Newsletter #9: November 2022

Welcome to November’s newsletter. As our Programs continue to kick goals across the region through their activities (you can see what they have been up to below), the rest of the team have been busy meeting with our partners and other key industry groups. Our purpose of this continuous engagement is to ensure our activities are aligned with our regions needs and are increasing the regions drought resilience. On that note, I would like to welcome on board our latest Network Partner Growcom who will bring their expert industry knowledge of fruit, vegetable and nut growers to the TNQ Hub to enable us to work closely with the horticulture industry.

Recently, the seven other Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub Directors and I got together to discuss each of our Hub’s progress and any issues and opportunities we have identified along the way. It was a fantastic chance for us to reiterate our commitment to working collaboratively to achieve drought resilience outcomes in each of our regions and how activities can be scalable across the country.

The Future Drought Fund is looking for applicants to apply for the FDF Extension and Adoption of Drought Resilience Farming Practices Grants Program. The regional priorities we have been working on have influenced these grants, so we are excited to see what projects get off the ground in the new year. The TNQ Hub can provide Letters of Support to assist with your application so please get in touch if you are thinking about applying.

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and catch up on what the team have been up to.

Keep safe and well,

David Phelps, Director

TNQ Drought Hub Director, David Phelps

Agricultural Innovation Update

The Agricultural Innovation Program has kicked off its first on farm trial this month working in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and University of Tasmania’s Professor Tim Bridribb and Dr Chris Lucani. The testing of optical dendrometers for monitoring the water status of mango trees is underway at the Walkamin Research Centre in Mareeba, North Queensland. 

Monitoring the water in plants is a notoriously difficult process. Developing a new kind of optical-based sensor that captures shrinkage and swelling with water uptake and loss has the potential to provide significant improvement in irrigation management over traditional techniques.

The trial captured national media attention recognising this innovation has the potential to improve outcomes for producers. Finding solutions that allow farmers to monitor water use in tree crops is a great example of how new technologies can be used to improve on-farm processes. This is the crucial first step for ensuring that we are providing producers with proven solutions relevant to the region that they can have confidence in.

The program will see a range of trials lined up over the next few months. If you would like to get involved or seek more information, get in touch today. Send us an email at

Image: Courtesy of Agricultural Innovation Program. Agricultural Innovation Program Lead Nicole Lucas with Dr Chris Lucan UTas, Prof Tim Bridribb UTas and Ryan Orr DAF

Innovation and Commercialisation (I&C)

Sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Enterprises (SATSIE)

The second instalment of the Northern Australian Indigenous Datathon sponsored by the Innovation and Commercialisation Program was held at James Cook University in Cairns from October 21-23. This year’s Datathon had over 60 participants working on problems that Traditional Owners and Rangers groups are experiencing on managing their country.

The winning team of this year’s Datathon will work with Gidargil Rangers on making an AI model to identify coral species. They are currently manually labeling each photo to automate this process.

Congratulations to I&C Program Lead Brook Orr and our Indigenous Entrepreneur in Residence, Darryl Lyons on this unique event. We look forward to next year.

The SATSIE team have been actively supporting and working with the Torres and Cape Indigenous Council Alliance (TCICA) and Rural Economies Centre of Excellence (RECoE) in the development and implementation of the Cape York Regional Drought Strategy.

This strategy will help the Cape York region prepare for and manage future drought risks. The SATSIE team will continue support of other Regional Drought Strategy’s in other parts of the Tropical North Queensland region. Further information on the Strategy’s can be found here.


Image: Courtesy of Darryl Lyons. Northern Australian Indigenous Datathon participants at the JCU Ideas Lab in Cairns.
Image: Courtesy of Cape York NRM

Hub Highlight

The TNQ Hub and our Node Member, Southern Gulf NRM are working with five other Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs on a collaborative project called Managing Rangelands for Drought Resilience.

The project aims to improve rangeland mapping, supporting drought resilience and management through artificial intelligence and machine learning with a focus on high-resolution detection of ground cover and land condition.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Spyglass Beef Research Facility is being used as one of the demonstration sites in North Queensland. TNQ Hub Director, David Phelps (who has a passion for Mitchell grass with a small trial site in his very own garden!) and Regional Soils Coordinator, Dhiraj Gajera were invited to attend a paddock walk and share their expertise with a team of JCU researchers who are delivering the project.

mage: JCU Researchers, DAF and TNQ Hub staff at Spyglass Research Station.

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;

Cultivating ESG Capability, 18 October

The prominent ‘Cultivating ESG Capability’ roundtable held in Canberra last month was attended by the Transformational Agricultural Systems (TAS) Program team. The roundtable discussed the challenges and opportunities the agricultural industry has when it comes to sustainable farm practices.

The discussions were aligned with the focus of TAS Program activities and reinforced the importance of sustainability initiatives.

ESG Conference Canberra - Senior Research Officer Ana Almeida with Dan Galligan CEO Cangrowers

GrazingFutures, 18-20 October

TNQ Hub Coordinator, Emily Harrington was invited to attend the GrazingFutures Livestock Business Resilience Project annual workshop in Roma. The project aims to build profitable, resilient and drought-ready livestock operations and is funded by Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund and the Queensland Government’s Drought and Climate Adaptation Program.

The workshop brought together Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Officers, NRM Group Project Officers, MLA, AgForce, Rural Financial Counselling Service, Northern Australia Climate Program as well as many other industry representatives with the purpose of capitalizing on the momentum of the project to further deliver a beneficial impact on the grazing community.

Image: Courtesy of TNQ Hub Coordinator Emily Harrington at the GrazingFutures workshop.

TropAg International Agriculture Conference, 31 October – 2 November

TNQ Hub Director, David Phelps was invited to chair the session ‘Tropical beef systems: Reproductive efficiency and carbon neutrality’ under the sustainable agrifood systems theme at the TropAg International Agriculture Conference last month.

David, along with Agricultural Innovation Program Lead, Nicole Lucas and Agricultural Innovation Program Designer, Justin Whittle took the opportunity to meet with industry leaders who are advancing research and raising awareness of the challenges (drought being one of those challenges), in agriculture and food production.

Image: Courtesy of Agricultural Innovation Program Designer, Justin Whittle. Justin and Nicole at TropAg in Brisbane.

Apply Now! Grants and Programs

It must be grant writing time again so here’s a few that are open now.  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.

  • The Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund is looking for eligible entities to work with farmers to drive large-scale adoption of proven and existing practices and technologies that improve drought resilience and agricultural productivity. Applications are open for Extension and Adoption of Drought Resilience Farming Practices Grants with between $100,000 and $3 million (GST exclusive) available per application. Successfully funded projects must offer extension and adoption activities and be completed in 24 months (between June 2023 and June 2025). Applications close 9 January 2023 at 9pm (AEDT). Find out more.
  • The Rural Economic Development (RED) Grants offer up to $200,000 as a co-contribution grant to fund projects which provide unique opportunities to generate economic and employment opportunities related to primary production value chains across rural and remote Queensland. Round five expressions of interest (EOI) opened on 9 November 2022 and will close on 30 January 2023. QRIDA is leading a competitive selection process for the grants, with successful EOI applicants invited to submit a full application. Find out more.

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

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