Newsletter #18: September 2023

The National Drought Forum was held in Rockhampton on the 26th September. Co-hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the National Farmers’ Federation, this event invited close to 200 organisations who contribute to Australia’s drought response, preparedness, and resilience. We thank the organisers for ensuring there was good representation from the TNQ region.

A key topic for discussion was the Bureau of Meteorology declaration that Australia is in an El Nino climate pattern. The Bureau’s presentation at the forum highlighted the importance of checking what this means for your own location, using tools such as the BoM website, the Climate app, My Climate View and the Long Paddock website. Whilst general advice is available everywhere in the media, on social media and at your local watering hole, it is crucial to understand the probabilities for rainfall, heatwaves and drought conditions for your own location. The potential impact at Mackay is very different from Weipa or Cloncurry, and will also vary from one farm to another.

Other resources which can help understand potential impacts include the Long Paddock MyForage tool to track ground, cover, pasture growth, and long-term carry capacity at both property- and paddock-scales, and MLA members can access similar information through the CIBO Labs Australian Feedbase Monitor. If you are in an area with increasing fire risk, you may wish to look at the fire history and current fires using the North Australia and Rangelands Fire Information website

TNQ Drought Hub Director David Phelps

It’s also worth while learning more about the Regional Drought Resilience Planning that our Program Lead Allan Dale has been supporting for the Cape York and Torres Strait and Burdekin and Charters Towers regions. These plans were announced by Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt at the National Drought Forum where all eight other Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs were involved with important discussions about the future of federal drought policy.

You can learn more about other work the Future Drought Fund is doing to providing secure, continuous funding for drought resilience initiatives. 

One of our key priorities over the next 6-8 weeks is to work with the Future Drought Fund, our stakeholders and community to identify key areas for investment over the next four years.

Until next time, Keep safe and well,

David Phelps,
Director

Sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Enterprise Program

“Our seasons are either not enough or have an excess of water. They are the forever-changing patterns of Country on which our life source depends.” Cairns artist and cultural practitioner, Bernard Lee Singleton.

Bana Mundu (Water is a Spirit) was commissioned by the hub as a way to capture and explore the concept of drought through the themes of Water, Wet/Dry Seasons, Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Perspectives on Environmental Impacts.

The artwork was launched at the Queensland Connects Disaster Resilience Workshop in Cairns, which brings together key rural and regional stakeholders to discuss opportunities for building community resilience in the face of flood and drought. 

Read more about the launch.

Help improve national soil knowledge and capability in 20 minutes

We all understand that healthy soils are fundamentally linked to strong regional communities through their connections to agriculture and the environment, which is a key focus of the Smart Soils Community of Practice and the National Soil Strategy.

We need your help! To improve soil health and strengthen soil knowledge and capability, we need to understand current gaps in soil knowledge, management, adoption and extension practices better. If you work with soils, your input is crucial to this better understanding.

If you are a farmer, land manager, consultant, advisor, grower group, scientist, extension officer or someone working in soils, please complete this 20-minute survey and help inform the design and delivery of targeted soil interventions. 

Click here to complete the survey.

Commercialisation and Agricultural Innovation

We welcome our new program lead for Commercialisation and Agricultural Innovation, Tony Matchett. Tony has been involved in northern Australia crop research for the past 15 years. His mission is to convert research outcomes and new innovations into commercial opportunities for growers and their communities in the north.

“I am excited about contributing to the TNQ Drought Hub and creating a lasting impact on the agricultural community. Embracing challenges and thriving in demanding environments are second nature to me, especially when it involves collaborating with industry partners to achieve mutual benefit and success. Having gained invaluable experience working in both self-employed ventures and with prominent Agribusiness Companies across Australia, my focus has always been on problem-solving, innovation, and delivering measurable results.”

The Commercialisation and Agricultural Innovation Program continues the work to drive agricultural innovation in our region.

You can contact Tony on 0438 482 728 or tony.matchett@jcu.edu.au 

EOI for Gulf Savannah Producer Group for Beef Businesses

Join our Producer Group for Beef Businesses and discover the power of data-driven decision-making.

