Back on the Road
That's right, the BI team was back in the Wet Tropics last week, and what a week it was! If our first trip could be described as 'dipping our toe in the water', this trip would be closer to an immersion experience. The aim of our second visit was to further our engagement with established connections, and to begin to define and concretize the project in a collaborative way. Also on this trip, we were lucky to have our Project Manager, Dr Sue Pillans join us, and graphically record some of our discussions with various stakeholder groups. Together, we visited 9 towns (Cairns, Mossman, Arriga, Mareeba, Gordonvale, Babinda, Innisfail, Tully, Ingham), engaged with 61 stakeholders representing 6 different stakeholder groups, and hosted 3 graphic recording sessions. Here is how it all went down:
Monday | Mossman, Arriga, Mareeba
Our trip kicked off with a visit to see Daryl Parker, Manager of CRT Productivity Services at Mossman Agricultural Services. Daryl is an Agronomist who has over 25 years of experience in helping farmers across various industries to grow productively and profitably. We met with Daryl to discuss his experience working directly with growers to trial an innovative group-based approach to extension, that is, to encourage growers to adopt new methods and technologies.
We met next with Rajinder Singh, a Director of CANEGROWERS Tableland office, a Director of the CANEGROWERS Queensland Board and Policy Council, lifetime grower, and an Early Adopter of Smartcane BMP. Rajinder gave us a personally guided tour of his stunning property, and spoke to us in depth about his views on innovation, the value of technology in the future of farming, and the importance of BMP adoption for the future of the cane industry. To tie off the day, we joined Rajinder to visit the CANEGROWERS Tableland office in Mareeba where we had the pleasure of meeting Bronwyn Dwyer, John Barbetti, and Drewe Burgess, who gave us valuable insights into the status of the industry in the Tablelands region.
Tuesday | Gordonvale, Babinda
Tuesday was all about the women in cane, specifically, the wives of cane growers who are often (perhaps unintentionally) left out of the engagement process in designing initiatives to improve the cane industry. With the support of CANEGROWERS Babinda and Cairns Region offices, we were able to directly engage with 15 women in cane to hear about their experience in the cane industry, and some of the challenges they currently faced as a business, a family, and as individuals. It quickly became clear that the role of women in the sugar cane industry is monumental, and that empowering and enabling women would need to be a core initiative of the Cane Change project.
Wednesday | Innisfail
What better way to understand what it’s like to be a cane grower than to spend the day with one? On Day 3, we did just that. Joe Marano is a Director of CANEGROWERS Innisfail, a Director of the CANEGROWERS Queensland Board and Policy Council, experienced grower, and an Early Adopter of Smartcane BMP. Joe is passionate about moving the industry forward, and representing the grower population at public forums. After touring Joe's extensive property featuring lush wetlands and headlands, Joe spoke to us in depth about the need for change in the industry, and there couldn't be a better time for it.
During the course of the day, we also managed to fit in a quick excursion to the Australian Sugar Museum, which I would highly recommend visiting, if ever you are passing through!
Thursday | Tully
On Thursday, the BI Team was invited to address the Tully Sugar Management Team, headed by Barry Dun, General Manager of Tully Sugar, as well as the Tully Sugar Board, chaired by Madame Holly Yang. Members of both groups expressed their willingness to back Project Cane Changer, and their openness to try new strategies to help the industry move forward, both within Australia, and on a global front.
From there, we found ourselves at our first ever shed meeting hosted by Peter Jackson, an accomplished grower, and respected leader among growers in the area. The growers voiced their concern for the negative messaging around the cane industry, and the impact it has on their confidence and openness to change, but also the issues that could stem from this at the broader level, like the marketing of their product.
That afternoon, John, representing BI, also had the opportunity to officially brief Chairman of CANEGROWERS Tully, Tom Harney, on the project. To tie everything off, we had a chat to some shining stars of the industry, Brian and Jamie Dore, and David Singh, who gave us a very different perspective yet again, seen through the eyes of the next generation of growers.
Friday | Ingham
For our final day on the road, the BI Team headed into the CANEGROWERS Herbert River office for a morning session to brief Directors Michael Pisano (Chairman), Chris Bosworth, Peter Sheedy, Sam Torrisi, Paul Marbelli, Vince Russo. The session was followed by a round table with 15 invited growers from around the region for an intense, and productive discussion about the future of the cane industry, and key challenges, with Sue capturing recurring themes in pictorial form - talk about finishing with a bang!
In summarising, we could not have asked me for a more successful week in terms of meaningful engagement and discussion. We thoroughly enjoyed our second trip to the Wet Tropics, even more than the last, and do hope to be back very soon.