Newsletter #24: March 2024

What’s your favourite treat to buy for Easter?? A firm favourite of mine is the Chocolate Easter Bilby (which I’m sure to overindulge on over the weekend). The Easter Bilby represents our native wildlife, and also raises money to protect this endangered native animal.

Our understanding of the importance of native wildlife, their habitat and the role of biodiversity in maintaining productive and profitable landscapes continues to increase. PwC Australia estimate that a biodiversity market could unlock AU$137 billion in financial flows to Australia’s agriculture, real estate, tourism and hospitality industries by 2050. In the grazing lands across northern Australia, we know that BioCondition and Grazing Land condition are closely aligned, as both rely on healthy soils, productive pastures and functioning woodlands.

More opportunities for agriculture to diversify income at the same time as protecting native plants and animals are also opening up through a range of programs. These programs are being provided by a diverse range of private companies, industry groups, NRMs and government agencies. Some examples include:

TNQ Drought Hub Director David Phelps
  • Accounting for Nature: supporting transparent accountability to create value for nature
  • Cassowary Credits: a new biodiversity market scheme that was developed to increase investment into the Wet Tropics region for habitat restoration.
  • AgCarE: an evaluation of agriculture and natural capital on your property
  • NaturePlus: a biodiversity conservation scheme  
  • National Farmers Federation: Australian Agriculture Sustainability Framework

Queensland landholders can register their interest in earning income for providing environmental offsets with the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation. You can also contact your local Sustainable Agriculture Facilitators based with the Hub’s Natural Resource Management group Members.

We are proud to have the NRMs as key partners, as this combines their expertise of implementing biodiversity and natural resource management with the research skills of staff and students in JCU. It complements the sustainable agriculture work being conducted by our UQ partners, and agtech programs underway with our colleagues at CQUniversity. 

As the NRM Regions Queensland website reminds us, “we all rely on our environment for essential services such as food, water, clean air and a safe and regulated climate – alongside other crucial ecosystem services such as climate regulation, absorbing and transforming wastes, preventing disease and providing the genetic resources that are the basis for many medicines”. These are all crucial elements of resilience.

We will be sharing this message of resilience at Beef Australia 2024 in Rockhampton, May 5 – 11, along with JCU, a number of our NRM Members and a many of our key partners including agtech companies and CQ University. This year is set to be the biggest on record and we are excited to be hosting several free talks at the JCU Pavilion. You can learn more about our work, hear from a panel of experts about succession planning and meet several impressive JCU students who have made agriculture their life. Find out more about our presentations below.

I wish to congratulate our Knowledge Broker, Rachel Hay who was recently promoted to Associate Professor. Rachel is returning to a research career to allow her to focus on Connectivity and Digital Literacy in regional and remote Australia. She has already made an impact in this field, providing policy and implementation advice to the Australian and Queensland Governments, to Telstra, NBN Co and others. Rachel has published numerous academic papers and book chapters on this topic and will continue to contribute to better connectivity in the years to come.

As Knowledge Broker, Rachel has been at the heart of the Hub from the very first day. She was instrumental in identifying the opportunity and writing the grant that brought the Hub to life in its current form. Rachel’s unwavering passion and dedication to the agricultural industry, connectivity for rural and remote communities and expertise in adoption have ensured the TNQ Drought Hub is well placed to bring together farmers, Indigenous landholders, communities, researchers, industry and businesses to collaborate and co-design innovative approaches and solutions for drought resilience in TNQ.  We wish her all the best in her future research role. Every student who studies under Dr Rachel Hay will be much better for the experience.

Until next time, Happy Easter. Keep safe and well.

David Phelps

Beef Australia 2024

The TNQ Drought Hub team will be joining James Cook University and Fitzroy Basin Association at this year’s Beef Australia 2024 from 5 – 10 May at the Rockhampton Showgrounds.

Come meet the team and learn how we are working with Central, Western, North and Far North Queensland communities to build preparedness and resilience to future drought and climate variability.

Please join us for the following free presentations;


  • Tuesday 7 May, 12:00pm – 12:45pm – Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub: Join the TNQ Drought Hub Director and Queensland agricultural advocate David Phelps as he talks about the work of the eight Adoption and Innovation Hub’s across Australia in building resilience to drought and climate variability. Reserve your free spot.
  • Wednesday 8 May, 3:30pm – 4.15pm – Farm and Succession Planning: As the adage goes, succession starts at birth. But when it comes to agricultural succession, there are many steps along the way, and a multitude of options relevant to each unique business. Hear from a panel of experts including Natalie Hughes, Rural Financial Counselling Service North Queensland and Connie Navarro, Connie Navarro Legal as they discuss the considerations, complexities, available assistance, and real stories of transitioning viable farms to the next generation. Join them as they share stories of succession wins and lessons, and the importance of starting with a conversation. Reserve your free spot.
  • Thursday 9 May, 4:00pm – 4:45pm – The journey of a JCU Student in the agriculture industry: Meet Lucy Gardner and William Harrington, both JCU students but at very different stages of their careers. In this presentation, Lucy and William share their journeys of navigating study, research, and innovation within agricultural industries. Hear about their individual projects in soil restoration and technological innovation, as well as the lessons they’ve learned through both trials and triumphs, with the ultimate goal of contributing to an enduring and sustainable sector. Reserve your free spot.

