Wet Tropics Farming Innovators
1. Mark Savina
Cane Farmer: 85 Hectare Innovative Practice Change Area
“I think - and my father taught me the same thing - leave it as good as what you got, it if not better.”
Mark manages approximately 90% of the cane growing area of the Barron Delta area in a partnership and is a significant industry player. He has been leading the pack as an innovative farmer for many years, being the first in the region to sign onto GBRMPA’s stewardship recognition program as a Reef Guardian Farmer.
Mark has also been a Project Catalyst Grower and has been participating in running trials through the Federal Government's Reef Water Quality Innovation Grants and with Qld DAF looking at nitrogen replacement.
His inquisitive nature has led him to search broadly for lower input methodologies, from local expertise on anaerobic waste treatment to broad acre cropping in the South.
Until recently, one key limitation has been the lack of technical support to refine his approaches and test the results.
Through targeted support, Mark is now working closely with local experts to ensure lower input methodologies, taking into account commercial practicalities and viability.
He is very willing to share both his concepts and the results from the trials.
Summary of innovative practice:
- Mark is trialling multiple approaches across his productive enterprise.
- In particular, Terrain is working with him on a multi-pronged approach to improve management of his biomass and soil.
- Biological inputs manufactured in an on-site biofactory are being targeted at timed trash conversion and in turn nutrient liberation to minimise the application of inorganic fertiliser.
2. Bob Brighton
Banana Farmer: 6 Hectare Trial Area
"I feel that producers are over-exposed to input prices linked to the fossil fuel industry and we must look at ways to reduce this exposure.”
Bob Brighton has a proven track record as a banana grower and has been at the region’s forefront of innovation in recent times. He was one of the early adopters of methodologies taught in the region by Mas Humus.
He participated in a self-funded trip to Latin America with Regen-Ag looking at innovative farm practices and techniques.
A farming colleague said,"Five years ago, Bob would not have considered addressing soil health at all. He would not have looked at alternative fertiliser practices. His world has completely turned around."
Summary of innovative practice:
- Construction of a bio-factory; N replacement.
- He is particularly proud of the ability to successfully design and manufacture his own inputs to meet his crop's nutrient requirements.
3. Michael Russo
Banana Farmer: 179 Hectare Innovative Practice Change Area
“With the grant money made available through Terrain and Reef Rescue Innovation we can now afford to take the risk and experiment and implement new methods of farming that complement natural processes.”
Michael is showing how regenerative farming methodologies can be applied at a large commercial scale.
By pro-actively searching both training and information, it has empowered him to integrate natural farming systems and processes into a large, multi-faceted enterprise.
Compelled by his father Angelo’s assertion that he must be able to demonstrate that the methods can be applied over the whole farm “economically”, Michael is now manufacturing targeted inputs on a large scale on site and is well on his way to satisfying Angelo’s criteria.
Summary of Innovative Practice
- Inorganic fertiliser (N) replacement utilising organic amendments.
- With banana waste representing up to 20% of the harvested crop, Marlin Blue are implementing an industry leading resource recovery strategy by feeding it to their 200 strong cattle herd.
- By blending with other inputs and amending with identified minerals, they will both provide critical nutrition for beef production and generate the raw materials for the production of high value compost for their enterprise.
- Integrating this compost into their management regime alongside improved fallow management and targeted biological applications, they are trialling a reduction in conventional fertiliser application by up to 40%.