We are looking for producers in the Gulf Savannah region who want to learn how data-driven decision-making can lead to better outcomes, more informed strategies and improved overall performance.

Participants will have opportunities to collaborate, exchange experiences, and share best practices with each other. This collective knowledge sharing will help strengthen the group’s and regions resilience.

To find out more and register your interest, please complete the Expression of Interest form or contact Keerah Steele on keerah.steele@gulfsavannahnrm.org or 0457 621 370.

Hub Highlight - Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Grant Scheme Recipients Announced

Four major projects will share in $350,000 of grant funding that will boost the agricultural sector’s resilience against drought and climate variability in northern Queensland.

Congratulations to the following lead organisations;

  • Gulf Savannah NRM for exploring perceptions and best practice adoption of silvopastoral systems as a strategy for drought resilience in the Northern Gulf
  • James Cook University for evaluating the drivers of persistent bare soil in the Southern Gulf to inform rehabilitation and build drought resilience
  • Southern Gulf NRM for satellite based water analysis and drought planning in northwest Qld
  • Terrain Natural Resource Management for building drought resilience and feed capacity of pastures in North Queensland

Agtech Insights 

Welcome back to AgTech Insights! We continue to explore the latest developments, news, and opportunities in agricultural technology to enhance the resilience of ag in TNQ.

Trends & Insights

  • AgTech & VC: The need for a different playbook in AgTech venture funding was highlighted by Tenacious Ventures after the recent downfall of a highly capitalised company. The article proposes that perhaps throwing vast amounts of capital (as is typical in Silicon Valley) at the problem is not the solution to achieving farmer adoption. This underscores the importance of understanding the nuanced factors that drive adoption in agriculture, which often differ significantly from other sectors. Read more.
  • Generative AI: Farmers are finding interesting ways to use tools like ChatGPT – in this recent episode of AgTech So What podcast, a farmer from the USA discusses how powerful it is for assisting with negotiation and interpersonal dynamics. Read more.

Podcasts and Docu-Series

  • AgTechFinder Podcast: Recent episodes shed light on areas like geospatial mapping, farm safety, plant sensors and irrigation, animal health and nutrition, and spray advisory. Learn more.
  • The AgTech Revolution Docu-Series: The latest episodes cover internet of things (IoT) solutions such as sensors, efficient water use, and artificial intelligence. Learn more.

New Technology

  • Weed Detection Sprayer by JCU: A collaboration with agricultural technology company Auto Weed and Sugar Research Australia, this AI-powered machine detects and sprays weeds in cane fields. It offers promising reductions in herbicide costs. Read more.
  • Queensland AgTech company SwarmFarm’ has launched its new ‘dock and refill’ technology for robots to autonomously refill and refuel. A step forward for integrated automation in farming. Read more.

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.

Northern Australia Climate Program (NACP) Meeting, 4 - 6 September

Director, David Phelps in partnership with the Northern Hub and SQNNSW Hub recently presented at the Northern Australia Climate Program (NCAP) where they discussed the levels of resilience (individual property/agribusiness, town and community, and regional) needed for a business to be successful and how resilience is enhanced through social, economic and environmental capital.

NACP delivers innovative research, development and extension outcomes to improve the capacity of the red meat industry in managing drought and climate risk across northern Australia and we are proud to be working with them and supporting our region. Find out more.

SAAFE CRC Launch and AMR Solutions Summit, 18 – 21 September

Program Lead Yvette Everingham was invited to present on the work the hub is doing and how it aligns with the National Agricultural Innovation Agenda at the recent launch of Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Solving Antimicrobial Resistance in Agribusiness, Food and Environments (SAAFE) in Adelaide.

SAAFE will address the impacts of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) on Australia’s agribusinesses, conducting research aligned with Australia’s National AMR Strategy. AMR is internationally recognized as a global crisis, projected to cost the global economy US$100 trillion and cause 10 million deaths p.a. by 2050. AMR is a critical challenge for food and agribusinesses as they rely on effective antimicrobials to treat disease and illness. AMR threatens animal health and welfare, sector productivity, food security, export markets access, and the environment. SAAFE will improve the monitoring of AMR risks, develop new treatment solutions, and provide actionable insights for all industry stakeholders.

