TWO South Australian farmers who take a distinctly innovative and scientific approach to their craft have been named the best in Australia as part of ABC Rural and Kondinin Group 2014 Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.
Orchadist Robert Green was given the awards for both Horticultural Grower of the Year and the overall title, Australian Farmer of the Year.
His approach to orcharding combines science and mechanics, with judges commenting on his willingness to embrace change and risks to improve his outcomes.
Australian Farmer of the Year, Robert Green.
Green's typical level of production is way above the country's average. Australian apple production averages around 30 tonnes per hectare. Oakleigh Orchards, Green's farm based in Lenswood, South Australia, typically produces 50 tonnes per hectare.
His highest performing block has been taken to 107 tonnes per hectare, more than triple the average, while still producing high grade fruit with a 90% pack out rate.
Kondinin Group general manager Stephanie Shepherdson said Mr Green was a great representative of the profession.
"His professionalism, leadership qualities and innovative approach are second to none. I congratulate Robert on his efforts and wish him well as an ambassador for agriculture," Shepherdson said.
Green, who is also one of the select growers around the country guiding the industry's future as part of the Future Orchards programme, says he's nowhere near done either.
"I haven't gone close enough to the edge of the cliff and will keep probing to find the limits of a system of production and a standard of management. You don't know where that mark is until you exceed it," he said.
Young Farmer of the Year, Jack England, with his wife Frances and daughter Taylor.
Meanwhile, farmer Jack England was named as the Young Farmer of the Year.
He remains solely responsible for the family farm, Shepherds Hill, which he owns a 40% share of - supporting his parents in to their retirement. Shepherds Hill is comprised of a number of enterprises, including grain production, beef, sheep and agroforestry.
England brings a decidedly scientific focus to his land management, having a four year Agricultural Science degree under his belt, having also worked as a research agronomist.
"Coupled with the skills taught to me as a 5th generational farmer, my ability to critically assess emerging technologies, farm practices and market signals has placed our operation in the top 5 percentile for cost of production and profitability," England said.
Stephanie Shepherdson said the industry has a secure future with young farmers like Jack England working within it.
"It is comforting to know that the Australian agricultural industry has such young forward thinking and enthusiastic farmers in the foreground of decision making. It is the efforts of Jack England that provide comfort in the knowledge about Australia's confidence in agriculture and ultimately long term food security," she said.
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell congratulated both recipients for their achievements - one of the most prestigious awards in agriculture.
"It's little wonder that South Australia has a growing international reputation for premium food and wine when we have innovative farmers such as Robert and Jack leading the agricultural industry in our state," the Minister said.