It’s not just the marketing of agricultural products that have been forced to pivot enormously due to COVID, but the logistics of actually keeping the people on farms and in plants safe has created a whole new world of business management.

Compliance with measures put in place by governments to contain the virus has called for massive investments. Now, with Australia starting to open up for business again, double-vaccination requirements will see an entirely new wave of on-site planning and interventions.

The meat processing sector alone estimates abattoir owners are pumping $20,000 a week into COVID management. Workplace compliance experts say the return on investment in emerging COVID management technologies can be as much as ten-to-one in the agribusiness space.

With the revitalised push to prioritise essential primary workers around Australia to keep food supply chains moving, they also believe there is a good argument for an ag-tech-type government grant to get online COVID compliance solutions rolled out faster.

Compliance solution company Sentrient has been working with agricultural businesses across the country to put in place its solution, which features an online record-keeping tool for the vaccination status of staff, a reporting tool for testing and ready-made reports for COVID-19 compliance and audit purposes.

Director Gavin Altus said it paid for itself quickly in terms of reduced administration costs, but it could also mean that in the event of a positive test, a business could be back up and running within 24 hours by demonstrating it was COVID-safe, avoiding the two-week shutdowns that have been common.

Sentrient is a five-year-old company that handled workplace compliance in areas like safety, privacy and bullying, but when COVID emerged, it added features to help small to medium-sized businesses manage the situation.

What we’ve seen with the compounding effect of COVID is the cementing of the fact the number one requirement a business has is the safety of its people – that is the only non-negotiable in business, Mr Gavin Altus said.

However, reputation comes second. No one wants to be on the front page of the paper for not adhering to COVID-19 reporting. COVID has crippled businesses with the changed conditions now necessary. Overwhelmingly, the majority have had to shift focus from driving operational profit to just keeping afloat.

The fear of everything associated with COVID has meant businesses have spent hundreds of thousands doing things like having more than one lunchroom, operating at reduced capacity, putting in cameras and heat monitoring and extra human resources and record keeping.

And those costs are only going to increase as it becomes necessary to monitor who has been doubly vaccinated. Around 10 per cent of Sentient’s customers are in primary production, including abattoirs, dairy factories, farms, and food packaging businesses.