Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
• Global leaders in sustainable agriculture collaborate with Mackay Whitsundays, Burdekin and Wet Tropics farmers to advance innovative farming practices
• Pioneering partnership improving water quality moves into phase two with 53 land managers covering in excess of 15,000 hectares now active

MACKAY, QLD – 9 May, 2011: Renowned global experts in sustainable agriculture will be meeting with the Queensland sugar cane farmers taking part in Project Catalyst, a pioneering partnership trialing cutting edge farming practices to reduce the environmental impact that sugar cane production has on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), while maximising economic returns.

Robert Quirk, a farmer from the Tweed Valley, NSW, and recognised authority on sustainable sugar cane production; and Professor Bill Dennison of the University of Maryland (U.S.), who is currently working with the Queensland Government on an environmental report card for the GBR, will meet with more than 50 Project Catalyst farmers, industry representatives and guests at the annual 2011 Project Catalyst Forum held in Mackay until May 11.

The forum will bring together local growers and the project’s supporting partners: the Coca-Cola Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Mackay Whitsunday natural resource management group Reef Catchments. The first phase of the project – which provides financial support for farmers to validate new practices for improved water quality, while maximising economic returns – began in 2009 with 19 farming businesses across the Mackay Whitsunday region, and was expanded to cover an additional 22 farmers in the Burdekin and Wet Tropics regions and an additional 12 in Mackay, early 2011.

Will Higham, Operations Manager for Land & Water at Reef Catchments, said the forum would highlight achievements so far, and allow farmers to share information and work together on future plans.

“Project Catalyst is one of a small number of landmark projects being run globally – it has given our local farmers the support they need to make sustainable practices a reality,” Mr. Higham said. “The forum will give them the chance to share their experiences and learn from industry experts who have an intimate knowledge of other successful projects across the globe.”

Mr. Quirk, who serves on the board of Bonsucro, a global non-profit dedicated to improving the social, environmental and economic sustainability of sugar cane, will share updates on international programs in areas including Central America, South Africa and Brazil.

Bill Dennison, Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland, is working with the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet on an environmental report card for the GBR. At the forum, he will work with local farmers to develop an ‘Innovation Scorecard’ to assess the success of their Project Catalyst trials and earmark potential areas for expansion.

In its first year, Project Catalyst improved soil, nutrient, pesticide, irrigation and storm water management on almost 5,000 hectares of farms, transforming the water quality of 24,000+ mega litres of runoff and drainage water.

Project Catalyst grower Rob Sluggett said improved practices had contributed significantly to his farm’s achievements. “Innovative techniques have been an important factor in achieving one of the highest tonnes of sugar per hectare productivity in our area,” he said. “The project has further allowed us to think outside the square in order to improve our crops. The Project Catalyst forum will provide the right environment for us to share our results and work together on improvements.”

Dermot O’Gorman, WWF Australia CEO said: “The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living organism and is currently facing two key threats to its long term survival: climate change and land-based pollution.

“The initial phase of Project Catalyst has already shown it is possible to dramatically reduce the impact from land-based pollution while maintaining a viable agricultural sector. These practices have significant potential to increase the Reef’s resilience in the future.”

Coca-Cola is investing in Project Catalyst to reduce the environmental footprint of sugar, one of the key ingredients in its range of beverages.

Coca-Cola South Pacific President Gareth Edgecombe said Project Catalyst was ground breaking in number of ways: “The Project has brought together the agricultural and corporate sectors; environmental and natural resource management groups – with a collective interest in promoting sustainable production for the protection of a Queensland national and international icon, while working to ensure the future viability of the sugar industry.”

For further information please contact:
Jane Turner, Prose PR
Phone: (07) 4944 0688 or 0400 385 603
Email: [email protected]

Kathryn Torpy, Ogilvy PR
Phone: (02) 8281 3237 or 0431 417 724
Email: [email protected]

Christine Law, Ogilvy PR
Phone (02) 8281 3256 or 0414 810 894
Email: [email protected]

Prose PR and Ogilvy PR are working on behalf of Reef Catchments and can arrange any interviews or provide any high resolution photographs needed for print or web publication.

Contact Profile

Project Catalyst

Project Catalyst is a pioneering partnership which reduces the environmental impact that sugar cane production has on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). It gives cane growers focused on innovation the support they need to make sustainable practices a reality.

The project is a pioneering partnership between the local natural resource management group Reef Catchments, the Coca-Cola Foundation, global environmental organisation WWF and participating sugarcane farmers. It brings together distinct groups with a collective interest in improving water quality in the GBR, and fostering a more sustainable sugar industry.

Growers are invited to participate in Project Catalyst on a voluntary basis and are shortlisted based on a history of trialing new farming techniques and a willingness to share ideas with other growers. Reef Catchments Mackay Whitsunday provides overall coordination and management of the on-ground delivery arrangements, and is responsible for quality control and ensuring that outcomes are delivered and communicated.

Project support for growers includes:
- Agricultural Agronomist: Provides a precision planning service to each grower and helps them to design the testing program for new ideas.
- Agricultural Economist: Works with the Agricultural Agronomist to provide an economic evaluation service to grower, to help design the productivity and profitability testing program.
- Water Quality Scientists: Works with the Agricultural Agronomist to provide a water quality monitoring and modeling service to each grower to design the water quality testing program.
- Communication Leader: Works with the Agricultural Agronomist to capture communication materials about each Project Catalyst grower and the new ideas to be shared with the wider community.
Christine Law
P: (02) 8281 3256
M: 0414 810 894
W: www.livepositively.com.au/Page/Water/great-barrier-reef


Project Catalyst, Mackay, Sugar cane, Coca Cola, WWF, Reef Catchments, Queensland, farmers, growers, partnership, agriculture, farming, techniques, Great Barrier Reef, GBR, water


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