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Growing for Queensland

Inspirational case studies

  • Climate-proof Queensland strawberries

    Since domestication of crop species began 12 000 years ago, extensive plant breeding and selection have greatly enhanced the productivity and quality of crops, but resulted in limited diversity compared with wild plants. The modern strawberry is about 200 years old, with intensive breeding in the past several decades improving yield and quality. Most of the current cultivars are based on a few parents or ancestral lines, with relatively narrow genetic diversity.

    This narrow diversity presents a risk to industry’s ability to adapt to future climate scenarios where we expect to see different environmental conditions, such as increased carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations and increased average temperatures. Studies in several other crops have shown that there is an initial increase in productivity due to elevated CO2 supporting increased photosynthesis and plant growth, then a decrease due to the speed of temperature increases impacting other growth factors. Most of the research effort has been in the major grain crops such as wheat and rice as they form a significant part of the global diet, with recent efforts focusing on the development of new cultivars suited for production in a warming climate.

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    In addition to developing more heat-tolerant strawberry varieties, Queensland Government research is exploring strawberry characteristics that support productivity in a future climate. This includes testing whether decreases in leaf area and increases in photosynthesis per leaf area will provide higher yields by reducing the plant’s water loss in a warmer climate, and allowing the plant to direct more energy to growing fruit.

  • High value horticulture value chains in the Balonne-Border Rivers

    Annual vegetables and perennial fruits and nuts are already being grown within the southern Queensland region at lower volumes, and show enormous potential for further expansion. For example, with a reduced irrigation allocation, AJD Farming are diversifying their broadacre cropping operation into pumpkins, extracting higher returns for each litre of water. This has benefits for the local economy, with greater inputs required from local agribusinesses, increased labour requirements for the production of horticulture, and potential opportunities for local processing and value-adding.

    By working collaboratively with partners across the region, with support from the Queensland Government and funding from the Federal Government’s Murray-Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Project, barriers to the expansion of high value horticulture value chains are being overcome, and local business and communities are seeing the benefits.

    AJD Farming is a family-owned and operated enterprise located near Yelarbon in the Goondiwindi Regional Council area. The farming operation has traditionally focused on broadacre cropping in producing fodder crops, cereal grains, cotton and legumes in rotation.

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    With diminishing returns for broadacre commodity crops, owner Anthony Doljanin started to explore the potential of high value horticulture several years ago, knowing something different was needed to enable business expansion. This year, AJD Farming will deliver more than 3000 tonnes of pumpkins through to market, with 80% of the product delivered direct to the major retailers of Coles and Woolworths.

    With funding from the Federal Government, Anthony has worked closely with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to develop a pumpkin packing facility to ensure consistency of supply, and to build capacity in production with the equipment required to implement a low cost production system.

    Through diversifying their farming operation, AJD Farming has been able to produce more with less, reducing their irrigation allocation for the production of pumpkins while increasing the returns for each megalitre of water used. On average, Anthony will use around 2 to 4 ML per hectare for the production of pumpkins, compared with 8 to 10 ML per hectare used to produce cotton. While the returns for horticulture can be significantly higher, there are also flow-on benefits to the local economy with greater inputs required from local agribusinesses and increased labour requirements for the production of horticulture.

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  • Paddock to plate in the South Burnett

    From the foothills of the Bunya Mountains, small family farm HighBrit Beef is a leading example of business foresight to better connect with consumers on a platform of trust, sustainability and quality. An emerging trend in recent years has been the reshaping of traditional beef businesses to more finely tuned business models that are responsive to the needs of the stock, land and consumer.

    Starting with the fundamentals of good beef, soil and grass, and the learnings from the grazing best management practice program, the Douglass family operates the property using regenerative practices with minimal chemical inputs to ensure the highest quality pasture is available for their cattle. Combined with a long-term program of strategic reafforestation supported by former Caring for our Country funding, the property is on a journey of continuous improvement towards a more productive, resilient and biodiverse future.

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    The cattle themselves receive no antibiotics, no growth promotants and no added hormones and are entirely grass-fed—these are highly desirable characteristics for increasingly discerning consumers. The cattle are processed at a small local abattoir and butchered at a nearby facility leased by the business. This allows HighBrit Beef to have ultimate control over its supply chain, and positions the products in a high-value, branded market niche with quality and provenance assured for its customers. Showing they can listen and respond to consumer needs, HighBrit have expanded their product offering by partnering with local lamb and pork producers whose values and operations align.

    Reinforcing a strong customer focus further, HighBrit are also open to the public through farm open days and long–table lunches, supported and promoted through a strong online presence and involvement in the community.

