Newsletter #19: October 2023

It was fantastic to hear Senator Murray Watt’s announcement this week at the National Farmers Federation Conference around a 12-month funded extension for all eight drought hubs. This means we have more secured time to continue delivering the on-ground activities and programs we have started.

It’s great timing because the Future Drought Fund has also just announced they are seeking feedback to inform the next Funding Plan and Investment Strategy. Find out more about the consultation forums. 

One thing that we’ve all been hearing a lot about in the media is heatwaves. We tend to think about going to the beach or swimming or staying inside in the aircon to look after our own health. But what about the health of our crops and animals who can’t just ‘go inside’?

The Bureau of Meteorology defines a heatwave “when the maximum and minimum temperatures are unusually hot over 3 days”. This is compared to the local climate and past weather.

TNQ Drought Hub Director David Phelps

We know that heat stress increases the death rates of calves and that crop yields are reduced due to reduced growth and the time it takes to recover. With predictions that heatwaves are only going to get worse in our changing climate, we need to be thinking about changing and enhancing our current practices. This could be changing to a seed variation that is more heat and drought tolerant or introducing genes or crossbreeds of cattle that graze earlier or later in the day.

We have been working with Southern Gulf NRM to investigate climate data in their region through a climate data trend analysis that uses 60 years of historical data from post offices and/or airports which focuses on several parameters including minimum and maximum temperatures and explores heatwaves to see how many days in a row had temperatures exceeded various thresholds. This information will help inform their future NRM strategy to enhance decision-making and resource planning related to caring for animals during extreme heatwaves, and design of new projects such as choosing locations or demonstration sites to ensure the range of climate variability in the region is captured.

We are also working with Reef Catchments and NQ Dry Tropics using the same climate modelling approach to identify different climate zones to help inform decisions on where weather stations and any future drought related monitoring and assessment projects are located so that activities and resources are spread across different climate zones. Thank you to Data Scientist Dr Ben Jarihani for his climate data modelling and analysing expertise.

Until next time, Keep safe and well,

David Phelps,

Scholarship Recipient Milestone updates

Our current scholarship recipients are on their way to reaching their first milestones where they were asked to provide a summary of any key findings from their projects.

Declan Cargill’s study aimed to optimize a drone survey method for precise digital terrain modeling in gullied savanna rangelands, found that that camera angles of 70° and 80° consistently produced the most accurate drone-derived digital terrain models which can help with practical applications in optimizing drone survey workflows, erosion monitoring, catchment hydrology analysis, and land condition assessment.

Jacob Vallely’s study focused on the growth and assimilation of the Bush food industry into the mainstream Australian food market, emphasizing the underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals in this sector and the protection of their traditional knowledge. It identifies challenges including a historical fear of exploitation, inconsistencies in organic materials, and issues related to supply and demand dynamics.

Learn more about their findings and our other scholarship recipients. 


October is Indigenous Business Month

October is Indigenous Business Month, a nation-wide event held that shines a light on the growing number of successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses delivering high-quality, value for money products and services across all sectors in Queensland.

TNQ Drought Hub was invited to attend the Indigenous Small Business Month celebrations in Bamaga, held in partnership with the Department of Youth Justice, Employment, Small Business and Training and the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.

Hub Sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Enterprise program coordinator Jennifer McHugh said, “It’s invaluable attending events like this so the hub can learn about the opportunities and challenges directly from remote communities in the Cape and Torres Strait.”

Image: Noel Parkash NAB, local artist Normie Young, Charlene Benson NAB and Dev Lengjel – Arts Centre Manage

Burdekin AgInspiration Program Inspires the Next Generation

Twenty-three students from Home Hill State High School recently embarked on an eye-opening journey through North Queensland’s key agricultural industries, thanks to a new initiative delivered in partnership with the hub and AgForce School to Industry Partnership Program.

The AgInspiration program and TNQ Drought Hub partnership was piloted in Cooktown in April this year. The program aims to shed light on the promising and vast careers in agribusiness and introduce high school students to the various pathways on offer.

TNQ Drought Hub Program Lead, Jane Oorschot said the program provided Year 10 and 11 students with the opportunity to engage first-hand with experts in the agricultural field.

