Qld farmers petition against ‘unchecked science’

FARMERS have collected more than 4000 signatures in less than a month opposing what they say is unchecked science being used to make political decisions.

The petition calls for an Office of Science Quality Assurance to be established, to check the science being used to make political decisions.

The petition also calls for the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 to be revoked.

Tanya Howard, the executive officer of Bundaberg Canegrowers and Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group, said decisions based on unchecked science were drowning farmers in red tape, with the potential impacts filtering down to every dinner table across Australia.

“We are proud to be serving our Australian households and families as we are all the time, pandemic or not,” Mrs Howard said.

“But government doesn’t seem to realise that the farmers who feed us all need to be supported, not pushed to the wall.

Government doesn’t seem to realise that the farmers who feed us all need to be supported, not pushed to the wall.– Tanya Howard

“The Reef Regulations Amendment Act, which was raced through the Queensland Parliament in September, is another blinding example of red tape being imposed on farmers based on unchecked science.”

Mrs Howard said because of the way the reef legislation had been shaped, faceless bureaucrats could create an ever-increasing tide of red tape for farmers without even having to consult MPs, who are the elected representatives.

“This is horrifying,” she said.

“Why is government in Australia seemingly intent on pushing our farmers to the wall, with costly and unnecessary red tape, and ultimately forcing them off the land.”

Mrs Howard said the importance of agriculture had been reinforced with the United Nations warning of the worst global food crisis in half a century as a result of the

The Federal Government’s Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences also moved to reassure Australians that their dinner tables are secure, she said.

“ABARES says 88.9 per cent of all food and drink on Australian tables is from Australian producers, with only around 11pc imported motivated by taste and variety,” she said.

Mrs Howard said the reef regulations in place prior to the Amendment Act were appropriate and had prescribed management practices in place.

“We ask Australians everywhere to sign the online petition to protect the farming industry against unnecessary additional red tape based on unchecked science,” she said.

“Farmers are committed stewards of the land and oceans they live, work and relax on. It is in our interests to take care of our environment, and we do exactly that.”

Please support us.”

On June 30 the Queensland petition had collected 2781 signatures, while the national petition had collected 1260 signatures.

The petition closes on September 4.

CLICK HERE to access the petition.

Far North Queensland irrigation district trials blockchain

Blockchain technology is being trialled in Far North Queensland irrigation district, Mareeba-Dimbulah, to improve water trading in the region.

The pilot project is using technology developed by young Australian company Civic Ledger and is funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia.

Chief executive officer and co-founder of Civic Ledger, Katrina Donaghy, said blockchain allowed for an asset to be moved from person A to person B in a way that couldn’t be duplicated and was visible to everyone in the market.

In the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation district, where mostly fruit and sugar cane is grown, it’s hoped the technology will help irrigators trade between themselves allowing for better utilisation of the water that is available.

Chairman of the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme and mango grower Joe Moro said he saw the blockchain technology as a way to add transparency to water trading in the region.

“In the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation area there is some water trading going on but it’s an experiment, in a sense that the information isn’t available, people don’t know who wants to sell and at what price,” Mr Moro said.

“This technology would make clear what’s available and the determination of price would be a lot easier.”

The Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation Area was once a tobacco growing region but now supports mostly horticulture and sugar cane. Photo: courtesy Tropical Tablelands Tourism.
The Mareeba-Dimbulah Irrigation Area was once a tobacco growing region but now supports mostly horticulture and sugar cane. Photo: courtesy Tropical Tablelands Tourism.

He said the irrigation district, which supports more than 1000 water users and has a total of 204,424 megalitres in water entitlements, was in a growth cycle, with an increasing number of high-value horticultural crops being established.

“It was traditionally a tobacco growing area but once tobacco was shut down by the government, it became a very diverse horticultural and sugar cane base,” Mr Moro said.

“With banana plants in a seven-year cycle and fruit trees able to produce for 20 to 30 years or more, there is an interest in long-term water security.”

He said most growers had medium priority water that was highly reliable, with an 100 per cent allocation announced nearly every year.

“There is also a percentage of water that is unused, we refer to it as insurance water, which is available for temporary transfer,” Mr Moro said.

Rob Braunack, Civic Ledger chief operating officer with Joe Moro, chairman of the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme and Katrina Donaghy, Civic Ledger chief executive officer and co-founder.
Rob Braunack, Civic Ledger chief operating officer with Joe Moro, chairman of the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme and Katrina Donaghy, Civic Ledger chief executive officer and co-founder.

CRCNA chief executive officer, Jed Matz said one of the reasons they were funding the project was to find out how much water could be made available for further agricultural use.

“What we’ve heard, talking to the producers up there, is if they had more water available to them they would expand their operations, or value add,” Mr Matz said.

“That’s the anecdotal evidence, now we can try and put some numbers behind it with this research,” Mr Matz said.

