The 2022 Bayer Cotton Grower of the year and the AgriRisk High Achiever of the Year have been announced at the Australian Cotton Conference Awards Dinner on the Gold Coast, along with the ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust Young Achiever and the Cotton Seed Distributors Researcher of the Year.
The Bayer Grower of the year is Nick Gillingham, Sundown Pastoral Co’s "Keytah" with Tipperary Station’s Bruce Connolly, taking out the AgriRisk High Achiever of the Year award.
Sundown Pastoral operates Keytah near Moree in New South Wales. The farm consists of 25,000 hectares with 10,000 under irrigation and half utilised for cotton each year in a 100% rotation. In addition, 10,000 is assigned to dryland cropping with another 5000 retained as native vegetation. Company Directors/Owners David and Danielle Statham are heavily involved in day-to-day activities working closely with their 20 full time staff, headed by Nick Gillingham.
The winner of the 2021 Grower of the Year, and one of the judging panel this year, Tony Quigley said Keytah had a track record for investing in research, they are certified to level 3 in the myBMP program, and they apply and share their learnings, which improves the industry as a whole.
“Firstly, the crop was very impressive with their 75cm farming system coupled with the new Sicot 606BRF variety a great fit. The carbon budgeting they’re doing there and being able to be neutral from a carbon point of view is very impressive. But also the traceability of their cotton product and how they’re being able to market that into the future, using both that carbon story but also the providence story.”
Tipperary Station, the AgriRisk High Achiever of the Year, is into its 4th year of growing rainfed cotton, quickly becoming the biggest grower of cotton in the Northern Territory. Mr Quigley said Tipperary’s Bruce Connolly has achieved so much despite the challenges.
“Tipperary was an eye opener. It’s an entirely different production system from what we are all used to and also very isolated in terms of back up and expertise in the area. They’ve really pioneered a cotton industry in the NT and they’ve done it soundly in terms of stewardship. They are the first farm in the Territory to be certified with the myBMP program.”
The ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust Young Cotton Achiever of the Year is Jessica Strauch from Goondiwindi. Jessica is a Grower Services Representative for Queensland Cotton and is also a member of the cotton’s industry’s premier entry-level leadership program, the Australian Future Cotton Leaders Program.
The winner of the Cotton Seed Distributors Researcher of the Year Award is soil scientist Dr Oliver Knox who is the University of New England’s Associate Professor of Soil Systems Biology and CottonInfo technical lead for soil health. Dr Knox recently released a new framework for soil health and is taking the research lead on cotton circularity with two projects scheduled for this year.
Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay congratulated all award winners and all nominees. “Every person nominated deserves recognition here because they are all game changers in their own way.
“These awards have shown me two important factors in our ongoing commitment to become even better at growing Australia cotton. We have the most experienced and intelligent operators who have already contributed decades to the industry while recognising some of our younger participants who are bringing a fresh approach to cotton farming.”
The winner of the prestigious Incitec Pivot Fertilisers Service to the Cotton Industry Award was also announced at the dinner. This year that honour went to Bernie George, the Water Services and Compliance Manager at Australian Food & Fibre.
“Bernie has been delivering excellence in service to the cotton industry through various high-profile roles for over 30 years including as Chair of the Cotton Australia Board and as a member of the National Irrigators Council and NSW Irrigators Council. His contribution has been immense, and this recognition is well deserved,” Mr Kay said.