“The agricultural industry is continually evolving and changing, and as the saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’,” said Dr Oorschot.

Read more.

Image: Home Hill State High School students and tour group at North Queensland Fresh in Bowen

Congratulations to our Governance Essentials graduates

Congratulations to our 11 Governance Essentials participants who graduated last week.

The program aimed to equip participants with a better understanding of management committee duties and responsibilities, boost their confidence, and enhance their leadership abilities as part of an ongoing effort to build resilient communities.

On the program, graduating participant Aimee Smith said, “This was the first formal governance training I’ve participated in after already being on management committees. As I was working through the course, I thought this is really useful when questions have come up in board meetings, especially to do with conflicts of interests and how to manage that in small communities.”

Read more.

Indigenous Food and Business Expo - 15 November

TNQ Drought Hub is again proud to be a partner organisation for the Indigenous Food and Business Expo on the 15th November 1-6pm, Pier Marketplace, Cairns.

The 2023 expo provides an opportunity for Indigenous Owned Businesses to showcase their products including artists, Native foods, and programs and services, to meet corporate, government and local buyers, to build business capabilities, and to hear about factors impacting on the Indigenous business sector.

Read more.

Enhancing People Management Skills with Australian Women in Agriculture

59 participants from across Queensland took place in a transformative online People Management Series run by Building Human Capacity Program Lead, Dr Jane Oorschot. The series with ran from June to early September delved into the critical facets of managing personnel, offering invaluable insights to participants.

Feedback from the series has been overwhelmingly positive, with one participant expressing gratitude for the insightful leadership meetings and AWIA President Natalie Sommerville commenting on how much she had enjoyed the series.

Read more

Hub Highlights

DAFF join TNQ Drought Hub for regional visit

Following the National Drought Forum held in Rockhampton last month, five Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) representatives joined members of the TNQ Drought Hub on a two-day road trip from Rockhampton to Mackay with the aim of learning more about the local challenges faced by those in the region.

Hub Director David Phelps said they were thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase some innovative approaches and solutions to drought-resilience in the region. 

Read more.

TNQ producers gain deeper understanding of rangelands and cropping management through sponsorship opportunity

The TNQ Drought Hub sponsored a group of producers and staff to be a part of a field trip across the Northern Territory and Western Australia and attend the biennial Australian Rangeland Society Conference held in Broome last month.

Jennay Delacour from Eveleigh Station, Mount Surprise said it was a great opportunity to network and share knowledge and noted the conference encouraged her to ‘think bigger’ about what she could implement on her own property.

Read more.

Agtech Insights 

Read the latest edition of AgTech Insights on our website, where we look into:

  • Generative AI continues to evolve, offering more innovative potential within agriculture – for producers, extension officers and others involved in the sector.
  • Upcoming 3G Closures – Telcos are transitioning to newer mobile technologies, leading to the shutdown of 3G networks.
  • podcasts and webinars that discuss livestock management and traceability technologies, big ideas on the future of food and agriculture and emerging technologies for livestock methane mitigation

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.

Forewarned is Forearmed, 3 October

Growers and producers from the Mareeba region gathered to explore the use of climate forecasting tools to support on-farm decision-making. Growcom, in collaboration with Gulf Savannah NRM and the TNQ Drought Hub delivered the workshop with presenters from the Drought and Climate Adaptation Program, Climate Services for Agriculture, Rural Financial Counselling Service North Queensland and QRIDA.

The presenters discussed ways for the industry and community to prepare for dealing with extreme weather events using new forecasting tools, improving understanding of how to interpret forecasts and probability and use them for decision-making, and protecting businesses, crops and family with more confident decision-making and action using farm business resilience planning.

Growcom’s Resilience Manager Karen George remarked on how initiatives like Forewarned is Forearmed is designed to empower growers to make confident decisions.

“Every farm is different, but with the ability to interpret forecasting tools, knowledge and resources on resilience planning, individual growers can make the best decisions in protecting their crops and strengthening their farm against risk,” Karen said.

