Newsletter #16: July 2023

The Bureau of Meteorology currently maintains an El Niño Alert based on sea surface temperature, weaker than average trade winds, and global climate models. If and when the two-month average Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) reaches -7 (negative seven) or lower, then an El Niño will be declared. The Long Paddock updates the average SOI regularly. Both websites are good sources of objective information.

The Bureau is advising that a later than usual northern rainfall onset for the 2023 – 24 season is likely for most of northern Australia. The long-range forecast for the upcoming months is 60% – 80% below median rainfall for much of Australia and above median maximum temperatures.

There are often different messages on the risk of drought from different sources. One way to help better understand the key climate drivers is to listen to Professor Roger Stone’s climate and weather video series. Another is to contact your local Climate Mate. We are lucky to have several of them working directly with the hub, helping our community become climate experts. Your local Climate Mate can help build your climate knowledge with one-on-one conversations, training and workshops. 

As well as building on our regions general climate knowledge to help plan for future drought, we have also been working on numerous tech trials that will help with better water management decisions. We recently trialed a device that measures the moisture in mango trees on the Atherton Tablelands to make sure they aren’t drying out. If successful, the optical dendrometer will help improve irrigation management in mango crops.

A climate smart irrigation demonstration will also be established this year in Far North Queensland that uses scientifically validated technology that can increase water use efficiency on sugarcane systems. In addition, farm irrigation and energy assessments will be performed. 

The results of these projects will be shared throughout our networks, including the seven other Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs across Australia who in total have nearly 150 projects running nationwide. Shared through the hubs national collaboration, the results of these projects will help shape future drought resilience and preparedness for producers, communities and regions.

If you need assistance to help with drought preparedness, don’t forget there are many grant opportunities that can help, visit Business Queensland for a full list of grants and loans you can apply for. 

Keep safe and well,

David Phelps, Director

TNQ Drought Hub Director, David Phelps

Regional Soils Coordinator

July was a busy period for Regional Soils Coordinator Dhiraj Gajera. Providing educational opportunities for land mangers continues to be a priority for the hub. Dhiraj recently presented alongside hub partner Gulf Savannah to 15 local growers and producers in Georgetown who were eager to learn more about soils health, best practice management, ground cover and stock management. The attendees brought along a soil sample to test microbial biomass and carbon levels and learn about the biological makeup if their soil.

Dhiraj also presented at a business resilience workshop at Lakeland with hub partner Growcom. The workshop focused on building farm business resilience through soil health and ecological balance. 13 banana, passionfruit, mango, melon and cattle producers participated in a field trip to an organic Paw Paw farm where the group again tested the health, microbial biomass and carbon levels of the soil. The tests, which can be done easily through a soil microbiometer testing kit, empower the growers and producers to make better management decisions that could include rotating different crops at a specific site and trialing different composts.

Dhiraj attended the 2023 Soil Science Australia Conference in Darwin where he met with researchers and scientists from across the world and learnt about different findings on carbon farming, crop production and microbiology. Attendees visited the largest African mahogany plantation in the world which grows on 14,000ha on red loam soil. This region is ideal for a range of crops due to the soils nutrients and water resources.  

Dhiraj is also collecting data to help us understand soil extension and knowledge in our region. If you are a landholder, land manager, in extension, agronomist or service provider working in soils, then please make a cuppa and take 20 minutes to complete the survey

If you have a question about the survey, your soil health or would like Dhiraj to present at a workshop, get in touch today: dhiraj.gajera@jcu.edu.au

Farm visit at the Lakeland business resilience workshop
2023 Soil Science Australia Conference

Building Human Capacity

We had many thought-provoking conversations at our pilot Ag Succession and Future Proofing forum last week with succession expert Scott Patterson and Southern Gulf NRM CEO Geoff Penton.

Attendees found the presentations valuable and the sessions gave them the confidence to start having conversations with their family, friends and business associates about how to start succession planning. It also provided them with information about the processes to follow to ensure a successful transition. Things to consider include your business structure, assets and sustainability.

“At TNQ Drought Hub, our goal is to provide valuable knowledge and insights to support those in the agricultural industry, and to ensure its continuation as an innovative, profitable and sustainable sector,” said Building Human Capacity Program Lead Jane Oorschot.

