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Meeting to shape the future of our food

WORKING TOGETHER: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' Meagan Mckenzie and Childers cane farmer Chris Russo at a meeting about the Queensland Government's  10-year roadmap on research in agriculture.
WORKING TOGETHER: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' Meagan Mckenzie and Childers cane farmer Chris Russo at a meeting about the Queensland Government's 10-year roadmap on research in agriculture. Eliza Goetze

RESEARCHERS in the lab, government boffins in their offices and farmers out in the field are all worlds apart - but at a meeting held in Bundaberg yesterday, all three got together to discuss how to bring them closer together.

The future of our food could depend on it.

The Queensland Government is gearing up to put together a 10-year "roadmap” to shape how agriculture and food research and development will run into the future and about 20 locals across agriculture, agribusiness and academia got together on Tuesday to voice their thoughts.

Getting researchers and the farmers they aim to benefit on the same page was one of the biggest concerns raised - along with how to make research "sexy”.

WORKING TOGETHER: Farmers, researchers and manufacturers got together to give feedback to shape the Queensland Government's ten-year roadmap on research in agriculture.
WORKING TOGETHER: Farmers, researchers and manufacturers got together to give feedback to shape the Queensland Government's ten-year roadmap on research in agriculture. Eliza Goetze

Central Queensland University professor of horticulture and science Phil Brown said universities needed to rethink how they work to meet the needs of the agriculture industry.

"Through all the paperwork involved in research...the benefit to the industry is not in the university KPIs,” Prof Brown said.

"How many papers are published is easy to measure - measuring the impact on the industry is not so easy.”

Stephen Frahm, of technology firm VNet Precision Farming, said "We need to be working together, whether it be industry suppliers like ourselves or even farmers, and work together towards a common goal instead of having two or three organisations running their own race - and maybe ending up at the same place, but we're spending a lot of money to do that.

"We are here, we have some good ideas at times, and we have a research team with 150 odd years of experience to help our farmers at the end of the day.”

WORKING TOGETHER: Farmers, researchers and manufacturers got together to give feedback to shape the Queensland Government's ten-year roadmap on research in agriculture.
WORKING TOGETHER: Farmers, researchers and manufacturers got together to give feedback to shape the Queensland Government's ten-year roadmap on research in agriculture. Eliza Goetze

Getting the next generation on board was another issue.

The roadmap will be a "whole of government plan” with initiatives not just from the agriculture department but science and education, too, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' Meagan Mckenzie said.

"It's an exciting time to be in the ag industry - with all the technology coming forward, it's awesome,” Mr Frahm said.

"We need the next generation coming through.”

Childers cane grower Chris Russo was one of the youngest people in the room.

"Being a 36-year-old farmer...we need to understand where we fit in,” Mr Russo said.

He said the government needed to get a better understanding of what farmers do on the ground.

"Everything we do is shaped from research - it's what farmers are doing every day, to try and get the most out of the crop.”

Ms Mckenzie said, "One thing I learned today was we have great producers already being (environmentally) responsible and we don't make use of that.

"There's been great work from canegrowers (like Chris Russo) who have looked at their nitrogen deficiency.”

WORKING TOGETHER: Farmers, researchers and manufacturers got together to give feedback to shape the Queensland Government's ten-year roadmap on research in agriculture.
WORKING TOGETHER: Farmers, researchers and manufacturers got together to give feedback to shape the Queensland Government's ten-year roadmap on research in agriculture. Eliza Goetze

But Mr Russo, Mr Frahm and Mr Brown all welcomed the chance to be heard.

Long term commitment to research was another concern raised, with Canegrowers' Matthew Leighton citing a nitrogen trial at Biloela that took 15 years to see results.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said the region's untapped potential was a blessing that came with great responsibility, and encouraged producers to give feedback.

"Ten years in the scheme of things isn't really that long, when you consider developing export markets traditionally takes just shy of that from initial engagement to product on the shelves particularly when there's access protocols to overcome,” Mrs Grima said.

"However, these Roadmaps are vital to ensure Governments commitment to Agriculture is reflective of Industry needs.”

To have your say, read the discussion paper at qld.gov.au/agriculture

roadmap or call 13 25 23. Submissions close 5pm, Friday, July 28.


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