Tony Bugeja: Runner Up; Reef Rescue Sugarcane Farmer of the Year
Image: Tony Bugeja
The region’s second candidate is well known for his commitment to innovation and willingness to work with a range of partners to improve the sustainability of the sugarcane industry. Tony Bugeja of Palmyra is an original member of Project Catalyst, a partnership between sugarcane growers, NRM groups Reef Catchments Solutions, NQ Dry Tropics and Terrain NRM, WWF, the Australian Government and Coca Cola; dedicated to speeding the adoption of innovative cane farming techniques for improved environmental and economic outcomes.
“I am very happy to be named runner up in these Reef Rescue award, and to come second to a farmer as worthy as Rod Lamb,” said Tony.
“I value the Reef Rescue program highly, both for it’s ability to improve the quality of water leaving farms and entering the Great Barrier Reef, but also for it’s impact on the local cane industry. The program gives us the extra funds that allow us to improve our farm management at a much faster pace than we could do on our own.
“Us cane farmers don’t want to do harm to our environment or communities, we are happy to change and improve what we are doing, but we do need a little help to get there and that is what the Reef Rescue program is about,” he added.
Tony practices best and innovative management across his farm and has utilised Reef Rescue funds to make important changes including implementing a controlled traffic farming system on his property with 1.8m row spacing and GPS on all operations. This has allowed Tony to improve soil management; limiting soil compaction to the inter-row helping to improve infiltration and delay runoff after storm events. Tony has also purchased a nine row spray unit with hooded shields to improve chemical application and reduce the use of residual chemicals. This new unit allows Tony to band residual chemicals greatly reducing the volume he applies. The new spray rig links with the GPS units funded and allows Tony to accurately map applications to ensure no overlap. Tony has also had his farm’s soil EC mapped through a Reef Rescue industry support program. Tony first had his property mapped 13 years ago; which shows that he really is an early adopter and true innovator.
Rodney and Tony represent just a handful of the many standout participants in Reef Rescue and are a prime example of the programs success in driving widespread practice change and innovation.
The Reef Rescue Awards were run by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation and the Regional NRM Groups Collective with winners named in the fields of sugarcane, grazing, grains, horticulture and dairy.
The top farmers have been recognised for their outstanding achievements through involvement in the Reef Rescue program, by completing on farm projects that deliver substantial environmental outcomes and also improve farm productivity.
QFF CEO Dan Galligan said that under such a successful program as Reef Rescue, which had driven widespread practice change and innovation, choosing winners was always going to be a difficult task.
“But these winners are standout participants in Reef Rescue, are champions of the program, and are prime examples of why this program has been such a huge success since it began in 2008,” Mr Galligan said.
The Reef Rescue winners are:
- Dairy award winner: Geoff Downie, Monto.
- Sugarcane award winner: Rodney Lamb, Marian.
- Grains award winner: David and Adele O’Connor, Springsure.
- Grazing award winner: Barry and Leanne O’Sullivan, Bowen.
- Horticulture award winner: Ian Barnes, Mission Beach.
CEO of Queensland’s Regional NRM Groups Collective, Andrew Drysdale, said the awards gave recognition to farmers and graziers who had worked hard on changing management practices for the better.
“Across the winning categories, these are all leading farmers and have made significant contributions of their own funds to improved practices.
“RGC joins with QFF and all industry bodies and regional groups in congratulating these winners and thanking all nominated farmers for their contribution to the Reef Rescue program,” he said.
Find out more about Project Catalyst, one of the products offered within our Rural Production Innovation Systems program.