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  • From farmer to fitness guru

    Joy McClymont’s goal is to increase Australians’ awareness of where their food comes from, and help people across rural and remote communities to combine high-quality healthy food with fitness to support a healthy lifestyle. Producing top-quality food and fibre has always been front and centre of the McClymont family’s business model.

    However, in recent years, this has broadened into an innovative online Off the Track Training program helping people to achieve their health goals, no matter where they live, without the need of a gym or other high-tech equipment. Joy realised that despite her isolated location, she was able to improve her fitness levels by making do with what she had lying around the cattle station. She would lift heavy bags of grain as weights, use bales of hay as a jumping box and unused tyres for lifting and rolling.

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    Joy’s Fitness Hub has provided a platform for members of the rural community to connect with other like-minded individuals pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

    Ingenuity and resilience have allowed this rural family to make the most of what can be challenging circumstances, diversify farm income and improve the lives of Queenslanders to build happier, more viable rural communities.

    Joy was awarded the Fitness Australia Active Achiever Award in 2016, and was named one of Queensland’s Community Digital Champions for creating an online health and fitness platform.

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  • Iconic Queensland mangoes to the world

    Queenslanders love their mangoes and want to share them with the world. Ground-breaking approaches to value supply chain improvement led by the Queensland Government and mango businesses have resulted in benefits to the mango industry from improved monitoring, innovative handling practices, streamlined market access protocols, market research and targeted promotional activity.

    The Kensington Pride mango flavour is unique to Australia and forms the basis of most of our old and new mango varieties. The Calypso mango, developed by the Queensland Government, is exported to 10 countries and attained an export market value of $1.24 million in 2018–19.

    Queensland mango production makes up approximately 50% of the $208 million Australian industry. Mango production and exports have increased from 5% of production to 14% since 2007 due to increasing world interest in our mango varieties and their superior quality.

    The Queensland Government has supported leading industry businesses to capitalise on growing mango exports through the Asian Markets for Horticulture Initiative, Global Markets Initiative and Growing Queensland’s Food Exports programs.

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    Manbulloo, along with four other commercial mango businesses, co-invested with the Queensland Government in an export development project to capitalise on the new market access protocol into China. The protocol was complex and difficult to achieve and required expert assistance from Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) scientists to meet the stringent market access protocols in both the in-field protocol required for mango seed weevil (MSW) and the postharvest vapour heat treatment (VHT) for Queensland fruit fly (QFF) disinfestation.

    Using value chain analysis, Manbulloo worked with DAF researchers to better understand markets and their consumers. Monitoring supply chain conditions and product movement during export also allowed them to deliver more consistent, better quality mangoes while reducing risk and driving down costs to be more competitive in global markets.

    As a result of the collaboration, the protocol was renegotiated to streamline some of the processes and mango exports have increased throughout Asia, the Middle East, the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States and Canada. Two new VHT facilities have been built in Queensland to meet the growing demand in markets such as China, South Korea and Japan.

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  • Firing up a blockchain revolution

    Blockchain technology enables trusted and efficient supply chain transactions through a distributed network of computers, called ‘nodes’, to ensure transactions, contracts, freight movements and the entire supply chain are traceable, validated and secure. Security is a key factor of blockchain technology, as once information is stored in this system, it can never be falsified. Blockchain will likely be increasingly used to enable effective global trade and effective biosecurity systems, and may indeed be a requirement for some markets in the near future.

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    The Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund provides support to start-ups and small to medium Queensland businesses, to enable them to test and implement commercialisation plans for an innovative product, process or service. The fund has been a major contributor to the agribusiness and food sector in Queensland, delivering a number of success stories. One of those success stories is Ditterich Agriculture’s BlockGrain project, which has since evolved into AgriChain.

    In April 2018, Ditterich Agriculture raised $3.5 million via a public token offering. The company was one of 12 Queensland AgTech start-ups funded to attend the Startup Catalyst mission to Israel, hosted by the Austrade Landing Pad in Tel Aviv.

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  • Taking the pulse

    Woods Foods, part of the family owned Woods Group of companies, based in Goondiwindi, is one company capitalising on emerging consumer demand for more plant-based products, delivering high quality food ingredients for the food manufacturing sector. Woods Foods is committed to satisfying this demand by releasing a range of gluten-free pulses (chickpea, faba bean) and grain (sorghum) based food products for use in the food manufacturing industry.

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    Pulses are a group of legumes such as chickpeas, faba/broad beans, field peas, lentils, lupin and mungbeans. There are also a number of smaller and / or niche market crops such as azuki bean, navy bean, cowpea, vetch and pigeon pea. Within these types there are often numerous varieties, many of which have particular characteristics that suit differing markets. This diversity presents numerous opportunities for the broadacre cropping industry, as they can be grown as a rotation crop, and can be grown under 'dry-land' conditions, utilising the water stored in the soil rather than relying on irrigation. Pulses also offer nutritional benefits as a source of protein, dietary fibre and micronutrients, and are increasingly in demand from health-conscious consumers.

