ECO-WARRIORS and Innisfail banana growers Frank and Dianne Sciacca have won a horticultural award for their environmentally friendly farming practices.
The Sciacca's have spent the last 30 years refining their unique trademark certified Ecoganic farming system, which on Friday saw them named the FNQ Growers 2019 Charlie Nastasi horticultural farmers of the year.
Their journey began in the late 1980s when they were looking to plant a banana crop on their 50 hectare Boogan farm.
"I wanted to farm differently, and not use chemicals and fertilisers. We started looking at horticulture, organics and other sustainable practices, but the philosophy of all that wasn't what I was looking for," Mr Sciacca said.
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Building on his new-found knowledge, Mr Sciacca delved deeper into sustainable farming.
It signalled the start of a new era for the Sciacca family and the nation's banana industry.
Their unique, award-winning farming system is essentially farming with nature and understanding how the natural ecosystem can assist in farming. It promotes sustainable production practices that are good for the environment and the consumer.
"We identify our natural capital, the whole picture including grass, weeds, bacteria, fungi, nematodes in the soil. Nature has given all of this to us over thousands of years, in a big web, and each and every element plays a role," Mr Sciacca said.
The Sciacca's developed a system which combines international environmental management standards with organic based production certification.
In 2000, the first commercial trials of the red tipped Pacific Coast Eco Bananas were launched and in 2002, they became a registered trademark and four other farmers joined, with a total growing area of 1000 hectares.
Today, the group ships around 80 tonnes of red-tipped bananas every week, to wholesale markets in capital cities and Woolworths.
If you don't have the commitment, heart and belief in what you are doing is right you wouldn't see it through because there are a lot of things that would put you at the point of walking away.
They also export to Hong Kong, with new markets opening up in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific.
The Sciacca's are in discussions with leading the peak representative body for Queensland's horticulture industry, Growcom, to deliver the ecoganic farming system to other industries. One of the group's growers is transferring the system to avocados.
While humbled to be recognised, Mr and Mrs Sciacca believe the accolades are just as important for the other farmers in the group and say their sustainable farming journey continues to evolve.
"If you don't have the commitment, heart and belief in what you are doing is right you wouldn't see it through because there are a lot of things that would put you at the point of walking away."
In 2017, the Sciaccas received the inaugural Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership - Reef Sustainability Award at the Reef Alliance Awards.
- This story first appeared on the North Qld Register.