Want to know more about what you should be considering for your succession journey? Download our Succession Planning Fact Sheet

Join the TNQ Drought Hub and Get on Board Australia and enrol in our Governance Essentials online course. Registrations close on Friday 11 August so don’t miss out. 

This course will give you;

  • A working knowledge of the duties, responsibilities, and requirements of Management Committees and Management Committee Members
  • Confidence to take on a Management Committee role and contribute to your local community
  • The ability to grow your capacity as a leader in your community
  • The opportunity to learn from a governance professional
  • A chance to connect and engage with a community of like-minded peers
 

Agricultural Innovation Program

Congratulations to our final cohort of Hone and Harvest teams who have graduated from our business accelerator program in partnership with Farmers2Founders. Over the last 12 months, we’ve been looking for agtech ideas to help make a positive impact for the agricultural industry within TNQ and beyond.

Our most recent round of teams have challenged their thinking, developed their confidence and learnt skills to help grow their ideas and businesses. Though the hub’s network of producers, industry and government, we will help them continue their commercialisation journey through trials, funding opportunities and by linking them with important stakeholders .

These teams are working on everything from low-tech innovations that pump water runoff to rehabilitate landscapes and turning fruit and vegetable waste into biproducts for the animal feed industry, through to a quality assurance compliance service to help keep up to date with industry standards.

Congratulations to the Harvest teams, Four Daughters and Spades and the Hone teams, Ocean Orchards, PSKL, Aqua Perception, Hillbillie Hogs, Nutriq, Custom Enzymes, GPS Trapping and Biochar.

Hub Highlight - Advancing Beef Leaders Program

TNQ Drought Hub Technical Adoption Officer Keerah Steele has recently travelled to Brisbane to graduate from the prestigious Advancing Beef Leaders (ABL) program. Being part of the 2022/23 cohort, Keerah experienced firsthand the transformative power of this tailored leadership initiative focused on the personal growth and advancement of aspiring producers and community influencers.

ABL is designed to enhance professional development by equipping individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in both community and industry roles. 

Read about Keerah’s experience.

Agtech Insights 

Welcome to our new segment, AgTech Insights. We’re dedicated to sharing advancements and initiatives in AgTech that foster resilience and adaptive capacities.

Connectivity:

  • Telstra is making progress with their plans to employ low-earth orbit satellite (LEO Sat) services – they’re working with OneWeb to upgrade remote base station backhaul and with Starlink for voice and voice + data services. You won’t be able to make a telephone call from the paddock, but you will be able to access high speed internet around your home.
  • Optus is also progressing with LEO Sat services through a partnership with SpaceX, planning to offer direct-to-handset communications via satellites. By the end of 2024, customers should be able to use a regular 4G handset to send text messages via satellite, with voice set to be available by 2025 and data available by the end of 2026. It’s important to note that these technologies have not been fully tested yet and have several limitations, but we are watching the space with interest.
  • The recently released 2023 Australian Digital Inclusion Index provides insights into the state of digital inclusivity across the country. The report notes that more work is needed to support equitable outcomes and better access for those regional and remote communities most in need. To help address this, the TNQ Drought Hub is continuing our efforts to improve Connectivity Literacy – the knowledge needed to get connected and stay connected – by supporting producers in the adoption of connectivity solutions.

Podcasts and Webinars

  • The latest episode of the AgTech So What podcast delves into the effects of climate change on the agricultural sector, highlighting the challenges experienced by both farmers and ag retailers, and underlines the significance of efficient forecasting and open information exchange between these two groups.
  • The new AgTech Finder Podcast is a valuable resource for understanding the implications of emerging technologies in the agriculture industry. Episode 1 discusses connectivity and Episode 2 focuses on remote sensors.
  • The Expanded Horizons webinar by Dr John James explored how ChatGPT can be used in extension, where this tech going and how to make the most of it while being aware of its limitations.
  • The NFF Australian Farm Data Code webinar discusses changes in the Code, industry data stewardship, and providers certification

Know someone who wants to be involved?

What’s Next?

Check out our Events calendar to see what’s happing in the agricultural industry around Tropical North Queensland and throughout the country. Some upcoming events to keep an eye out on are;

What's Happened...

Here’s what the TNQ Hub team have been up to this month.

