A proactive approach to battling skyrocketing fertiliser prices and demonstrating on-farm sustainable environmental practices has landed the Rossi family of Aloomba, in the Cairns region, with the Prince's Trust - Reef Sustainability Award.
The Rossi family was recognised in the 2022 Reef Champion Awards, which shine a light on farming, extension, traditional owners and community leaders who are working to reduce their impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
Tony Rossi, his five brothers and their late father Ricky, were honoured with the top award having saved $150,000 in fertiliser costs by making their own.
The family spend about $30,000 - $40,000 to produce a fertiliser for their 220 hectare cane farming operation, 30km south of Cairns.
Mr Rossi said it was a big honour for the family.
"We're pretty proud of what we're trying to achieve and generally trying to be good stewards to the land and do our best," he said.
"We're just trying to find new ways which are cost effective for us."
Denis Pozzebon, Mt Kelly, received the Reef Nutrient Stewardship Champion Award.
Denis was one of the first cane farmers who had his farm's electromagnetic induction (EM) mapped into zones for nutritional programs.
He continues to utilise these maps for targeted soil testing, nutrient planning and variable rate amelioration.
The Reef Sediment Stewardship Champion Award went to Fran and Damon Lyons, Charters Towers, Basalt River Station.
They took steps to improve land condition and resilience while increasing groundcover and available pasture. Modelling suggests that these management changes have saved around 1,950t of fine sediment annually.
Jason Bradford, Alligator Creek, and Pacific Biotechnologies (Australia) Pty Ltd were the Reef Conservation Champion Award winners while Rebecca McHardie, Mossman, won the Reef Extension Officer Champion Award.
Reef Pesticide Stewardship Champion Award went to Matt and Ben Abbott, Mena Creek, who use no synthetic chemicals and maintain an organic certification covering their papaya and banana produce.
The Reef Traditional Owner Group Champion Award was won by Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation and the Reef Traditional Owner Youth Champion Award went to Ashlyn Skeene, Yirrganydji Land and Sea Ranger.
The Reef Youth Champion Award winner was Ema Parker, Port Douglas and the Reef Community Champion Award winner was CQ Seagrass Regeneration Collective, Rockhampton, for working together to restore or reinstate seagrass meadows.
The Awards, run by Queensland Farmers' Federation with support from Prince's Trust Australia, Australian and Queensland governments.
QFF CEO Jo Sheppard congratulated the winners and finalists and highlighted the importance of acknowledging the efforts of farmers and others working with the agricultural sector, traditional owners and local communities to safeguard the future of the Reef and coastal systems.
"The outstanding achievements of farmers, extension officers, traditional owners, and community members nominated for these awards is a testament to agriculture's commitment and achievements in improving water quality through practice change and innovation in Reef catchment areas," Ms Sheppard said.
"Critical to the success of these voluntary programs and actions is the strong partnership with the Australian and Queensland governments. It is only through working together that we can achieve mutually beneficial outcomes that will underpin a sustainable future for farmers, a globally competitive future for food security, stronger regional communities and good environmental outcomes.
"Water quality is critical in protecting the reef, and the awards showcase some inspiring people contributing new ideas and making a real difference".
Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Meaghan Scanlon congratulated the finalists and winners for their exceptional work to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
"These awards showcase the achievements of Queenslanders who are setting the benchmark for agricultural innovation to reduce run-off and delivering practical Reef projects," Ms Scanlon said.
"The work being undertaken by the farmers, advisers, traditional owners, and community groups shows what can be achieved if we work together. Through these efforts and collaboration, we can transform the outlook for the Reef and ensure it can be protected now and into the future."