Newsletter #15: June 2023

In case you haven’t heard, we recently announced and opened the Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Grants. We are looking for great ideas that contribute to building drought resilience across our region!

We will fund up to $100,000 for each project that can demonstrate tangible benefits to one or more of our regional priorities. Applications close Sunday 2nd July 2023 so make sure you get you application in.

An interim report has been released that examines the impact of the Future Drought Fund and its activities that support drought resilience. The findings suggest that the hubs are contributing to drought resilience and that we should continue to be funded. This is great to hear after spending the last two years building the hub, it’s networks and drought resilience activities. You can read the report here.

We have several upcoming events supporting our region to become more resilient.

We recently held our second internal forum where we brought together the 30 plus extended team members and heard from behavioural science specialists, ag innovation experts and the Royal Flying Doctor Service Queensland. These forums allow our team to build their knowledge and skills around resilience to take back to the community as part of their roles.

Don’t forget you can build on your own knowledge on climate and understanding of extension though our Industry Expert videos series

This year’s Science to Practice forum was rounding success for the hub as we had three key presentations and two videos debut. It’s fantastic to see the entire agricultural community, from producers through to government come together and share what steps they are taking to prepare for future drought. If you missed out, you can find out more about the forum here.

Thank you for taking the time to catch up on what the hub has been up to. If you have any questions about the hub, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Keep safe and well,

David Phelps, Director

TNQ Drought Hub Director, David Phelps

Agricultural Innovation Program

We are excited to be working with James Cook University researchers to help them move their research ideas that could improve agricultural adaption, sustainability and resilience towards Proof of Concept, prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) development.

Sandpit to Seed funding aims to support projects, technologies and developments that will have a genuine impact on building resilience within Tropical North Queensland. 

So far we have provided over $200,000 of funding to the following research projects including:

  • Clean Meat: Accelerating clean fish-meat production at scale in the lab (Image L-R A/Prof Lionel Hebbard, Luke Deacon and Dr Craig McFarlane)
  • Bug Radar: A radar capable of detecting pests and small birds approaching a farm
  • AutoFish: An automatic fish phenotyping tool for sustainable aquaculture and smart fisheries

Hub Highlight

Our Knowledge Broker Rachel Hay, has been busy gaining knowledge and strengthening relationships across the region by attending several community and industry events. Here, she shares her thoughts…

At the AgForce Central Queensland AgTech Innovation Day held at Malden Station, it was clear from the number of people that attended that AgTech in the bush is a very hot topic. Remote water sensing, security monitoring, farm business and animal management tech was all on show and well received. The Telco’s were there too. While there have been big advances in RRR connectivity infrastructure and access to satellite products, it is clear that consumers are still having trouble getting connected, staying connected and using their connection. The questions on the day were great, they all had simple, effective and existing solutions… if your having trouble understanding the changes, head over to the Regional Tech Hub, a free independent service to help you get connected and stay connected. You can keep up to date with what the the TNQ Drought Hub is doing with agtech here.

The Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance 3rd Annual Indigenous Disaster Resilience forum also highlighted connectivity as an issue on the Cape. The forum was full day of relevant and important presentations, with an award announcement thrown in. Narelle Dukes of Cook Shire received the award for Excellence in Disaster Management presented by Inspector-General Alistair Dawson. Pip Schroor was also farewelled as she headed off to her new role as CEO of Cape York NRM. The forum highlighted needs around disaster communication mapping, cross regional digital partnerships and work around digital literacy, psychological first aid training, biosecurity, increasing volunteerism, and the need to fill the workforce shortage for preparation and response to disaster resilience… if you want to learn more or help out visit the TCICA website.

The TNQ Hub hosted the Queensland Parliament – State Development and Regional Industries Committee – Climate Change and Agricultural Production Inquiry, which aims to examine the impacts of climate change on Queensland’s agricultural production and the risks and future risks of climate variability on the sector, and what opportunities and practices the sector can undertake to instigate resilience and mitigation measures and prepare for climate variability.  I along with Distinguished Professor Stewart Lockie and Professor of Data Science Yvette Everingham discussed regional priorities, agtech and climate change tools and projects and the theme around rural regional and remote connectivity continued.  The team has since followed up some enquiries linking farmers to research and information.  The Committee really enjoyed Rainstick’s showcase on electrically charged mushrooms and a tour of the Climate Controlled Glasshouses and the TropOz Experimental Facility (contact at the JCU Cairns campus.

It was good to spend time and hear about the good work of the North Queensland Beef Research Council at their recent stakeholder update meeting. There are plenty of good things going on within the group including methane research (CSIRO), pasture resilience (DAF), student placements and legume research (JCU), encapsulated herbicide for woody weeds, a fly for Siam weed, a state wide deer program and preparedness for swine fever (Biosecurity), the NB2 program (MLA) and much more.  It is always good to share the latest updates and learn about the attitudes and challenges associated with sustainability in the beef industry.

I always love to go to Darwin. This time it was for the Northern Australia Food Futures Conference where industry, research, government and producers gathered to explore northern agricultural opportunities. There was a lot to learn! The highlights included:

  • supply chain responses to the COP21 Paris Agreement,
  • the carbon cycle in Ag and concepts of carbon accounting
  • the Ag Innovation Australia know and show carbon footprint solution (Richard Eckard).
  • Thiago Barbosa from Syntopic Solutions presentation on natural climate solutions e.g., protect, manage, restore tree planting
  • Lara Wilde, from the Food Manufacturing Hub and the FNQ Food Incubator about putting the farm in the bottle

There was so much more.  It was wonderful to see so many businesses from QLD represented at the conference.  It is definitely one for next years calendar, well done NT Farmers!

