PRIME PRODUCE: President of the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association Carl Walker, Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner with Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan, Mr Susumu Hamamura, and Consul-General Mr Kazunari Tanaka.
PRIME PRODUCE: President of the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association Carl Walker, Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner with Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan, Mr Susumu Hamamura, and Consul-General Mr Kazunari Tanaka.

Drones, insect sensors: Bowen’s farming future

DEVELOPING drones, smart weather technologies and insect sensors with the assistance of our Japanese neighbours could be the key to keeping the farming industry in Bowen competitive, according to the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association.

An exchange program between the association and the Japan Agriculture Exchange Council revealed the strengths of both the regions’ agricultural industries as nine Japanese trainees took part in the Whitsunday Agri-Knowledge Sharing Project.

The project provided nine Japanese trainees with hands-on training at farms in Bowen in areas such as agronomy, seeding, planting and harvesting.

President of the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association Carl Walker said the Japanese trainees had learnt a lot from their experiences of Bowen farming and had also been an invaluable teaching resource in how the region could embrace new farming technologies.

“The program has revealed how we can share the knowledge between Japan and Australia to make both our states and countries better,” he said.

“There is advanced farming technology in Japan and the industry has to move towards robotics and more tech stuff that’s out there.

“In the next five years we’ll see a huge change in horticulture and we need to make sure we embrace it and are there on the forefront.

“This is just one step to embrace it; by building partnerships with people with a large amount of knowledge and with people who are honourable and people who are very good to do business with.”

These technologies span from all corners of the globe and include things such as enhanced weather forecasting equipment where farmers could measure rainfall, wind speed, crop moisture and humidity to gain an understanding of what conditions attract certain insects and spray accordingly.

Mr Walker said drone technologies would work alongside these measures to provide farmers with more accurate and specific information about their crops.

“I see a future where our strain will be controlled by GPS satellite data where you can run a drone across paddock and run assessment over crop,” he said

“You can then come out with a map and you’ll only spray areas under high risk.

“Where you used to spray the whole 100 acres, you may only 10 acres in the future because you can selectively spray or fertilise parts that need it.

“It’s technology that minimises inputs, maximises output and protects the environment.”

The program is a reciprocal agreement and will soon provide trainees from Bowen the opportunity to visit Japan and experience their farming methods.

Mr Walker said in doing so, Bowen’s farming industry could become more competitive in price through the knowledge sharing agreement with Japan.

“We use computers, mapping and GPS systems in our farming but there’s actually more we could use,” he said.

“The cost of labour is destroying our businesses, but in saying that the technology is bringing people onto farms.

“Now it’s hitting the stage where a lot of farms have a full-time person looking after technology – they may not even get their hands dirty because there’s so much technology can do.”

“We must move our businesses towards technology and working with countries that are way ahead of us, like Japan enhances us.”

This program is the first of what Mr Walker hoped to be a long history of exchanges with a new group of Japanese trainees due to arrive in March.