FORWARD thinking: Lou Raiteri (sugar grower), Michelle Allen (Coca Cola), Will Higham (Reef Catchments) and Dave McLaughlin (WWF vice president of agriculture) were at Mr Raiteri’s farm on Monday for the start of ’Project Catalyst’.
FORWARD thinking: Lou Raiteri (sugar grower), Michelle Allen (Coca Cola), Will Higham (Reef Catchments) and Dave McLaughlin (WWF vice president of agriculture) were at Mr Raiteri’s farm on Monday for the start of ’Project Catalyst’.

Improving farm practices

ABOUT 150 people gathered at a Foxdale farm belonging to Lou, Betty and Gary Raiteri for the start of Project Catalyst this week.

Now five years old, Project Catalyst is an initiative between cane growers and major program partners including the Australian Government, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), Coca-Cola Foundation, Reef Catchments, NQ Dry Tropics and Terrain Natural Resource Management.

The program aims to promote the rapid adoption of innovative farm practices that improve water quality from cane farms impacting the Great Barrier Reef.

Project Catalyst supports a network of farmers from the Mackay, Whitsunday, Burdekin and Wet Tropics regions who are leading the way in the use of cutting-edge management practices for a more sustainable and effective farming future.

To date, Project Catalyst growers have collectively reduced the amount of pesticides and nutrient runoff from farms to the reef by over 60 tonnes per year. Mr Raiteri who hosted Monday's Project Catalyst field day, has been involved with the program since it began.

"To me, it just fits in with what we're trying to do, to improve our sustainability and productivity and be more conscious of the environment," he said.

"I'm a third generation grower, my family has been on the same property for over 85 years and my son is coming on to take care of the farm. This land is still taking care of us after all that time and I think it is our responsibility to look after what we have."

Following Monday's field trip, Project Catalyst participants headed to Hamilton Island for a two-day forum including workshops and presentations from keynote speakers such as WWF vice president of agriculture Dave McLaughlin.

Mr Raiteri said Project Catalyst brought together like-minded growers with enthusiasm who were all ready to try something new.

"It gives us the support we need to step out and raise the bar and challenge ourselves - we can look up and say 'ok, there's the benchmark' and we find new ways to reach it. It's absolutely remarkable what comes out of it," he said.


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