of garlic a day, instead of my current average of about 100 kilos a day," Mr Cooper said.
Garlic is a new crop for the small community of Mypolonga, in the Lower Murray, but it's a perfect match according to Mr Cooper.
"The dry climate here means I can harvest the crop, throw it in a bin, cover it up and come back in a around four weeks when it's dried out enough to clean and grade," he said.
"The sandy soil here makes the bulbs easier to clean, and organic soil management and mulching means we're able to reduce our water use.
"We're watering every 7 to 10 days during the hottest part of the growing season, where conventional properties water every 36 hours.
"Being an annual crop and one with high margins, means if we are faced with a situation of reduced water we can either budget accordingly to buy more or reduce our production size and maintain seed stock until water comes available… it's a crop that I believe offers real resilience for irrigation regions."
SARMS is contributing to the South Australian Government's commitment and implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Through 3IP grants program is supporting the sustainability of South Australian River Murray communities through investment in irrigation efficiency, irrigation industry assistance and regional economic development. Since it started in 2014, 3IP has offered almost $170 million of investment and facilitated 33GL of water ready for return to underpin the health of the River Murray.