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

Grazing Business Roadshow, 10 -  20 October

Six grazing business roadshows were held this month by Gulf Savannah NRM to help identify and start working through grazing business challenges.

Representatives from the TNQ Drought Hub, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rural Flying Doctor Service, Rural Financial Counselling Service & Gulf Savannah NRM were available to support landholders in preparing and planning how to grow their business resilience.

Landholders were able to learn about key drought strategies, tech adoption, property disaster management plans, grants for community groups and using climate forecasting tools for decision-making as well as accessing mental health and other support. 

The roadshows also provided the opportunity for the hub to pilot its Technology & Innovation Engagement Tool, which will help landholders to better understand how technology and innovation can best be applied on-farm. The tool asks a series of ‘where you are now’ and ‘where you want to be’ questions and develops a report that shows where your business could benefit from technology, innovation or investment in time and research into certain areas.

Regional Connectivity Literacy Roundtable, 12 October

Knowledge Broker Rachel Hay was invited to attend the Regional Connectivity Literacy Roundtable, hosted by the NFF Regional Tech Hub in Sydney to be a part of the national conversation on helping regional communities get connected and stay connected to internet and phone services.

With agtech an important part of being innovative and building resilience, the need for a fast, reliable connection is vital. Rachel and other representative from community and industry organisations discussed current and future planned activities to address connectivity literacy levels for rural, regional and remote individuals, communities and businesses, gaps in those existing initiatives and programs and opportunities for collective action.

These include formal working groups on problems identified during the sessions for example how do we use natural helper networks to scale the RTH Help Desk and understanding the difference between connectivity literacy and digital literacy and inclusion, we’ll keep you posted on the outcomes.

Node Stakeholder Future Planning Workshop, 16 October

With the release of the Productivity Commission report on the Future Drought Fund last month, the hub held a Node stakeholder workshop in Cairns to continue planning for the future of the hub. Each partner shared their own strategic goals on drought resilience, their keys strengths and contributions to drought resilience and the support the hub can provide them to achieve a shared regional resilience. The group then discussed Future Drought Fund priorities and emerging themes and potential key programs that encompass all partners key priorities.

From here, further stakeholder consultation will continue to occur in the lead up to Christmas so the hub can provider a draft hub plan for the next round of funding from 2024 – 2028.

Apply Now! Grants, Programs amd EOI's

  • Small Network Grants are now available to community organisations in regional and rural Australia to develop and deliver one-off events or initiatives to strengthen community networks and capabilities that build drought preparedness. Find out more
  • Understanding which natural disasters or severe weather events are likely to occur in your area will help you prepare for events that are most likely to impact your business. learn how to prevent, prepare, respond, recover and communicate for a natural disaster. There is also a Small business disaster hub app to access this information offline and receive relevant alerts. Find out more.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and innovators can apply for support to develop and commercialise native food products. The Indigenous Native Food Program (INFP) program explores commercial opportunities for scalable Indigenous native foods businesses. Find out more.
  • Hort Innovation is seeking applications from suitably qualified researchers, entrepreneurs, startup/scaleup, SME, corporates for strategic research and development programs. The Program will invest in R&D which supports The Australian Protected Cropping Strategy 2021-2030. Five key investment themes (Sustainability, Advanced Agronomy, Market Development and Insights, Attracting and Retaining People and Identification, Evaluation and Adoption of Technology) will inform the programs approach. 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. 


Horticulture is a keystone in Australia’s economy. People will always need to eat fresh produce so there will always be the need for a prosperous industry. With an increasing population to feed, the horticulture industry is continuously innovating and expanding, making it an exciting and satisfying career with strong upward progression. Find out more.

Do know someone who is about to leave school or a young person who is looking to start a career in ag? AgCAREERSTART is looking for 17–25-year-olds for this unique gap-year program. They will be provided with a paid job, training and development, not to mention the opportunity to build networks within the agriculture industry. Applicants can indicate which farm type they’d prefer from a wide variety, and also where in Australia they would ideally like to go. A matching process is undertaken to ensure participants are assigned to the type of farms that match their interests and skills. Find out more.

TNQ Drought Hub Nodes

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