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NSW farmer wins national innovation award

22 June 2009

NEW South Wales farmer Gary Johnston has taken out the prestigious New Technology Award under the NFF/DAFF 2009 Innovation in Agriculture Awards, announced last night at a gala ceremony at the Brisbane Convention Centre attended by over 300 guests.

  • Gary is pictured between NFF President David Crombie [left] and Senator Glenn Sterle who filled in for Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, who was a late withdrawal. Photo downloadable below.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) have combined to establish the national awards to recognise and encourage the pursuit of excellence through innovative farming practises, held as part of the NFF’s annual National Congress.

This year three honours have been conferred under the Awards, one in each of the New Technology, Sustainability and Value Adding categories.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Amidst the worst drought on record coinciding with a growing world food shortage, Australian farmers are increasingly being asked to produce more food with less water.

NSW farmer Gary Johnston has done his bit to rise to that challenge. His invention of the Johnston Water Management Outlet – delivering more water, measured more accurately to save up to 30% in efficiency – has won him the New Technology Award.

Invented by a farmer for farmers, this is a breakthrough in water-saving technology for irrigation across the country. The Johnston Water Management Outlet replaces the Dethridge wheel, which has been a mainstay of irrigation farming since its invention in Australia in 1910, delivering water to irrigation properties.

The Dethridge wheel is used extensively throughout Australia, but also in many other countries, including the United States, Israel and Africa, to measure the flow of water delivered on irrigation properties.

The wheel consists of a drum on an axle, with eight v-shaped vanes fixed to the outside. It sits laterally across a channel and is turned by water flow. The revolving wheel measures flow from the irrigation supply channels into the farm channels, providing the basis upon which irrigation farmers are charged for water.

Taking the concept to an entirely new plane at ‘Merriment’ – his lucerne, cattle and lamb property near Forbes – using nine metres of high density polyethylene pipe or concrete fitted with a control door and a solar powered water meter, Gary Johnston’s improved version delivers up to 80 megalitres of water a day.

However, importantly, through greater accuracy in water measurement, the Johnston Water Management Outlet achieves a massive improvement in water efficiency, saving 30% off previous water use, not to mention labour savings.

“With the Murray-Darling Basin in the grip of the worst drought on record, innovative farmers’ approach to new technology, such as the advance achieved through the Johnston Water Management Outlet, water saving can be applied to underpin agricultural production in all irrigation areas,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“This latest advance by Gary Johnston comes hot on the heels of his NSW Farmer of the Year Award in 2006, when he was recognised for his market-driven approach to the production of a range of crops, in addition to lucerne, including vegetables, oilseeds and cereals.

“Back then, the quality of Gary’s lucerne was high enough for him to establish a line of natural fertiliser and garden mulch products, in addition to marketing it as a premier livestock feed.

“With this dramatic outstanding improvement in irrigated water use, Gary is this time leading the way on how Australian farmers can get ‘more crop for their drop’. A truly outstanding achievement in taking out the New Technology Award.”

The aim of the New Technology Award is to recognise those farmers that have instigated, adapted or seized upon technological advances and employed them with great effect on-farm.

The NFF welcomes the Australian Government’s involvement as the official 2009 Awards sponsor – through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s (DAFF’s) Australia’s Farming Future initiative.

[ENDS]

Related files:

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250 or Gary Johnston on (02) 6856 3158 or 0427 563 158.

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