Image: Professor Yvette Everingham (left) at the SAAFE launch 

Australian Rangeland Society Conference 19 - 21 September

A group of TNQ Hub sponsored land holders and hub staff attended the biennial Australian Rangeland Society Conference in Broome earlier in September. Director David Phelps’ passion for Mitchell Grass was on full display with his poster presentation on “Mitchell Grass response to moisture stress and defoliation”.

Dr David Gallacher, Knowledge Broker for the Northern Hub presented on the “Managing Rangelands for Drought Resilience” project which is a collaboration between six drought hubs that showcases technologies and techniques that use mapping to improve rangeland management across the breadth of Australia’s rangeland environments.

Complimenting this project, was a presentation by TNQ Drought Hub Scholarship recipient Lucy Gardener who is working alongside several James Cook University researchers and Southern Gulf NRM on the “Rapid Assessment of Mitchell Grass on Southern Gulf Rangelands using Drone Imagery and Machine Learning”, where we are trialing satellite-based technology can be used to predict rangeland ground cover and inform stocking decisions.

A big congratulations to Lucy who also won the Best Early Career Presentation Prize which was sponsored by CSIRO – Publishing, on behalf of The Rangeland Journal. It was a well deserved win for an outstanding and engaging presentation. 

Image: Lucy Gardener presenting

National Drought Policy Forum, 26 September

It was a privilege for the hub to be involved in the National Drought Forum hosted by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the National Farmers’ Federation in Rockhampton last week.

The Forum involved panel sessions, workshops and discussions on the future of drought policy across Australia. Partners and stakeholders shared ideas and exchanged knowledge with the aim of creating a sustainable and resilient agricultural industry and communities in the face of an ever-changing climate.

Senator the Hon Murray Watt, took the opportunity to announce the first five Regional Drought Resilience Plans for Queensland (Fitzroy and Capricornia, Darling Downs, Burdekin and Charters Towers, Torres Strait and Cape York and South West Queensland) have been finalised to ensure Queensland is better prepared for the next drought.

The forum also allowed the eight Drought Hub Directors to meet and discuss the Productivity Commission’s review of the Future Drought Fund which reported positively on the hubs and reccommended that funding be extended by another two years followed by a mid-term review of their performance.

Image: L-R TNQ Hub Director David Phelps, Senator the Hon Murray Watt and TNQ Hub Program Communications Emily Harrington

Apply Now! Grants, Programs amd EOI's

  • National Farmer Priorities Survey: This survey, led by the National Farmers’ Federation, aims to better understand the pressures facing farmers to ensure a strong industry voice on key issues. Take a moment to have your say for your chance to share in $2,000 worth of prizes. Complete the survey
  • Advance Queensland Ignite Program: Apply for grants of $50,000 to $75,000 (excluding GST) to advance the development of an innovative product or service closer to market. This program particularly aims to drive prototypes towards an advanced stage, thoroughly tested, endorsed by customers, and poised for commercialisation. Submit your EOI by 11am on 31 October 2023. 
  • CitrusWatch is looking for volunteers to set up sticky traps in their garden to help protect against the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and other pests. The national 5-year program aims to protect the Australian citrus industry from harmful exotic pests. Register your interest here

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. 

Resources

The Drought Ready Facebook Group is a dynamic and supportive community that actively works towards building resilience in the face of drought. Engage with community members, experts, and leaders from all over the country who are actively involved in drought preparedness. Gain valuable insights, discover effective strategies, and learn from real-life experiences shared by individuals and communities who have successfully navigated the challenges of drought. This network is funded under the FDF Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative.

TNQ Drought Hub Nodes

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From the Director I recently attended a Native Foods and Botanicals Forum in Rockhampton. There was enthusiastic interaction between people

June AgTech Insights

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