Toasting sweet success

Dr John Pickering, project leader of Project Cane Changer, spoke to more than 30 cane growers from the Innisfail region at a meeting in Mourilyan recently.

Dr John Pickering, project leader of Project Cane Changer, spoke to more than 30 cane growers from the Innisfail region at a meeting in Mourilyan recently.

This article was originally published in the Innisfail Advocate on 27 August 2018.

INNISFAIL sugarcane growers got together recently to celebrate their efforts in adopting new and improved farming practices that help protect the environment.

More than 30 growers attended an event at Mourilyan hosted by Project Cane Changer, a CANEGROWERS initiative based on behavioural science that works with industry stakeholders to share growers' stories and help accelerate the adoption of best management farming practices.

Innisfail was the first cane growing district to embrace the project when it was launched early last year. Since then, more than 80 growers in the district have jumped on board to help set the record straight.

CANEGROWERS Innisfail chairman, Joseph Marano, said he believed the project had brought greater public recognition of the numerous positive changes made within the sugar industry over the years.

"Our story doesn't always get out there, but growers are an innovative group, always trialing, testing and updating the way we do things," he said. "With Project Cane Changer, these changes are getting noticed in a big way and our story is being told."

Earlier this year, Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leanne Enoch, visited Mr Marano's farm and pledged to work more collaboratively with the industry and recognise growers for their past changes.

"We've faced some scrutiny over our connection to the Great Barrier Reef and over the years growers have been making significant changes to help protect it," Mr Marano said. "It hasn't always been easy and has sometimes put growers out of their comfort zone, but they have done it for the sake of the environment."

Project leader Dr John Pickering provided the growers with an overall update and thanked them for their commitment and support of the initiative.

"Innisfail was ground zero - it was where this project first launched," he told them. "We'd like to sincerely thank all of the growers for helping to set the record straight over the past two years and for all of the work which has been done in the decades before this project began."

Growers were presented with a 'Cane Changer Declaration' highlighting the practices they have changed over the years to improve productivity and protect the environment.

"A lot can certainly change over the years, and that's no different for Innisfail growers," Dr Pickering said. "In fact, these declarations show that growers involved in the project have changed well over 400 practices in the past decade."

Mr Marano said with numbers like that, the project could better tell the grower's story which, in turn, went a long way to improving the positive image of the industry.

"We feel like our story is being heard," he said. "The government is now using more positive language when talking about our industry and we are working together more collaboratively to ensure their investment in industry projects is being maximised."