A grower-owned flour milling venture in New Zealand, an evangelical campaigner for Brussels sprouts and farmer initiatives to combat mental health issues in the bush are among the many winning factors making up this year’s Syngenta Growth Awards.
Judges from across agriculture and the recruitment, media and environmental industries have named eight winners as their pick of Australian and NZ farming.
Farm sector productivity, environmental management and a focus on community development are key goals for the awards.
For five years Growth Awards nominations have attracted some of agriculture’s top performers in both countries.
This year’s top productivity award proved so hard to judge it was shared by NZ’s South Island grain and vegetable cropper, Murray Turley, and West Australian sheep and grain producer Lynley Anderson from Kojonup.
Our winners demonstrate a tremendous capacity to do more with less as real innovators, while caring for the land and each other
Apart from his successful 3000 hectare cereal, vegetable produce and vegetable seed production enterprise, Mr Turley leads several farmer-owned farming and processing ventures, including the first new flour mill built in NZ for 40 years.
Also notable among awards entries this year was a rising level of awareness among farmers to make the most of opportunities to care about their neighbours, recognise mental illness traps and signals, and help address the risks.
The efforts of WA farmer, Brad Millsteed, and a farm fitness initiative by NSW’s Ginny Stevens, were highlighted during the Sydney awards ceremony as significant in attempting to help the mental health of isolated farmers.
“Times have rarely been harder than they are now for farmers and their advisers who are dedicated to growing the food and fibre that helps feed and clothe us all,” said Syngenta’s Australasian territory head, Paul Luxton.
“Growing seasons are less reliable than ever and the rural hubs they call home continue to shrink, contributing to feelings of isolation and even depression.
“Yet our winners demonstrate a tremendous capacity to do more with less as real innovators, while caring for the land and each other.
“This is our fifth year of running the awards and such is the quality of nominees that it is only getting harder to narrow down our winners.”
As modern consumer expectations continue changing – here and abroad – so do the expectations of ourselves
Mr Luxton said the judging panel had been challenged by the quality richness of the stories the finalists had to tell, and urged them to make the most of their production, sustainability and community achievements, telling their stories as much as possible.
Syngenta’s Singapore-based head of Asia and Pacific, Alex Berkovskiy, said bridging the divide between those of us who live and breathe agriculture and those who live far from the farms that produce the food, feed and fibre they benefit from, was critical to ensuring continued freedom to operate.
“As modern consumer expectations continue changing – here and abroad – so do the expectations of ourselves,” he said.
“While we invest billions of dollars annually into research and development of innovative products, Syngenta also invests heavily in product stewardship, promotion of integrated pest management and the benefits of biodiversity.
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“At Syngenta we achieve this through our commitments in the Good Growth Plan, which speaks to our values – it is the embodiment of how we do business.
“Since 2013, our progress on each of the six commitments to make crops more efficient, rescue more farmland, help biodiversity flourish, empower smallholders, help people stay safe and look after every worker has been monitored and audited by third parties.
“We are proud our some of our commitment targets surpassed already.”
Chosen from a field of 26 regional winners, in the categories of Productivity, Sustainability, and Community and People, this year’s winners will have the opportunity to join a week-long study tour of the UK and Europe in 2019.
Past tours have included visiting the UK Cereals field days, Royal Farms in Berkshire, and Syngenta’s research facilities at Jealott’s Hill.
This year’s winners are:
Productivity – Grower (joint winners)
Lynley Anderson, Kojonup, WA
Lynley uses the latest technologies and research in her mixed farming operation.
Conscious of the ecological responsibility she has to her farm, Lynley makes strategic decisions to maintain ground cover on the gravel, loam and clay soils and manages risk by utilising synergies between cropping and sheep.
Murray Turley, Turley Farms, Temuka, NZ
Murray heads Turley Farms, a 2,930ha operation on NZ’s South Island growing cereals, potatoes, and hybrid vegetable seeds.
Turley Farms has been one-hectare grid soil testing for a decade and applying variable rate fertiliser to ensure no nutrients are lost, improving profitability and enhancing the environment.
Turley Farms is one of the founding shareholders of Southern Packers – an onion and potato packhouse – which has the capacity to process 40,000 tonnes of onions a year.
Productivity - Adviser
Noel Jansz, Elders Ltd, Agronomist, Bairnsdale, Victoria.
Noel provides advice to help maximise returns for his growers.
This includes insights on the amount of irrigation required, and the right fertilisers and chemicals to maximise crop output.
Noel adopts the strategies of the Integrated Crop Management system, a holistic approach to running farms.
Sustainability - Grower
Jack Russo, Bundaberg, Queensland
Predominantly a sugarcane grower, Jack has included macadamias and peanuts in his 500ha enterprise to produce a more sustainable farming operation and aid diversification.
As a fourth-generation grower, he has designed his own fertiliser applicator to deliver nutrients to the root zone. With the environment in mind due to the proximity of his farm to the Great Barrier Reef, the applicator also decreases run off.
Sustainability - Researcher
Jim Walker, NZ Institute for Plant and Food Research, Hawkes Bay, NZ
As a researcher Jim has demonstrated a lifelong passion for safe fruit production through his work on pesticide applications.
Jim led a team which introduced Integrated Fruit Production and has helped growers adopt practices that decrease pesticide residues. Jim’s advice is regularly sought by NZ government officials.
Community and People - Grower
Scott Samwell, Eastbrook Vegetable Farms, Mount Barker, South Australia
Scott is part of a family operation producing Brussels sprouts and kalettes at two farms at Mount Barker and Langhorne Creek.
Scott spends up to two days a month providing input into future research and development through his involvement with industry groups. He also hosts field days and school visits to his farms.
Community and People - Adviser
Tony Lockrey, AMPS Agribusiness agronomist, Moree, NSW
Tony works with about 20 large clients providing on-farm advice. He has a strong involvement in research and development and holds positions on many industry bodies.
Tony organises a “Men’s Campfire Dinner” once a month, which has attracted up to 70 men who are encouraged to talk about anything they like.
Ginny Stevens, Active Farmers Ltd, Mangoplah, NSW
Ginny left a career in banking to follow an idea to use physical fitness to improve mental health in rural communities.
That idea became Active Farmers, a network of farmer boot camps across 30 communities with 250 farming families now involved in the program and another 100 communities interested.
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