THE banana industry has handed out awards to five individuals to recognise their efforts in driving the industry forward.
Growers Dennis Howe and Franziska and Peter Inderbitzin, along with veteran horticulturalist Jeff Daniells, received Awards of Honour at the Banana Ball, while Gavin Devaney, a grower from Boogan, took home the newly created Future Farming Award, acknowledging outstanding achievement in banana best management practice.
The Awards of Honour are given out every two years as part of the Australian Banana Industry Congress from May 12 to 14.
This year, the Australian Banana Growers' Council introduced the Future Farming award, to recognise the extraordinary environmental work being undertaken by growers.
ABGC chair Stephen Lowe said it was about celebrating those who are leading the way, going above and beyond with outstanding farming practices that contribute to water quality improvement in local waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.
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"The idea is that it is given to someone who demonstrates commitment, innovation, a willingness to share information and a desire to contribute to the long-term improvement of water quality and farm productivity," Mr Lowe said.
"I couldn't imagine a more fitting person to receive the inaugural award than Gavin Devaney."
Mr Devany received his award for his work converting a former cane paddock into a best practice banana farm with innovative runoff solutions.
In doing so, he has significantly improved the farm's layout and reduced its environmental impacts, while also maintaining productivity and profitability.
Mr Devaney has made land available to trial new methods on-farm, participates in project reference groups and has contributed to the Best Management Practice Guideline.
He is also participating in a Smart Farms project using remote sensing to measure aspects of BMP, including nutrient loss through leaching.
Mr Lowe also paid tribute to the incredible careers of those acknowledged with Awards of Honour.
"We count some of the world's most innovative growers and researchers among our Australian industry. To say we are lucky is an understatement," Mr Lowe said.
"Growers like Dennis Howe and Franziska and Peter Inderbitzin are renowned for their hard work, resilience and willingness to take a risk. They're also top people to boot.
"It's thanks to researchers like Jeff Daniells, often working tirelessly behind the scenes, that our industry has such a positive future here in Australia."
The Inderbitzins are the second of three generations involved in the family's Lakeland farm and have carved out a reputation as industry leaders.
To this day, they are the only banana farmers in Australia to utilise the South American cableway system and they were among the first to welcome overseas workers through the Pacific Labour Scheme.
They have also led the way in using recycled organic waste for compost on-farm.
Mr Howe became the first person to plant Cavendish bananas in Walkamin on the Atherton Tablelands in 1995, an area that was then believed to be too cold for anything other than lady fingers.
A year later, he planted his second block, still in production today.
Mr Howe is now the country's second largest producer of Cavendish bananas and grows a wealth of other crops including avocados, coffee, blueberries, peanuts and sugar cane. He employs some 500 people around the Mareeba and Atherton regions.
Mr Daniells has spent four decades working with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and has developed scientific relationships that have extensively benefitted the Australian banana industry.
He has travelled extensively as part of his work, collecting germplasm in Papua New Guinea, working with ACIAR to identify black Sigatoka resistant varieties for Australia and Pacific nations in the 80s and 90s.
Mr Daniells is currently leading the importation and screening of new varieties under the Plant Protection Program.
The Banana Ball was a fitting end to Banana Congress 2021, which saw a record number of delegates take in a range of speakers, social events and exhibitions.
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