GroWQ Ag Innovation Expo, 13 July

Hub Director David Phelps and Knowledge Broker Rachel Hay were in Longreach this month for the GroWQ Ag Innovation Expo. With over 180 attendees, 24 speakers and 30 trade displays, the expo provided plenty of opportunities to improve business management and practices and build relationships. Rachel was invited to speak on the Little Innovations, Big Differences panel where they discussed mapping, thermal tech and connectivity literacy.

Developing Northern Australia Conference, 24 – 26 July

With the concept of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) gaining more and more traction in the agriculture industry, the hub’s Senior Research Officer, Ana Carla Leite De Almeida was invited to present at this year’s DNA Conference. Ana’s research and role within the hub has led to her developing educational materials for producers and growers to better understand the ESG framework and how it applies to their farm. These materials will be available be publicly soon.

Our Knowledge Adoption Officer, Carrie-Ann Wilson was also invited to present and share her PhD research into agtech adoption decisions. As producers try to navigate rapidly changing technological advancements, effective decision-making is required. But the complexities of the agtech market are a significant barrier. Carrie’s PhD and hub role, aim to understand and support decision-making in agtech adoption by producers

Apply Now! Grants, Programs amd EOI's

  • The AgriFutures Australia Agritech Event Sponsorship Program offers an opportunity for agritech developers, event organizers, and research organizations to receive a sponsorship grant. With a focus on promoting Australian agritech and agricultural innovation, this program seeks to foster commercialisation opportunities, attract investment, and elevate the profile of Australian agritech enterprises. Applicants can nominate to receive funding of $50,000 or $25,000 each to host events between 30 September 2023 and 28 February 2024. Find out more.
  • The Agribusiness Digital Solutions Grants Scheme aims to improve the resilience of the agribusiness sector or primary production industries by supporting industry organisations to implement digital technologies and systems that increase preparedness for future disruptions and risks related to biosecurity, climate and food safety. Co-contribution grants of up to $100,000 are being offered to support projects which result in the trialling and adoption of digital technologies into supply chains within agricultural, fishery or forestry industries in Queensland. Find out more.
  • The Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) Small & Vital stream gives small remote, rural and regional communities across Australia the opportunity to access funds for a broad range of initiatives that directly and clearly benefit local communities. Grants up to $10,000 are available for a broad range of grassroots, community-led initiatives that directly and clearly benefit local communities that strengthen local people, places and climate solutions, with a preference for smaller communities (populations under 15,000). Find out more.
  • The Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) Prepare & Recover program supports communities in remote, rural and regional communities across Australia to implement initiatives that prevent and prepare for future climate related impacts, or recover from existing disasters in the medium to long-term timeframe, generally one to ten years after the disaster. Grants up to $25,000 are available for a broad range of initiatives to strengthen the capacity and capability of local people, organisations, networks, and systems that help communities to be informed, skilled, connected and resourced for the future. Find out more. 
  • Membership is now Free for the Institute of Community Directors Australia (ICDA). The ICDA is Australia’s best-practice governance network for not-for-profit boards, committees, councils, schools, and the senior staff who work alongside them – providing ideas and advice for community leaders. Find out more. 
  • The Queensland Renewable Energy Landholders Toolkit is now available to support landholders considering hosting a renewable energy project on their property. This toolkit can help landholders negotiate mutually beneficial land-sharing agreements, and allows landholders to make confident, informed decisions regarding their land usage. Find out more. 
  • The Accelerating Female Founders Program is delivering a diverse range of initiatives to female founders across Queensland, to support every stage of their innovation journey, and their participation in key industries and technologies. Find out more. 

The TNQ Hub can provide Letters of Support (LoS) to assist with your application. Please email details of your application and how it applies to future drought resilience to tnqhub@jcu.edu.au and we will supply a LoS if applicable.

Are you looking for funding to enable your idea to become a reality? Visit the following Regional Development Australia initiative to find grants available in the TNQ Drought Hub region.

TNQ Hub has worked with our NRM Node and industry partners to develop regional priorities. These are a useful resource in writing grant applications. 

TNQ Drought Hub Nodes

Resources

James Cook University has introduced the Irrigation Rapid Assessment Tool (i-RAT) tool to help cane farmers compare various irrigation management options and optimize water usage. The tool is designed to to see how small, medium, and large changes in irrigation management can increase profit, save water, and reduce energy cost. To use i-RAT, you can create an account on https://i-rat.net using an email address.

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