    Sorghum, an ancient grain, is another Australian-grown grain that has the potential to offer a range of health benefits, as it is high in natural antioxidants and protein, low in fat, gluten-free and allergen-free. Similar to legumes, sorghum is predominantly grown under dry-land conditions, and plays a crucial role in maintaining farmer’s economic viability by providing a sustainable, cost-effective, non-GMO alternative summer crop to corn and cotton.

    The combination of nutritional and environmental benefits of pulses and alternative grains like sorghum present a unique market opportunity, and one that has yet to see full potential in Australia.

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  • FNQ Food Incubator

    The FNQ Food Incubator is a Queensland Government-supported initiative that brings together local food experts and innovators in a central manufacturing hub to support regional food businesses. The incubator showcases regional produce such as handmade chocolates, artisan ice-cream, native jams, coffee, chilli sauce, kombucha and wines. These are the tangible, delicious ways in which consumers connect with the agri-food system on a daily basis.

    Modern industry-specific resources and low cost, low-risk shared-use commercial kitchens and food manufacturing and packaging facilities allow emerging food and beverage businesses to test ideas, rapidly acquire and share learnings, and ultimately manufacture quality products. The incubator is also a one-stop-shop where domestic and international buyers can source new and innovative food and beverage products that can be tailored to suit their consumers.

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    Regional communities benefit from the incubator’s collaborations between manufacturers, marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs. These collaborations provide the opportunities and resources for food and beverage businesses to grow, leading to increasing regional economic activity and employment, and satisfying consumer demand.

    Other initiatives that are also supporting regional agribusiness and food growth include the Food and Agribusiness Network’s GrowCoastal food accelerator initiative at the Sunshine Coast Innovation Centre. With support from the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland Industry Accelerator program, food and beverage entrepreneurs are invited to participate in business workshops and receive mentoring, one-on-one support and industry insights from industry leaders.

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  • Bio futures in Far North Queensland

    The expansion of renewable energy will be critical to our collective success in responding to climate change. Using renewable, plant-based feedstock to produce energy reduces net greenhouse gas emissions by re-circulating carbon rather than extracting it from ancient sources like coal and oil. MSF Sugar's Biorefinery Project on the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland is diversifying into crops like the desert-adapted blue agave from Mexico, suited to a drier and hotter climate, which shows vision from a company planning for a future climate. Blue agave will also be harvested in the sugarcane off-season, establishing year-round supply to the biorefinery to increase use of infrastructure; improve financial viability; provide year-round jobs across agriculture, energy and biofutures; and provide a continuous supply of base-load power.

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    The Queensland Government is supporting the project through the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning’s Biofutures Acceleration Program (BAP).  A feasibility study will consider all processes related to farming the new agave crop, making the biomass products (ethanol and electricity) and delivering the end products to market. Once fully operational, MSF Sugar estimates it could generate 80 construction and farming jobs and a further 50 operational jobs, and produce 110 000 tonnes of raw sugar, 24 MW of renewable electricity for the grid, and 55 ML of ethanol biofuel annually.

    Long-term investments like this are critical to rural communities and regional economies by increasing resilience, providing jobs, and contributing to regional prosperity.

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  • A big deal for family business

    An ageing demographic, property prices, capital and continued urbanisation are combining to place enormous pressure on family farm succession in Queensland. Family farms still dominate the number of farm businesses in Queensland, and especially so in the pastoral sector. It is critical to ensure there are career pathways for the next generation to take Queensland’s sector into the future.

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    The Camm family, through the Camm Agricultural Group (CAG), was looking to reduce debt, find capital to invest in lifting productivity, and help facilitate an inter-generational transfer of assets and management. In 2017, CAG signed a $72 million deal with Rural Funds Group (RFG) to sell three cattle properties under a sale and leaseback arrangement, with CAG retaining management rights for the properties for 10 years, and ownership of all stock and plant on the properties. Additional funds were provided by RFG for infrastructure upgrades on the properties and for CAG to purchase additional cattle to be owned by RFG.

    There is an important difference between business ownership and property ownership, and for families to remain in the business of farming, and move ahead with achieving their goals and aspirations, a rethink on property ownership and leasing arrangement is needed. Family farms have been the lifeblood of many rural and regional towns, and indeed this extends across the supply chain, so the inter-generational knowledge transfer needs careful planning and business strategies to ensure it is not lost.

    This deal has solved a number of issues facing the pastoral industry in particular, and has meant a family-owned agricultural business can evolve to remain competitive and pass on the legacy to the next generation.

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