AN innovative new project is set to enhance soil and land management practices, improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, and help secure the Far North’s future food supply.
The Atherton Tablelands Integrated Collaboration will be delivered through a partnership between the Queensland Government and not-for-profit organisation Sustainable Table.
Both organisations will provide $1.5 million each in funding towards the project over the next five years, with Sustainable Table also committing up to $500,000 in-kind support.
Horticulture is Queensland’s second largest primary industry, with recent figures showing the Atherton Tablelands’ horticultural industry contributing more than $500 million to the local economy each year.
The collaboration will support horticultural land managers on the Tablelands in transitioning to more sustainable farming practices, helping to improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef by reducing harmful farm run-off.
Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leanne Linard said the improved agricultural management practices will benefit growers.
“This collaboration will enhance water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the three major threats to the reef, by reducing harmful farm run-off,” she said.
The project also aims to develop a future regional food hub in Cairns, integrating regenerative practices, such as increasing biodiversity and enriching soil in the Tablelands food production area within the Cairns market.
Sustainable Table CEO Jade Miles said the organisation was delighted to be a partner in the initiative.
“Our mission is to transform food and fibre systems by aligning farming to a more regenerative way of production, including facilitating collaboration and learning between stakeholders,” she said.
“We believe this provides a whole-of-system and holistic approach to farming, making the sector more productive, profitable and sustainable over the long term.
“As the food bowl for North and Far North Queensland, Atherton Tablelands horticultural producers are in an ideal position to benefit from this exciting project and the changes it will bring.”
The food hub will support a circular economy approach to food production as well as facilitating research and development, employment upskilling, and knowledge sharing and learning.
The Atherton Tablelands Integrated Collaboration will be delivered across four key phases.
It will start with Sustainable Table gathering an in-depth understanding of the local context, opportunities, and blockages for regenerative agriculture in the region.
This will be followed by a process to identify stakeholders, potential opportunities, and initiatives for implementation, and a funding program to enable on farm regenerative agricultural practices to be implemented on-ground.
The Tablelands and Cairns regions were selected due to the potential provided by the local diverse horticultural systems and opportunities to improve water quality, and create local supply chains to serve the regional hospitality industry.