Enroll Now: Governance Essentials Online Course

Join the TNQ Drought Hub and Get on Board Australia for a comprehensive and interactive online Governance Essentials course that takes you through the principles of;

  • governance
  • duties and responsibilities
  • ethical decision-making
  • how to be a confident leader.

This online course is a great opportunity to learn the essentials in your own time, at home. 

Date: Starting 8 April
Location: 45 minute session online (blended self-paced learning with short recap sessions).
Cost: $150 (valued at $250)

Register now. 

Hub Highlight - EvokeAg

Women in the Burdekin region have demonstrated their commitment to their communities by participating in a leadership forum in Ayr from 19 to 21 March.

Organised by the TNQ Drought Hub, the Influential Women Leadership Forum aimed to equip women in agriculture with the necessary skills and confidence to take on the extra challenges such as climate variability, declining workforce numbers and limited access to industry experts and training opportunities currently faced by the agriculture sector.

The forum brought together a mixture of women from all type of backgrounds including those living and working on properties full time as well as those working in agricultural education and science related disciplines and provided an opportunity for both personal and professional growth, empowering the women to become more confident leaders.

Image: Participants working together on a group leadership activity.

Reflecting on the significance of such forums and workshops, TNQ Drought Hub Building Human Capacity Program Lead Dr Jane Oorschot said, “Women often don’t take time out for their own personal growth and development. They are typically busy looking after everyone but themselves and often working in multiple roles. By running these kinds of workshops directly in regions that are supported by the agriculture sector, we can give them the confidence to make future focused decisions and help them find a stronger voice and know their contribution is valid.

“The hub’s aim is to build community resilience. When there’s times of hardship, often people leave their community. So we need people to be ready to step up in the future into community roles such as a sports or Lions club, the Country Women’s Association or council.”

The forum featured a diverse array of group and individual activities, including sessions on identifying leadership and personality types, values, understanding the impact of change on decision-making processes, and managing conflict and difficult conversations effectively.

Participant Elizabeth Stockton said she registered for the forum as she was looking to enter a leadership role within her work as an agronomist, “I learnt how your values and your personality can conflict or promote others in your team. I’ve learned a lot about myself personally, and how I manage scenarios, as well as how people work in teams and how having each personality type in a team can be really beneficial.”

Shantelle Arratta, another participant spoke about the importance of having these type of forums and networking opportunities in one’s hometown, “In times of drought, or climate issues, or any kind of time where you need resilience, I think we forget to lean on one another, and those that are going through the same experiences. Having this networking opportunity in our own home, its more comforting, it’s more accessible and relatable because we are with other women who have this shared commonality.”

Elizabeth added, “The women I’ve met here this week have been amazing, their experiences are different, their backgrounds are different, but we’ve all come together for one thing and that was to be leaders in agriculture, and to better ourselves.”

This marks the second Influential Women Leadership Forum the hub has run following the inaugural event held in Mt Surprise in early 2023. Dr Oorschot said, “We have plans to repeat this event bi-annually offering opportunities for continued growth and empowerment for women across the TNQ region to make a lasting impact on their communities.”

The forum was delivered with the support of Bluewren Connection, NQ Dry Tropics, Growcom and the Burdekin Shire Council.

Agtech Insights 

Read our latest post on AgTech Insights where we look into:

  • Advancements in Farm Data Management
  • Connectivity update 
  • Skill Development in AgTech
  • AgTech So What? and AgTech Finder podcast Highlights


Read the latest edition of AgTech Insights

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 recently.

AgSmart Connect, 6-7 March, Tamworth

Carrie-Ann Wilson, Knowledge Adoption Officer at the TNQ Drought Hub, recently participated in AgSmart Connect, held in Tamworth earlier this month. The event provided a platform for Carrie to engage and network with various AgTech providers and enablers, including several new providers interested in collaborating with the hub. Panel discussions delved into the role of AgTech advisors in addressing producers’ challenges, emphasizing the importance of customized, non-biased advice, and highlighting ROI as a key driver for AgTech adoption among producers.

Reflecting on her experience, Carrie expressed enthusiasm, stating, “It was a fantastic experience. I engaged with lots of AgTech innovators, strengthening connections and exploring new avenues to improve drought resilience. The great conversations about emerging technologies, agriculture and AgTech adoption uncovered promising opportunities for future collaborations for the TNQ Drought Hub.”