He said blockchain technology would also remove the transaction cost for trading water.

“The price will also be more transparent, it will be interesting how that impacts the system as well,” he said.

The blockchain technology is designed to work within the existing regulations, which in the Mareeba-Dimbulah scheme means water can only be traded with other users in the system.

Ms Donaghy said Civic Ledger was in partnership with both Griffith University and the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub, who following the project would asses the technical design, enabling blockchain to be quickly rolled out in other irrigation schemes.

“We hope what we achieve at Mareeba will continue and we can work on building new water markets throughout northern Australia,” Ms Donaghy said.

Better distribution of energy to be explored via microgrids

Rather than farmers exporting power and then buying it back down the line, it’s hoped a federal government grant to the Queensland Farmers Federation to look at the flow-on benefits of microgrids for irrigated agriculture will find ways to better distribute energy resources within networks, and save money.

Along the way, unsustainable electricity costs that are eroding the viability and productivity of many agriculture businesses may be able to be minimised.

The QFF has received $654,807 from round one of the federal government’s Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund to assess options for microgrids to offer a more stable network, increase network utilisation, increase the uptake of on-farm solar energy, and cut costs in the rural and irrigation sector.

If they come to fruition, microgrids could deliver a number of benefits to irrigators around the state, decreased costs being chief among them but also clarity for future electrical infrastructure investment decisions, as well as the installation of smart meters to allow for better monitoring of energy.

Mackay and the Pioneer Valley, Stanthorpe, St George, and Bundaberg farming systems are being targeted in Queensland, along with the Hunter Valley in NSW.

QFF project manager Andrew Chamberlin said microgrids offered a new model for the utilisation of energy that would hopefully reduce costs.

“Microgrids are a collection of distributed energy resources and users – pumps and sheds – aggregated behind a meter that can be islanded, or operate independently of the network,” he said.

“They should mean farmers will be able to use more of their own solar power across different assets.

“For example, one could be storing lots of broccoli in a big shed but then they’ve sold it all, so an irrigator down the road can use the solar power he’s generating and not needing.”

Because some days are cloudy, and farmers have full coldrooms on varying days, it’s hard to match consumption with power generation, but it’s expected that microgrids will allow farmers to use power on other infrastructure without losing it to the grid, or enable the farmer next door to use it.

Mr Chamberlin said blockchain technology may have a role in working out how transactions would get paid for.

“The technology is there to have meters on each property, and to work out contract rates too,” he said.

QFF will partner with Cotton Australia, ReAqua and Constructive Energy to deliver the project.

ReAqua has installed Australia’s largest solar diesel hybrid pumping system, in NSW.

Mr Chamberlin said there were a lot of assumptions to test.

“A power line system cost might be replaced with a management system cost for example.”

QFF has two years in which to undertake the project, some of which would be taken up in assessing which farms to include that showcased best practice examples, and installing meters.

Project managers also want to monitor microgrid attributes over a full year to test it across all seasons.

It will use a lot of real-time meters that farmers can access their phones, and see whether they’re saving power or not.

“We’re excited about this,” Mr Chamberlin said.

“This is one of a few things that will help energy issues for farmers.

“Microgrids allow them to optimise their own power, and people’s systems will all be talking to each other.”

Power partnership receives funding for farm microgrids

Australia has gone from having a competitive advantage in energy costs to being one of the most expensive countries in the world. The price of electricity has increased about 10 times the rate of inflation over the past 10 years for Queensland farmers. Additionally, many regional customers face further bill increases when they are forced on to standard business demand-based tariffs on June 30, 2021. With unsustainable electricity costs eroding the viability and productivity of many agriculture businesses, alternative solutions are needed so Queensland farmers can continue producing world class food, fibre and foliage.

To that end, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation has partnered with Cotton Australia, Reaqua and Constructive Energy to deliver more secure, affordable and reliable energy with microgrids after in securing funding through the federal government’s Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund. The project will establish and analyse four demonstration virtual microgrids in NSW and Queensland to test their suitability in different circumstances and models. In addition, it will include community consultation and workshops, data collection and modelling to understand costs and benefits and provide guidance to industry and government.

Microgrids offer an exciting new model for farms to buy and sell power differently as well as better utilisation of on-site generation and local electricity networks. They may also have the added benefit of reducing grid losses as energy will be used more locally leading to lower investment costs in infrastructure while increasing reliability. These benefits all have the potential to reduce energy costs and will be tested by the project. Ultimately, farmers could benefit from more stable network energy flows, increased network utilisation, more cost-effective uptake of distributed energy systems and reduced costs to provide a community-based source of local, affordable, low carbon energy.

The way energy is generated and consumed is rapidly changing, with customer-owned generation and storage expected to make up almost half of Australia’s entire electricity capacity by 2050. This project places our project partners and the agriculture sector at the forefront of energy generation innovation and better able to overcome ongoing reliability and affordability issues.