FIGHTING THE DRY
Carnarvon Gorge’s Khory Hancock’s film looks at drought
A DRY Hope is the latest film venture of Environmental Cowboy Khory Hancock.
The documentary explores the stories and successes of farmers across NSW and Queensland that are using regenerative farming practices.
Growing up on a 30,000-acre cattle station to the west of Carnarvon Gorge gave Mr Hancock a strong understanding of the practicalities of farming and he is able to combine that with a dual degree in environmental science and environmental planning.
A Dry Hope explores the ideas around farming against drought, exploring practices that can make properties more resistant to the effects of drought conditions.
“I wanted to do a film project on some of the longerterm solutions, because I saw that a lot of people are blaming the government and sayin’ ‘we need more funding from the government’ and so on,” Mr Hancock said.
“The government is not going to help, longer term, with any of these solutions.
“Climate change and droughts are going to increase and increase in frequency and intensity, winter rainfall is predicted to decline dramatically in the eastern coastal area of Australia in the next decade by
15 per cent, evaporation rates are predicted to increase another 20 per cent in the next 10-20 years and you’ve also got heatwaves coming through.
“We need to look at longer-term strategy and not just financial solutions.”
He said in the process of travelling for the film and other work, he noticed the clear outcomes for farmers that engaged with regenerative farming.
“Travelling, I could clearly see the different management regimes and the impact that has on the land, sheep and cattle grazing practices from one property to the next and I always wondered why,” he said.
“And it came down to management practices”
An introduction to David Ward, a Dubbo-based agronomist specialising in regenerative farming practice, was a changing point and the two have collaborated to present a range of farmers that have adopted new approaches and are showing results in terms of on-farm drought resilience and improved product and profitability.
It is these stories that comprise the yet-to-befinished film, which requires completion funding.
“I didn’t expect to get the stories I saw out there: this is a much bigger film project than I originally thought,” Mr Hancock said.
The film includes alternate approaches to pasture development, management of creek systems, soil carbon development and a whole raft of holistic land management practices.
Mr Hancock referred to one Dubbo property owned by Eric Harvey, which had shown a dramatic transformation due to transition from traditional to regenerative practice and which was being monitored by CSIRO.
“It was quite amazing, the grass that I saw,” he said.
“Over a two or three-year
period, the soil carbon increased, the nutrient level increased.
“He’s got sheep there; he did an analysis on wool qualities and strength, that all increased. So his agricultural productivity, his ecological productivity was all increasing, despite the drought.
“And as all this increased, the rainfall was decreasing.”
Mr Hancock spoke to Rural Weekly just after delivering a presentation on biochar and seaweed farming for methane reduction at the Australia and New Zealand Biochar Conference on the Gold Coast.
“Although I am a scientist, I come and give an industry perspective – it’s generally well-received by trying to bridge the gap between industry and science,” he said.
He has been involved in carbon assessments on some of Australia’s largest land restoration projects, taking in sites from Cobar in NSW to Winton in Queensland.
“Primarily I work on carbon farming methodologies and ways we can move the industry forward, without relying on government funding for it, so that all these methodologies like soil carbon can become more viable,” he said.
“Currently the government is regulating price on that, so we need to swap to an international trading scheme and make it competitive.”
Mr Hancock feels it is vital we develop carbon farming as a regenerative practice for both soil and climate, in a way that supports viability and profitability for agricultural industries.
“Carbon farming is a way to draw down that carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere causing climate change and to store it safely in our forests, our oceans and our soils and
to make it profitable for our farmers by creating an industry around that,” he said.
His presentation focused around the potentiality of biochar in carbon farming and regenerative farming and of “blue carbon”.
Mr Hancock is one of Australia’s pioneers in “blue
carbon”, or seaweed farming.
He said Meat and Livestock Australia had a target in place to become carbon neutral by 2030 and was engaged with trials with CSIRO on feed lots.
“One of the ways they are looking at doing that is introducing seaweed into the cattle diet,” he said.
“It’s very exciting – one of those particular species of
seaweed, if you introduce
2 per cent into their diet, it eliminates their methane emissions by 99 per cent.”
In response to that potential, Mr Hancock is in the process of developing a start-up, potentially with US seaweed farming expert Brian von Herzen, around creating “blue carbon” farms that have a triple action in sequestering
❝We need to look at longer-term strategy and not just financial solutions. — Khory Hancock
carbon in sea beds, delivering cooler water from lower areas of the sea to the surface and providing fodder to service a lower-methane-emitting cattle industry.
“It has multiple benefits and just one of them is reducing methane emission through cattle feed so that you’ve basically got a green product,” he said.
ENVIRONMENTAL COWBOY: Khory Hancock explores the power of regenerative farming through the documentary film project A Dry Hope.
ON SCREEN: Khory Hancock filming with the Conscious Farmer Derek Blomfeld on his Liverpool Plains station, Colorado.
A severely degraded gully on Colorado station.
A healthy gully, terra-formed by cows and covered with life on Colorado station.
ENVIRONMENTAL COWBOY: Khory Hancock explores the power of regenerative farming through documentary film project A Dry Hope.