Turnbull talks up innovation in agriculture during Qld tour

Turnbull talks up innovation in agriculture during Qld tour


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ON FARM: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hears from orchardist Craig Van Rooyen about the potential for horticulture production in the Bundaberg region.

ON FARM: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hears from orchardist Craig Van Rooyen about the potential for horticulture production in the Bundaberg region.

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Prime Minister has called into Bundaberg to talk innovation, see what an avocado looks like and drink some beer.

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BEER and avocados were on the menu for some of the country's most senior politicians yesterday.

In a rare event for any regional town, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Keith Pitt and Queensland Senator James McGrath, visited the horticulture hub of Bundaberg as part of a Queensland tour which also took in Townsville and Rockhampton.

The visit was confined to photo opportunities as the politicians stepped onto a macadamia, lychee and avocado farm before dropping in at a local brewery which utilises local ingredients.

Mr Joyce said the purpose of the trip was to "groundtruth our views pertinent to regional Queensland".

Craig Van Rooyen's property was selected as a destination because of the modern techniques he is utilising in various areas.

Mr Van Rooyen is working with the Central Queensland University (CQU) to develop and test drone technology which can sense flying foxes and parrots, then take to the air to deter them.

The technique is part the farm's multi-pronged pest control approach which also includes orchard lighting and netting.

NICE SLICE: Bundaberg avocado grower Craig Van Rooyen slices open a perfect specimen to show the quality to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the PM's visit.

NICE SLICE: Bundaberg avocado grower Craig Van Rooyen slices open a perfect specimen to show the quality to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the PM's visit.

The cutting-edge farming operation provided the ideal backdrop for Mr Turnbull to speak about Australia's need to establish a culture of innovation in all industries.

"Innovation is an important cultural shift in every industry. It's not just a couple of bright young men and women in t-shirts in someone's garage coming up with the latest website, it's right across the board, every industry," he said.

"There is no industry older than growing fruit and here you are doing that but using absolutely 21st century technology at the cutting edge to improve your productivity."  

Mr Turnbull took a particular interest in the drip irrigation below the macadamia trees, congratulating Mr Van Rooyen on utilising techniques to maximise water efficiency.

Despite Mr Turnbull expressing a desire to see the drones in action, a smiling Mr VanRooyen replied: "I've been advised that I'd better not."

Innovation is an important cultural shift in every industry. - Malcolm Turnbull

The party moved through the orchard before then inspecting the packing facility.

Mr VanRooyen sliced open what could only be described as a perfect avocado, delighting onlooking media and proud local Member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt.

While Mr Turnbull didn't partake of the avocado, Mr Joyce helped himself, tucking in with a knife and commenting on the flavour.

He later told Good Fruit & Vegetables he was particularly fond of avocados as his preferred toast topper.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull chats with avocado grower Craig Van Rooyen, Bundaberg, Qld.

Mr Van Rooyen, who is also a Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers director, described the visit as an honour and said he would take the opportunity to emphasise the need for improved foreign market access for horticulture crops.

"I really appreciate them making the time to come and see us," he said.

"The Free Trade Agreements are fantastic but we do have an issue with market access.

"I believe there is massive potential if we can get past these access issues.

IN DEEP: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gets a closer look at the irrigation system used underneath macadamia trees.

IN DEEP: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gets a closer look at the irrigation system used underneath macadamia trees.

"For example with the lychees, the industry could double over the next few years if we had that access.

"So that is something from the ground up we need to be working with the government on."

The politicians then visited the Bargara Brewing Company to sample some of the beers. 

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