A group of local farmers have turned a $30,000 grant into a major investment.
A group of local farmers have turned a $30,000 grant into a major investment. Mike Knott BUN171115NUT10

How these farmers turned $30k into a $1.5 million investment

A GROUP of Northern Rivers farmers has converted a $30,250 grant into a $1.5 million investment in less than a year.

And they have projected a $50 million investment over the next five years.

So how are they doing it?

The 12 farmers are converting more than 2000 hecatres of low-lying coastal floodplain farms into macadamia orchards.

Historically the land has been used for cane.

But with assistance from the Farming Together program, the transition has been supported with experts on soil and drainage, orchard mapping/layout, farm management software and business management expertise.

The project manager is Robbie Commens, who was formerly productivity development manager for the Australian Macadamia Society and was named 2013 Horticulture Australia Young Leader of the Year for helping increase average per-hectare production by more than 15 per cent.

"Moving into floodplain cultivation is new territory. There is no established best practice," he said.

He said an important element of the project had been property-specific irrigation and drainage management plans using new technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing method that uses pulsed laser to measure landforms.

Macadamia growers Graham and Fiona Grant with their neighbour Robbie Commens.
Macadamia growers Graham and Fiona Grant with their neighbour Robbie Commens.

The farmers have committed to earthworks, soil improvement and flood mitigation.

They plan to spend more than $1.2 million on irrigation infrastructure, while installation of GPS technology will cost more than $100,000.

"We needed to understand the key limitations, both internal and external, along with growers' strategic goals and the path to achieve them within the limitations in a safe and sustainable manner," Mr Commens said.

The project was also supported by the Northern Rivers RDA, the Australian Macadamia Society and the NSW DPI.

Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said it was a "wonderfully adaptive project".

"The commitment of this grower group is something Farming Together is proud to support," she said.

The Farming Together pilot program was delivered by Southern Cross University and finished on June 30. To find out more, visit www.farmingtogether.com.au.



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