New way for cane farmers

Innisfail Smartcane BMP facilitator, Debra Telford, presenting to the Reef Smart Delivery Team

Innisfail Smartcane BMP facilitator, Debra Telford, presenting to the Reef Smart Delivery Team

This article was originally published in the Weekend Advocate on 12 May 2018

The Queensland sugarcane industry has a rich history of innovation and practice change. Farmers are always trying new things and finding solutions to problems, quickly eliminating those that don’t work. This initiative and willingness to give things a go was on display this week (26/04/18) at CANEGROWERS Innisfail.

Convened by Innisfail Smartcane BMP facilitator, Debra Telford, and WT-MIP Basin Coordinator, Sandra Henrich, a group of 23 people representing 13 different sugarcane industry organisations met to improve the collaboration and service delivery of extension officers in the region.

Innisfail is an identified priority region for many projects falling under the Great Barrier Reef funding umbrella, and the group dubbed the ‘Reef Smart Delivery Team,’ aims to bring experts together to maximise information sharing, reduce overlap and simplify the extension process for growers.

After listening to feedback from growers, the team identified that, on the one hand, there is nothing better than having access to high quality, reliable extension advice when operating as a cane grower. On the other hand, however, having extension officers repeatedly visit your farm for similar purposes was one of the biggest frustrations raised by growers.

“Ultimately, we are here to serve the growers,” said Deb Telford. “Growers love having access to good quality extension support but they become rightly frustrated when six differing extension providers set up on their farm in the same week asking the same questions.

“The Reef Smart Delivery Team aims to maximise the quality of extension support given to growers while reducing the crossover between providers.”

The discussions about enhanced extension support follow increasing pressure on growers to respond to environmental issues such as water quality and the health of the Reef.

 For this reason, the group also aims to create and foster networks between extension officers in the industry.

“By having better networks in place, we can improve the way we as professionals share ideas and come up with innovative solutions that benefit both the growers and the environment,” said Dr John Pickering, project leader of Cane Changer, a CANEGROWERS initiative. Joseph Marano, CANEGROWERS Innisfail and Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership (WTSIP) chairman, believes there are many benefits that groups such as this are can have for the environment.

“This strategy is part of our broader commitment to environmental stewardship and involves working collaboratively with the Queensland Government to ensure its investment in projects throughout the cane industry is being maximised and leveraged,” he said.  

The Reef Smart Delivery Team hopes that this initial meeting will result in extension officers in the region working more collaboratively with one another and, in time, help to streamline their services.