North Queensland growers celebrate innovation on cross-regional bus tour

More than 60 of North Queensland’s most forward-thinking land managers celebrated agricultural innovation, and shared knowledge on a three-day cross-regional bus tour last week.

NQ Dry Tropics, Terrain NRM, Herbert Cane Productivity Services, and Reef Catchments hosted the Innovation in Agriculture Bus Tour, funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.


The tour visited properties across the Wet Tropics, Burdekin Dry Tropics and Mackay-Whitsunday regions. It allowed farmers to share ideas and experience innovative methods to boost productivity, while improving water quality and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

Peter Arthofer, Burdekin Regional Landcare Facilitator at NQ Dry Tropics said that the tour was an excellent chance for farmers to network and learn new ideas.

“Farmers learn best from other farmers and by seeing results for themselves. The tour visited agricultural properties that are gaining economic and environmental benefits by adopting innovative practices that use nitrogen more efficiently, conserve soil, and reduce herbicide use,” he said.

“The tour highlighted how several of these practices can be adopted on a variety of produce, including cane, vegetables, mangoes, farmed seafood and mixed cropping,” he said.

Day two of the tour focused on the Burdekin region, and started with a visit to the state-of-the-art facilities at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). Growers visited the extraordinary Sea Simulator, where scientists are able to recreate marine conditions to conduct a host of experiments.

Renowned reef expert Dr Katharina Fabricius gave a detailed presentation about water quality, and the various threats to the Reef including climate change, fine sediment and excess nutrients.

Fiona George, Wet Tropics Regional Landcare Facilitator at Terrain NRM, said:

“The growers really appreciated the opportunity to get unbiased information straight from the researchers, presented in an objective and non-judgemental way. I think the appreciation for their contribution to reef water quality and reef health has gone up enormously.”

The tour also visited Pacific Reef Fisheries, where growers observed how the enterprise uses algae as a natural way to remove excess nutrients from wastewater.

The final Burdekin stop featured a visit to the Spotswood family’s Mt Alma Fresh Organics farm at Inkerman. The Spotswoods are certified organic producers of low-input vegetables, fruit, and herbs, and they are pioneering integrating cattle into their horticulture and cane production.

Gary Spotswood, spoke to his fellow farmers about the benefits of the bus tour:

“NRM groups like NQ Dry Tropics, Terrain and Reef Catchments are bringing farmers together and we’re building a network. We’re learning from each other and making connections, and this is what today is all about.” he said.