Major player in budding Bowen tequila industry recognised
AS THE agave industry puts down roots in Bowen, a major player in its development says looking at new crops is just one example of how growers can work towards sustainability in the region.
Chris Monsour of Prospect Agriculture in Bowen has just been recognised for his contributions to sustainability, being named a regional winner in the 2020 Syngenta Growth Awards in the sustainability category.
Mr Monsour was engaged by Melbourne distiller Top Shelf International to develop an Australian version of tequila and set up the farm suited to grow the key ingredient, agave, on their behalf.
Planting started in February and now almost 150,000 plants are in the ground, with plans in the works to construct a distillery, information centre and function centre on the property.
"It's a pretty exciting venture," Mr Monsour said.
"It's a crop that's going to have a lot of potential even beyond our area."
Through Prospect Agriculture, Mr Monsour helps growers in a couple of different ways.
He provides agronomic advice, mainly to vegetable and mango growers in the Bowen and Burdekin region, as well as helping clients develop new products for the industry.
Mr Monsour said he had always enjoyed working with growers and finding innovative ways to help them produce the best crops.
"It's about trying to reduce the impact on the environment, helping them to produce food safely that meets all the requirements in Australia to make sure the food we eat is good quality but also safe," Mr Monsour said.
"Helping them to manage new pests, helping them to do things in ways that make their business more profitable.
"They're busy doing what they do - it's our job to bring the new information to them."
Mr Monsour said to him, achieving sustainability meant supporting the environment used to produce food, as well as building sustainable businesses.
"Looking at new crops, new techniques, helping them interact with other experts that I have through my contact network," Mr Monsour.
"Like Syngenta, we can make contact with them and they can use their expertise to come up with a solution."
Mr Monsour said looking at developing alternative crops, such as the agave plant in Bowen, was another way to bolster the region.
As time has gone on, the number of growers in the region has decreased, so Mr Monsour said he wanted to make sure the growers that are still operating can survive.
One way to do this was creating better awareness among consumers about the work that goes into producing clean produce, he said.
"A lot of our economy in this area relies on agriculture - sugarcane, passionfruit, mango," he said.
"It costs growers money to be able to do things in a sustainable way.
"If the consumers don't recognise that and don't pay a fair price for the produce the growers produce under those systems, why would the grower keep doing that if there's no economic return?"
Despite the challenges, Mr Monsour said it was an exciting time for the agriculture industry as new technology, such as robotics, was being developed to help use resources more efficiently, maximise production and limit waste.
He believed this aspect of agriculture should be promoted to the next generation more as they could become skilled in areas such as programming and data generation to help build the industry.
Through his work, it was clear Mr Monsour was making his own significant contribution to the agriculture industry.
That was demonstrated through his recent accolade in the 2020 Growth Awards.
Bowen Crop Monitoring Services' Dale Abbott was also named a regional winner in the productivity category.
"You don't do this to get awards but it always is nice to be recognised and particularly by companies like Syngenta, they're a global company and I've worked with them for many years," Mr Monsour said.