THE legacy of a passionfruit pioneer has helped a young grower further his own journey within the industry.
Noel Day spent 92 years helping to build the Australian passionfruit landscape, before his passing in August last year.
His significant contribution was recognised in the Passionfruit Australia Noel Day Scholarship Programme which helps member growers develop their horticultural skills.
Rural finance company, AustSafe Super, sponsored the scholarship which was awarded to Ty Dan of Tyannah Farming, enabling him to attend a Certificate in Nutrition Farming course hosted by Nutri-Tech Solutions.
The scholarship is one of several the being awarded by Passionfruit Australia.
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The first scholarship to be awarded, supported by passionfruit marketer JE Tipper, paid for grower, Anton Stretch to also attend the Certificate in Nutrition Farming course.
Passionfruit Australia also awarded a fully funded place on an ACS Distance Education 100-hour course with direct relevance to passionfruit cultivation and cropping, to Angela Olsen, who is another new entrant to the industry.
The final place was awarded to Bundaberg grower, Bruce McPherson, who elected to attend the Certificate in Nutrition Farming course as well.
Mr Dan grew up in a farming family in Mary Valley, Qld where he assisted in picking pineapples, beans and other small crops.
Today, he and his partner, Hannah, are the co-owners of Tyannah Farming.
In 2017, the young couple took over a large property in north Qld where passionfruit had previously grown, and were quick to test their skills out on a new season.
With their maiden season declared a success last year, the pair are now preparing for the next.
Mr Dan said the course gave provided hands-on learning and practical knowledge he could apply.
“The ongoing supply of chemicals to our industry needs to change.
"I’ve gained valuable insights into cover cropping, beneficial bugs, and how important they are in the growing cycle. It’s been so interesting,” he said.
Learning first-hand about the opportunities for more sustainable growing practices in the horticulture industry was something Mr Dan said he felt to be an important lesson for all farmers.
“The ongoing supply of chemicals to our industry needs to change," he said.
"There are ways around this that farmers can learn, and even take on organically, if we want to become a more sustainable growing country.”
Looking to the future, Mr Dan said he had aspirations for Tyannah Farming.
“What I really want is to produce healthy crops organically, with good soils that support the health of every day Australians," he said.
"I’d also like to support more growers to do the same and I think the NTS course is a great place to start.”
Mr Dan expressed his thanks and gratitude to Passionfruit Australia and AustSafe Super for supporting him through this process.
“I really appreciate the opportunity to learn these new techniques so early in my journey as a grower – I highly recommend the course to anyone wanting to grow better fruits and vegetables,” he said.
The scholarship programme is a way for a small horticulture industry body to bring value to its members, in addition to the levy investments managed by Hort Innovation.
Passionfruit Australia vice-president, Jane Richter, said as a peak industry association, it recognised the need to bring more to the table for members to stay relevant.
“The scholarship programme will be joined by an online grower forum in the New Year, and we are in the final stages of developing a checklist tool to help our growers develop their own biosecurity plan for their farms," Ms Richter said.
Noel Day, his brother Moss, and their families were pioneers of the passionfruit industry.
They started farming in 1946 with pineapples, bananas and green beans initially, and moved into growing passionfruit in the early 1960s on the outskirts of Nambour.
Both brothers were heavily involved with the industry for many decades.
Mr Day was not only an exceptional grower but the president of the North Coast Passionfruit Growers Association and a member of the passionfruit sub-committee at the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing (the forerunner to Growcom).
He represented his fellow growers and was instrumental in the development of the industry.
Mr Day not only grew passionfruit but bred new varieties including Purple Gold which was one of the mainstays in the seventies and early eighties.
The Day’s brand, Forest Hills Passionfruit, was the most sought-after fruit on the market floor.
Their famous pattern pack was the envy of all growers. Mr also cleaned up all the prizes at the Nambour Show and the Brisbane Exhibition.
The number of ribbons he took home was only limited by the number of entries he decided to submit.