The Seefeld Farm is situated in Lower Austria in the province of Hollabrunn, and consists of 2,300 hectares of arable land, 42 hectares of vineyards and 450 hectares of forest. The estate has been owned by the Hardegg family since 1495 and is currently run by Maximillian Hardegg.
The farm is an excellent example of how modern farming can provide environmental benefits for wildlife and biodiversity, while producing high-quality potatoes. Through good water management, regular soil testing and a strong relationship with a local processor, the farm produces over 50% more potatoes per hectare than the national average.
The farm is inspected under the requirements of the Frisch & Frost farm assurance scheme and the globally recognized GLOBALG.A.P. standard.
These initiatives ensure consumer confidence in food quality and safety, and cover other important areas such as environmental impacts and good agricultural practice.
The farm has a network of stone tracks that are used as the farm’s transport route around the estate. They are also accessible to the local community as cycling paths, providing easy access to the countryside.
The farm undertakes a regime of testing for phosphate and potash (along with trace elements and pH) on a four-yearly basis.
Mobilized soil nitrogen is also tested in the spring; the farm’s pig slurry – which is produced by the estate’s 1,000-sow breeding unit – is then applied to the land to ensure adequate nitrogen availability for the growing crop, reducing the need to purchase artificial fertilizers. A strict regime of soil nutrient analysis allows slurry to be applied accurately where required. Low-level application followed by swift incorporation reduces ammonia (nitrogen) losses.
The farm plants a green cover crop during the autumn for fields, which are to be sown in the spring. Cover crops can lessen nitrate losses from the soil and reduce the risk of soil erosion.
There is sufficient center pivot irrigation on the farm to irrigate around 800 hectares. Irrigation scheduling has been improved with the introduction of a Dacom system that measures soil moisture levels at three depths. This allows precise monitoring and the timely application of the correct amount of water to the crop, resulting in optimum water use and top-quality potato yields and grades.
The unique water storage system for irrigation is incorporated within the ditches and wetlands on the farm. These areas provide crucial habitats for the local wildlife and help to increase the levels of biodiversity. The wetland also acts as a large sponge that absorbs excess water and helps reduce flooding. The stored water allows the potatoes to be irrigated as soil moisture and crop requirements dictate, ensuring optimum growing conditions for the high-quality potatoes needed for processing.
The farm has long-term set-aside, providing natural habitats for feeding and nesting wild birds. Even with the abolition of compulsory set-aside, the farm appreciates the benefit that these areas provide. There is also an extensive network of hedges and wildlife strips around the farm, providing crucial interconnecting wildlife corridors.
The farm has a supply contract with a local potato processor, setting out minimum grades which the potatoes are expected to meet, with incentives and bonus payments for quality above that stated in the contract. The contract enables the farm to calculate the profitability of the potato enterprise and allows inputs and management decisions to be implemented accordingly.
The improved management system and implementation of good agricultural practices have increased the farm’s potato yield to 50 tons/hectare, which is 50% above the Austrian national average of 33 tons/hectare.
Learn more about Maximillian Hardegg’s story
Explore the case study, where you’ll find extra details on how the farm has performed against the program’s good practice standards and criteria, what external research reveals about the producer’s actions and how improved sustainability benefits them.
“The northern parts of Lower Austria are among the driest farming areas in the country. Some 20 years ago, after suffering from severe droughts, we began to create irrigation systems and water storage facilities such as ditches and ponds. Completing this project took much time and effort. Today, we have a complete network of 25 square kilometers of wind breaks, water ditches, habitat zones and beetle banks for wildlife. There is a small river, the Pulkau, which runs through the estate for 11km. We restructured the river, raised the river-bed level and connected small woodlands and ditches to the river. Today we see the benefits of this work in a favorable microclimate, improved flood prevention and a balanced water household.”
“Sustainability was not a word which was greatly used in the 1980s to describe many agricultural practices; this is what makes the investment in the environmental infrastructure at the Seefeld Farm even more remarkable. The approach taken was two-pronged: the benefits to local wildlife and biodiversity was clear (as it should be with any project of this type), but one of the unique features of the project was the advantages it provided to the farming system. The natural water storage capabilities of the wetlands and ditches is a great benefit to biodiversity and wildlife populations, and this stored water also allows crops to be irrigated, which ensures yields and quality can be maintained even through the driest summers. The Seefeld Farm is a testament that modern farming techniques can work with, and to the benefit of, the environment.”