Re­gion to host grow­ers fo­rum

Whitsunday Times - - WHITSUNDAY BUSINESS -

CANE grow­ers from across the re­gion will join leading ex­perts in in­no­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity for the 2014 Project Cat­a­lyst Grow­ers Fo­rum, to be held on Hamil­ton Is­land from Fe­bru­ary 24-26.

The event, which will fol­low on from a farm tour in the Proser­pine re­gion, is set to at­tract more than 150 par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing farm­ers from the Whit­sun­days, Mackay, the wet trop­ics and across the Bur­dekin as well as leading global and Aus­tralian re­searchers, in­dus­try part­ners, econ­o­mists and sus­tain­abil­ity ex­perts.

The pur­pose of the fo­rum is to dis­cuss a fu­ture for sug­ar­cane pro­duc­tion that continues to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of agri­cul­ture on the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Now in its fifth year, Project Cat­a­lyst is a pi­o­neer­ing part­ner­ship be­tween cane farm­ers, nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment groups (Reef Catch­ments, Ter­rain Nat­u­ral Re­source Man­age­ment and NQ Dry Trop­ics), the Coca Cola Foun­da­tion, WWF and the Aus­tralian Govern­ment.

The three-day fo­rum is be­ing co-or­di­nated lo­cally by Reef Catch­ments.

Par­tic­i­pants will have the op­por­tu­nity to hear from key­note guests in­clud­ing WWF vice pres­i­dent of agri­cul­ture (United States) Dave McLaugh­lin and Univer­sity of South Aus­tralia as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor (En­gi­neer­ing In­no­va­tion) Dr David Cro­p­ley, who was also sci­en­tific con­sul­tant for the ABC TV doc­u­men­tary, Re­design My Brain.

Reef Catch­ments CEO Robert Cocco said Project Cat­a­lyst recog­nised the sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts of su­gar pro­duc­ers who were tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print.

“The ac­tions to date of the farm­ers in­volved in Project Cat­a­lyst have di­rectly im­proved wa­ter qual­ity to the Great Bar­rier Reef, while also help­ing in­crease farm pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­itabil­ity,” he said.

WWF sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture pro­gram man­ager, Rob Cairns, said Project Cat­a­lyst brought a di­verse group of people and or­gan­i­sa­tions to­gether to trial and val­i­date prac­tices that were good for farm­ers, good for the com­mu­nity and good for the reef.

“This col­lab­o­ra­tion and out­comes to date are some­thing we should all be very proud of,” he said.

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