By Angela Norval
Despite being a relatively young industry, the Bundaberg region stood out at the Australian Macadamia Industry awards on National Agriculture Day.
Australia’s best and most innovative macadamia growers and industry representatives were honoured in the industry’s Award of Excellence as announced by the peak industry body, the Australian Macadamia Society.
Experienced macadamia growers Jason and Fiona Klotz, from Bundaberg, won the Large Grower of the Year Award, for the most productive and consistent orchard over a five-year period.
They achieved an average of 5.8 t/ha (NIS) and 2.2 t/ha kernel.
Jason and Fiona, as Red Rock Macadamias, started farming macadamias 15 years go with a farm between Elliott Heads and Bargara, before developing another orchard out towards Childers, allowing them to significantly increase their planting area.
As a fifth generation grower, Jason said it was good to be recognised for what they were doing every day.
“We have a lot of attention to detail from irrigation to nutrition, processing and more to ensure that the consumer has the best experience because ultimately, that is our goal,” he said.
“Our expansion has allowed us to have a very high volume of quality macadamias, because the flavour always needs to be there as not everyone eats macadamias fresh so they need to be able to withstand a long shelf life on supermarket shelves.
“We may continue to grow, but only if it will ultimately mean something and be viable for the next generation like my son; for us it is about being sustainable and a lifestyle when it comes to growing macadamias.”
Jason and Fiona have also been real innovators when it comes to farm equipment, showcasing at the Mac Group in Bundaberg on 22 November new farm equipment they designed.
The pair have been working with Agri Con to develop a new harvesting system which is basically a refinement of a lot of current harvesters out there today that works well for the industry and is also comfortable and efficient.”
Bundaberg growers Daryl and Nicole Wake were the Norm Greber Award winners.
The award recognised the important role they played in helping to ensure the availability of MCT1 scion wood to growers and, along the way, contribute to efforts to conserve wild macadamia populations.
The Norman Greber Memorial Trophy is named after industry pioneer, Norm Greber, who was the first person in Australia to successfully graft macadamias.
Daryl and Nicole appreciated the recognition but said they hadn’t set out to win awards – it was more about protecting the industry and ensuring that growers who decided to plant MCT1 were able to source DNA-certified grafted trees from nurseries in Queensland and New South Wales and that ultimately there was always a base to go back to, from where it all started and ensuring the quality of the originals.
Daryl and Nicole were part of small crops and dairy previous to macadamias with DarNic Park, a 26,000 tree macadamia enterprise and believe it is one of the most positive agricultural industries to be part of.
“We continue to find this industry to be changing and evolving with a group of growers who have a clear direction on the quality that they want to present to our consumers and also on helping to continue to grow the job market in the region,” he said.
“Add to that there is so many positive aspects about macadamia nuts as they are such a healthy option whether for eating or their oil.
“Through working to ensure quality scion wood was available to nurseries, it is about making sure it is genetically pure and from M416 which was gifted to the Macadamia Conservation Trust (MCT) by Ian and Jan McConachie and Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) with the name changed to MCT1.
“When it comes to macadamias locally, everyone helps everyone, it is such a friendly environment and this was further highlighted at the Mac Group in Bundaberg as it allowed us a chance to get together, update on the industry and recognised the contribution everyone is making.”
AMS CEO Jolyon Burnett congratulated all Awards of Excellence recipients and paid tribute to the 800-plus Australian macadamia growers who have helped the industry achieve a huge amount in its relatively short history.
“Our award winners are in inspiration to us all,” he said.
“These are people who understand what it takes to shine in the unpredictable and often unrewarding world of farming.
“We are an industry powered by the collaboration and innovative thinking of our people.”