To start off our day, our group of twenty-something students, two instructors, and a wonderful tour guide/”mom” made our way to the Varapodio Olive Estate to meet with Joe and Donna Scopelliti. Donna started our tour by showing us the rows of olive trees, explaining that we were visiting on the final day of harvesting. She then went on to teach us about how they use drip irrigation mixed with fertilizer, which is called “fertigation.” This is a very efficient way to reduce water usage while also gaining maximum yield of the crops because there is less room for waste and evaporation of resources. They harvest the olives once a year by hand, to ensure that the crop is the highest quality. All of the waste from oil production, including the pulp, pits, and leaves, are used as compost later in the harvest cycle. Donna then showed us the shop/cafe, where they sell a wide variety of olive products, including oil, soap, vinegar, as well as other products from farmers in the local area. In her presentation, Donna said “we try to support our local farmers as much as we can.” When the olives are processed, the machine extracts 95% of the oil, and the excess product is used in their soap products. Looking at this, we can determine that the entire olive is used, thus meaning that it is a sustainable business and process.
Next, we had the privilege to go to Yates Electrical Services to learn about the RedMud GreenEnergy project, emphasizing the need for solar energy for the future of Australia. After all of the coal plants in South Australia shut down, there was a major need for a new energy source within the state, instead of importing energy from neighboring states. On average, South Australia receives 274 days of sunlight, meaning it is the perfect place to implement solar technology. With only 40 employees, the project has grown immensely, having 50 solar farms at the beginning of 2019. We then got to visit one of their solar farms on a nearby agricultural plot. Mark Yates showed us the amount of batteries needed for a standard plot of solar farms, explaining that the batteries and panels have remote surveillance to ensure that they are always working at the best capacity. They have a 25 year warranty, but stated that the average lifespan can reach 50 years. This is just one of many steps towards an Australia powered 100% by renewable energy.
Saturday and Sunday we spent at Calperum Station, which is 340,000 hectares of land preserved for conservation. The stations ecologist, Peter Kale, taught us about the property’s ecological issues and how they’re handling them. Originally a sheep station, the land was purchased by the Australian Landscape Trust, and was recycled to study land conservation and management, which is 90% Mallee Woodlands, a critical habitat for the wildlife in Australia. Mallee habitats are fire-dependant systems and need to burn every 50 years in order to regenerate. We all really enjoyed learning about the property’s focal species, the Mallefowl. This native bird makes dirt mounds that incubate their eggs, unfortunately this also attracts many unwanted predators.
Also, our amazing tour guide taught us all how to play footy, which was a blast! Sunday night we had a bonfire and looked at the stars, which was unreal because of the lack of light pollution. We also survived our first reflective exam! Sadly, this was our last night with our tour guide/“mom” Flick. She made this trip so memorable and fun, not to mention she was a great cook. We will miss you so much Flick, thank you for making this experience so fun!