Renewables in Agriculture Conference debuts in Queensland

Ross Garnaut at last year's National Renewables in Agriculture Conference. Mr Garnaut brilliantly outlined a future that saw regional Australia as the economic powerhouse of Australia. Picture: CONTRIBUTED.

Renewable energy innovations that enhance the sustainability of agricultural production will headline next month’s National Renewables in Agriculture Conference in Queensland.

The annual event, which conference founder Karin Stark launched in 2019, will be held on July 4 in Toowoomba.

“The National Renewables in Agriculture Conference serves as a platform for industry stakeholders to collaborate, innovate and chart the path towards a more sustainable future,” Ms Stark said.

“It’s important communities get on the front foot and effectively and constructively engage with governments and developers in the energy transition.

“For example, we will have Professor John Cole from the University of Southern Queensland who will outline how this can best happen as part of the conference.

“It could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for the regions if they’re prepared and proactive in how they negotiate, ensuring meaningful legacy projects and programs are funded.”

According to Ms Stark, this year’s conference highlights include pioneering farmer Mike Casey from New Zealand who will share his journey of electrifying his cherry farm and will showcase practical applications of solar and the use of an electric tractor.

“Mr Casey runs a fossil-free, fully-electric cherry orchard,” Ms Stark said. “He imported electric frost-fighting fans from South Africa, run on solar and batteries. The farm’s irrigation also runs during the day powered by solar.

“The cherry farm is one of the first farms in the Southern Hemisphere to use a Monarch Electric Tractor and Mr Casey will share with the conference audience just how the tractor has performed in reality on his farm.”

Also, Queensland beef producer Caitlin McConnel who has trialled grazing cattle under solar panels will speak about her learnings from that project and why it is critical that agriculture and renewables co-exist.

She will be joined by Elton Miller, executive director of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Katie Anne Mulder from Queensland Renewable Energy Council in what promises to be an engaging panel discussion.

In 2019, Karin Stark launched the National Renewables in Agriculture Conference to provide credible, independent advice to farmers about how they could replace diesel and electricity on their properties with renewables.

“Energy costs were and are increasing for many farmers across Australia putting stressors on profitability,” she said.

“At the same time, renewables like solar panels were reducing significantly in price.

“This meant the business case for farmers to switch over from diesel or electricity to renewables was becoming stronger but, back in 2019 when the conference started, there weren’t many credible sources of information to support farmers.

“Hence the idea of the conference came about, to share the stories of farmers using renewables, the benefits they’ve gained and what lessons they’ve learnt.”

Ms Stark said a keynote speaker who had struck a chord with her was Ross Garnaut. She said Mr Garnaut last year brilliantly outlined a future that saw regional Australia as the economic powerhouse of Australia.

“I’ve also really enjoyed hearing directly from farmers who are early adopters and using renewables to run their operations.

“Justin Jarrett from See Saw Wines uses solar for irrigation for his organic vineyard and is reducing plastic waste across the business.

“He spoke eloquently about the need to adopt renewables not only because it saves money but it reduces emissions and is the right thing to do.

“Also, the importance of telling farmer’s stories, in order to build trust with consumers and the community.”

* To register for the conference please visit the website