Lean and green thinking helps farmers do more with less
Queensland’s farmers have been doing it tough over the past 10 years, but now researchers from QUT and Griffith University have unearthed a potential antidote to the problem. All that’s required is a shift in investment decisions around equipment and processing.
According to lead researcher Savindi Caldera, a doctoral researcher from QUT, the strategic application of ‘lean and green thinking’ could enable farmers to make the most of precious capital and ongoing expenditure. Lean and green thinking is an integrated approach focused on resource optimisation and promoting activities to ‘do more with less’.
The approach has already proved successful for the Keith family, a sugarcane farming family based at Woongoolba and who own the Rocky Point Sugar Mill. After identifying the appropriate tools to reduce waste and non-value-adding activities, the family diversified their business practice and now offer a range of sustainable garden supplies for home garden projects, including organic gardening, potting plants, fruit and vegetable growing, suppressing weeds and more.
“We have realised that to complement our sugarcane farming, we can recycle urban waste destined for landfill, collecting pallets and crates and recycling them to produce ‘urban timber mulch’ which we then sell for use on gardens,” said Lars Hall, business development manager at Rocky Point.
In recognition of Rocky Point’s diversification of farming practice and sustainability focus, the Keith family won the 2016 Australian Farmer of the Year award. And according to co-researcher Associate Professor Cheryl Desha, of Griffith’s Cities Research Institute, the findings have implications for all farmers battling rising operating costs.
“Rather than buying into what’s popular or relying on sales reps, farmers can now directly see which types of resourcing and energy efficiency tools and programs best suit them, depending on their priorities,” said Desha.
Co-researcher Professor Les Dawes, of QUT’s Institute of Future Environments, also sees this type of research collaboration as critical to contributing to operational efficiencies and value adding to farmers.
The researchers’ work has been published in the International Journal of Cleaner Production.
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