The Reef goes bananas for Innisfail farmer

Issued: 26 May 2021

Award-winning banana grower Gavin Devaney has developed drains within a wetland on his 250-acre farm to reduce nutrients, sediment and pesticides flowing into waterways and then into the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Devaney won the Future Farming Award at this year’s Australian Banana Industry Congress (see picture) for his extraordinary environmental work conducted at Bartle Frere Bananas which has 155,000 cavendish banana plants on his Boogan farm.

Mr Devaney’s in-drain wetland project received funding through the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (MIP) which works with banana and sugarcane growers in the Tully and Johnstone catchments to test a range of tools and approaches to reduce nutrients, sediment and pesticides running off into the river catchments.

The MIP includes a broad range of activities from water quality monitoring and catchment repair to incentives and extension.

The funding was used to assist with the development of an in-drain wetland system.

“Since 2019 we started the project with the plan of improving not only our layout, productivity and profitability, but also to reduce our environmental impact,” he said.

“We purchased land from one of our neighbours, however, it was a wet farm.

“When you’re farming in the Wet Tropics, the challenge is to get rid of the excess rainwater and ground water.

“We took an holistic approach to achieve best management practice and work towards environmental changes needed to clean up the farm and make it economical.

“A farm can’t afford to lose its topsoil or fertiliser, so we do everything possible to keep that on the farm and not let it wash into the river system.

“We took inspiration from other industries to see if we could apply their ideas to an agricultural setting.

“By implementing an in-drain wetland system, we’ve created the right type of ecosystem for microbes to live and denitrify the water.

“We’ve been monitoring the water quality for the last two years and have been able to greatly reduce the sediment run off.

“In addition to the water quality improvements, our systems work well overall.

“There are no wet spots in the paddock, the underground drainage is working well and we have very little flooding.

“Given the results, we are now in the process of developing another drain system to further build on the progress we’ve made.

“Our family business has always been up for change and it’s given me ideas to change my farming practices moving forward.

“If we all make small changes to our practices, it gives farmers a better perspective of what is possible not only for our own businesses, but the betterment of the environment and the Reef.”

View photos and vision.

More information on Bartle Frere Bananas can be found on Facebook: @bartlefrerebananas

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