Queensland AgTech Meetup, 18 - 19 March, Emerald

TNQ Drought Hub Director, David Phelps and Agricultural Innovation and Commercialisation Program Lead, Tony Matchett attended the Queensland AgTech Meetup last week in Emerald. The purpose of the meetup aims to grow connections across the Queensland AgTech community and provide an opportunity for companies, startups, producers, researchers, industry and government to meet up, exchange ideas and drive the future of agriculture through technology innovation and adoption.

The AACo Livestock Session covered the latest advancements and challenges in the livestock sector and the Central Queensland Smart Cropping Centre Cropping Session covered insights into smart farming practices, precision agriculture, and sustainable cropping solutions. David participated in the pop-up panel session that discussed how innovation can help build resilience.

Tony said, “There were lots of really valuable discussions around building climate resilience through incorporating tech and data driven solutions into irrigated grain and cropping. It’s really exciting to hear about grain and fodder solutions that are in the middle of Research and Development projects. By having climate resilient agricultural systems, producers can still have profitable outcomes no matter the season.”

David and Tony also took the opportunity to meet with Capella local dryland cropping farmer Gary Gersbach to learn about how he has dealt with extreme weather, pests, growing a variety of crops and investing in a precision planter to ensure viability.

Pasture Legumes Field Day, 19 March, Richmond

Last week, producers in the Richmond region had the chance to learn about establishing deep-rooted legumes into broadacre grazing systems as a way to build resilience at a Pasture Legumes Field Day.

The field day included a visit to Yan Yean, where the University of New England showcased their planting of Desmanthus and Caatinga stylos using different planting techniques and discussed the establishment, management, successes and challenges that come with trialling pasture legumes in north Queensland. At Rose Downs, attendees gained insights into the Queensland Department of Agriculture’s mixed legume and grass trial along with bare ground and soil restoration initiatives led by Node partner Southern Gulf NRM within the region.

Among the attendees were TNQ Drought Hub Regional Soils Coordinator, Dhiraj Gajera, Technical Adoption Officer, Keerah Steele along with hub scholarship recipient and Southern Gulf NRM Project Officer Lucy Gardner who presented on the restoration work and project using drones and artificial intelligence to assess Mitchell grass tussocks.

Apply Now! Grants, Programs amd EOI's

  • 2024 Gallagher Landcare Electric Fencing grants. The Gallagher and Landcare Australia Electric Fencing Grants provide support for conservation and biodiversity protection projects aligned with the priority areas of Conservation Exclusion/Inclusion Fencing and Riparian Protection and Farm Dam Restoration on agricultural land. There is a total pool of $176,000 worth of Gallagher permanent electric fencing product, with up to 22 grants available, each valued at $8,000. Submissions close 15 April. Learn more.
  • Present at the Developing Northern Australia conference 2024. If you’re passionate about working to advance Australia’s North and you have insights to share with the conference delegates – apply now to present at DNA24. Presenters come from all areas of government or industry, Northern Australia business, research, commerce, culture and community. The conference committee is looking for presents who are ready to share:
    1. Research findings, data and information which could help to support the plans to create a strong and sustainable future for the North.
    2. Case studies which inspire innovations and solutions across the current obstacles facing growth in the North
    3. Insights and research from emerging and traditional industries, including agriculture, aquaculture, biosecurity and defence.
    4. Culturally responsive initiatives and solutions which aim to deliver long term success working in partnership with First Nations communities. Learn more.
  • Supermarkets inquiry consumer survey. The ACCC is examining the pricing practices of the supermarkets and the relationship between wholesale, including farmgate and retail prices. The ACCC wants to hear from you about how you choose where to buy your groceries, and which products you buy. They also want to hear about any particular concerns that have arisen for consumers in relation to supermarkets. The survey takes approximately 10–15 minutes to complete and is anonymous. Complete the survey.
  • 2025 Nuffield Australia Drought Resilience Scholarships. Want to travel overseas and bring home new drought resilience tools and practices from international leaders in the field? The Future Drought Fund and Nuffield Australia are partnering again in 2025 to offer up to 5 Aussie farmers overseas study scholarships in drought resilience. Through a Nuffield Drought Resilience Scholarship, you’ll build your drought resilience knowledge and grow your industry and community’s capacity to deal with dry times. Each scholarship is valued at $40,000. If you work in a food or fibre industry and are aged between 28 and 45, apply now. Applications close on 31 May 2024. Learn 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. 


Climate Outlook Review. Professor Roger Stone provides a monthly Climate Outlook that is a timely review of information regarding forthcoming climate conditions based on the current phase of the Southern Oscillation Index and other key climate indicators including output from leading seasonal climate modelling centres around the world. Read the latest report

TNQ Drought Hub Nodes

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