You’ll see me at a few more upcoming events such as the GroWQ Innovation Expo so make sure you come say hi and have a chat about what the hub is doing and how we can help you. 

AgForce Central Queensland AgTech Innovation Day
Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance 3rd Annual Indigenous Disaster Resilience forum
State Development and Regional Industries Committee - Climate Change and Agricultural Production Inquiry
North Queensland Beef Research Council
Northern Australia Food Futures Conference

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.

Advance Queensland: Queensland Connects Program, 12 May

Director David is participating in the Queensland Connects Program as part of the Disaster Resilience cohort. The program aims to solve a challenge or unlock key opportunities that will help connect and grow a region or industry.

David will use his knowledge of drought resilience to help guide his cohort through the workshops over the next 6 months.

National Indigenous Carbon Forum, 16 – 17 May

Our sustainable indigenous enterprise program supported the forum which allowed for discussions and knowledge sharing about the Indigenous carbon industry and carbon market updates.

It also explored emerging carbon accounting opportunities for Indigenous land and sea managers.

Rotary FNQ Field Days, 24 – 26 May

Several of the team attended the field days in Mareeba to meet with producers and the community so they could talk all things soils health and to capture any on-farm problems.

As it turns out many of the samples tested by our Soils Coordinator Dhiraj Gajera, indicated high levels of soil biology, which is a key indicator for soil health. 

The team was also able to capture some pinch points for farmers in the region. As we collate each problem statement, we can start to address the issues that are amplified for the region. Got a problem? Make sure you tell your local DRC so they can include it in the project, where we will try to match it to existing or new solutions or bring it to the attention of our research teams.

We were also lucky to have the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, FNQ Food Incubators and James Cook University student ambassadors with us to share information about different opportunities for the community.

National Soils Coordinator visit, 29 – 30 May

Knowledge Broker Rachel Hay and Regional Soils Coordinator Dhiraj Gajera hosted the National Soil Science Extension Team Coordinator Abby Jenkins on a recent trip to TNQ.

The group visited several farms around Mareeba, Tully and Mission Beach area who have improved their soils health and productivity through innovative mulching and composting.

Farmers told the team that they are keen to engage in more composting and mulching trials, but that it’s hard to find funding and or resources to do so. We’ll keep this in mind when we are talking with funding providers to see if we can amplify this problem statement.

It was exciting to see how healthy soil can reduce fertiliser use and increase moisture in the soil, while at the same time it can also decrease waterlogging buy encouraging the roots to move to the surface and grow within the mulch.

Northern Beef Producers Expo, 2 – 3 June

The hub sponsored the Charters Towers Northern Beef Producers Expo and presented our Environmental, Social and Governance, and Digital Engagement activities to attendees. 

We shared how the hub can help them build resilience through these activities which includes analyzing your property to see what opportunities and tools are out there to increase productivity. It also provided an opportunity for us to talk to students about agricultural career paths through James Cook University. 

Terrain NRM Soils to Food Conference, 3 – 4 June

The hub also sponsored the Soils to Food Conference in Atherton where Regional Soils Coordinator Dhiraj was a guest speaker.

Attendees were treated to a dinner under the stars, a paddock walk through a farm that had stopped using fertilisers and pesticides and had discussions around emerging industries and new business opportunities such as soil credits, growing hemp and land to market verification

Tropical Innovation Festival, 5 – 9 June

Regional Soils Coordinator Dhiraj, Adoption Officer Keerah and Senior Research Officer Ana attended Hub Node, Reef Catchments’ Annual Innovative Grazing Forum to meet with the community and see first-hand the progressive learnings, experiences and demonstrations aimed at evolving the regions’ grazing.

The three-day forum included a conference and two field trips that included forage and pasture trials and examples of practice change in farm management.

Richmond Field Days and Races, 9 – 10 June

Knowledge Broker Rachel Hay, Regional Soils Coordinator Dhiraj Gajera and hub Coordinator Emily Harrington attended the fields days with Southern Gulf NRM.

Dhiraj was able to test several different soil samples from different properties to see what level the microbes were. The testing was very popular and goes to show that even though the soil might not look ‘healthy’, it still can be.

Apply Now! Grants, Programs amd EOI's

  • Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Grants. The TNQ Drought Hub is seeking eligible applicants to work with to build drought resilience across the TNQ region. The Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Grants scheme will fund up to $100,000 (GST exclusive) for each project that can demonstrate tangible benefits to one or more of the TNQ Drought Hub Priorities. Find out more.
  • Workforce Advisory Survey. Career advisors and educators are being asked for their valuable insights to help shape the future of agricultural education and career guidance. Take part in the Workforce Advisory Survey to help Central Queensland University understand perceptions, knowledge, and needs regarding careers in agriculture. Complete the survey.
  • Farm Business Resilience Program (FBRP) for horticultural growers. Growcom is assisting horticultural growers to identify gaps in their current farm management systems and develop plans that support growth and aid in mitigating the impacts of future droughts. The program is available until June 2024. 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 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. 

Fletcherview Research Station

TNQ Drought Hub Nodes


The UQ With You initiative is a service providing high quality, no-cost, short term counselling services to support community members. UQ With You aims to provide support for individuals locally, as well as across Australia, that are impacted by mental health concerns. This telehealth and in-person service is provided at our on-campus clinic, as well as video counselling over Zoom or via the phone. 

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November AgTech Insights

November AgTech Insights Welcome back to AgTech Insights! We continue to explore the latest developments, news, and opportunities in agricultural