Leading CEO’s from Coca-Cola and WWF recently took time out in the Mackay Whitsunday region in the name of sustainable farming.
On March 19th & 20th 2015, Roberto Mercade, CEO Coca-Cola South Pacific, and Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia headed north for a tour of Project Catalyst activities.
Project Catalyst is a leading partnership stimulating major change amongst Queensland cane farmers to improve water quality to the Great Barrier Reef – read more on Project Catalyst here.
The group visited the farms of three local Project Catalyst growers – Tony Bugeja, Gerry Deguara and Scott Simpson. Farmacist helped at each visit, detailing the trials and the science behind new practices and innovations being explored.
Rob Eccles, Sustainable Agriculture from Catchment Solutions (Project Catalyst coordinator) said the CEO’s had been invited to see first-hand the benefits of their investment in a more sustainable sugar sector.
“The Coca-Cola Foundation has invested $3.25 million into Project Catalyst Australia over the past six years and we wanted to showcase the action that is allowing our farmers to take,” Mr Eccles said.
“The growers we visited have a mandate to instigate change and are rightfully proud of what they have achieved, while also having such a positive attitude to practice change and the core objectives of Project Catalyst.
“I think the visitors were surprised and impressed by both the attitudes of the growers and the professionalism of the trials. The size of the farms operations and the precision agriculture technology used, including self-steering tractors for example, was a real eye opener for them. Over the two days they experienced what the growers are trying to do to minimise their impact on water quality and gained hands-on experience about what was being protected.
“As well as visiting farms, they also flew 70 km off shore to snorkel around a reef and assisted the local Indigenous people capturing, tagging, health checking and then releasing sea turtles.”
The group also took the time to visit Eco Barge Clean Seas Inc, an Airlie Beach based organisation focused on protecting the marine life and aquatic environment of the Whitsunday region. Eco Barge operates the Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre, providing care to any sick or injured marine turtles.
“The message we wanted to convey was that the new practices being trialled by farmers have far-reaching impacts, and can offer significant benefits to both cane growers and the Great Barrier Reef. Innovation for improved efficiencies is a win-win, and the way of the future,” said Mr Eccles.
“Like the saying goes – adapt, or perish.”