What is a Desk Audit?
A Desk Audit is a process conducted by FRA to determine if a grower’s data related to the number of trees planted matches the data of the nursery/rights holder as to the number of trees supplied to that grower.
Usually the grower declares their tree number data (in the form of a table consisting of variety x number of trees x year planted x nursery from which the trees were purchased) to the FRA Executive Officer. The Executive Officer separates the grower’s data into tables of data for each Member. The Executive Officer then sends the relevant data only to the Member – such that a particular FRA member only receives data about their varieties. This maintains confidentiality of the grower’s data from other FRA Members.
The FRA members report back to the Executive Officer as to whether the grower’s data matches their data or there is a discrepancy. If all the data matches, the Executive Officer issues an Audit Certificate where the grower’s data is declared to match the FRA Member’s records.
If there are discrepancies in the data, the FRA Member works with the grower to understand how the difference occurred (sometimes the difference can arise from simple matters such as trees being removed and records not being updated, or the grower having purchased another orchard property with existing trees planted) and will endeavour to reach agreement on the actual number of trees currently planted. An agreement will need to be reached between the grower and the relevant FRA member on settlement of any infringing cultivars and applicable monies will be required for proprietary cultivars to be paid by the grower to legalise any infringing trees. Once an FRA Member is satisfied that the discrepancy has been resolved, the Member notifies the Executive Officer and an Audit Certificate is issued.
If agreement between the FRA Member and a grower, as to the actual number of trees of a particular variety or the identity of a variety that are currently planted on a grower’s property, cannot be reached, the FRA Member may request a Field Audit.
Completing a Desk Audit can potentially provide a number of benefits to a grower including:
- peace of mind that their orchard cultivar inventory aligns with legitimately sourced proprietary cultivars;
- can assist with proposed sale of an orchard property to a third party and / or due diligence on a proposed purchase of a new orchard property;
- can assist to get access, in the future, to test promising new proprietary varieties from IP Owners / FRA members; and
- may assist with the operating requirements of fruit marketers, supermarkets and retailers that may seek, in the future, to have growers declare the ‘legality’ of their fruit (as the Plant Breeder’s Rights extends to harvested product from infringing cultivars).
How to sign up for a Desk Audit
Simply contact the FRA Executive Officer or any of the FRA Members.
What is a Field Audit?
A Field Audit is a process used by FRA to determine the number of trees a grower has planted of a particular variety. It is a process whereby the FRA Members count the number of trees of each variety on a grower’s property.
Under the non-propagation and grower agreements signed by the grower before they receive trees supplied by (or through) an FRA Member, the FRA Member has the right (for example) to enter the grower’s property to check that additional trees of a particularly variety have not been propagated. In a Field Audit, this right of entry is exercised.
Thus, the FRA Members arrange to count the numbers of trees of each variety on the property. To do this the FRA Member’s work together such that confidentiality between FRA Members, related to the number of trees of a particular variety, may be lost – although after the physical audit itself, the data gathered is not shared between FRA Members (a particular FRA Member will receive data collected at the audit relevant to their varieties but not data related to the tree numbers of the varieties of other FRA Members).
If discrepancies between the number of trees counted in the field and the FRA Member’s records are discovered, the FRA Member endeavours to work with the grower to sort these out. As with a Desk Audit, payment of applicable monies will be required for proprietary cultivars to legalise any infringing trees.
If no discrepancies are found, or after any discrepancies discovered in the audit are satisfactorily resolved with the respective FRA members, an Audit Certificate will be issued by FRA
DNA techniques to identify ‘unknown’ varieties
Often, Field Audits lead to the discovery of “unknown” varieties. These are varieties where (for example) the grower uses their own name for the variety which is actually a proprietary variety, with rights held by an FRA Member.
FRA has invested in establishing a database of DNA markers for many of the member’s proprietary cultivars with the Australian Genomics Research Facility (AGRF) in Adelaide. Using this data base, DNA from known varieties can be ‘fingerprinted’ against the DNA of ‘unknown’ sampled varieties to see if they are the same or not. The database is to the standard that its findings are scientifically robust and, as such, can be used as part of legal proceedings if required.
In field audits, FRA can use these DNA techniques to identify an ‘unknown’ variety. Fruit type (e.g. white flesh nectarine) and time of maturity (e.g. one week after a particular known variety) can also be used to assist to narrow down the likely proprietary varieties that the ‘unknown’ may be. FRA will be able to supply the laboratory with samples of the leaves, fruit and / or stems from the cultivar of the ‘unknown’ variety for fingerprinting against proprietary varieties. Once the proprietary variety material is established as part of the library, processing the actual samples is considered to be quick and reliably accurate.
Fruit Rights Australia Inc.
PO Box 160
Gembrook VIC 3783
T: 0400 117 360
Fruit Rights Australia is an incorporated Association. Incorporation No: A0060632T