Bowen Gumlu Growers Association driving agritech adoption in North Queensland - evokeAG.

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Bowen Gumlu Growers Association driving agritech adoption in North Queensland

As excitement grows for evokeAG. 2025 in Queensland, we’re shining a light on the Sunshine State’s agrifood innovation ecosystem, from founders to funders – and not forgetting the most critical link in the agrifood innovation chain: the adopters! The producers, processors, and supply chain partners who translate innovation into action.
Here, Ry Collins, of the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association, shares how agritech innovation can drive a more productive, profitable, and sustainable horticulture industry in North Queensland – and what growers up north hope to see from their state’s own evokeAG. 2025.

Queensland delegation at evokeAG. 2024. Ry Collins, outgoing CEO of the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association, was part of the Queensland delegation at evokeAG. 2024.

Australia’s Sunshine State, Queensland is home to a thriving agrifood innovation scene – championed by a visionary state government that wants its growers and producers to be early adopters of revolutionary tech that brings new products and services to the world.  

And it isn’t pie in the sky thinking. Long renowned as powerhouse commodity producers, Queensland farmers are ready to level up – looking for the next generation of solutions that unlock new productivity, profit, and sustainability frontiers. 

Ry Collins

Ry Collins, outgoing CEO of the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association.

But in a state as decentralised as Queensland, the adoption of innovation isn’t as simple as a trip to the local rural store. Often, and especially for innovations at the cutting edge, it takes the support of well-connected producer groups who understand the challenges local producers are striving to overcome – as well as their skills and experience in implementing innovation.  

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Enter the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA). The representative body for horticultural growers in the Whitsunday Region, 1,200km north of Brisbane, BGGA has a proud 74-year history of advocating for member interests across key industry challenges.  

It’s also passionate about fostering on-farm practice change that drives stronger commercial outcomes, and more prosperous communities. As outgoing CEO Ry Collins explained, innovation is a key part of that story.  

“BGGA represents the interests of horticultural growers and associated agribusinesses; predominantly family-run farm businesses from small holdings to corporate-scale operations, in the state’s largest producing region of winter vegetables – the Bowen Gumlu,” Ry says.  

“And we’ve got some real leaders in the on-farm innovation space, who are keen to explore opportunities to move productivity and efficiency along. And they’ve got the financial capability to invest.” 

But like the farming community more broadly, Ry noted there are members who need more convincing.  

RELATED: evokeAG. 2025 is heading to Queensland, with Julia Spicer and Salvo Vitelli 

“Getting them to adopt practice change is challenging unless they immediately see it solving a key problem and delivering financial gain.”   

Innovation Day brings founders to farmers

That’s where BGGA’s Innovation Day came in. Supported by funding from AgriFutures Australia’s Producer Technology Uptake Program (PTUP), BGGA set about identifying the critical challenges and priorities of local growers – and how they could be addressed through agritech adoption.  

BGGA’s program included a free workshop to improve grower collection and use of data on-farm, including current business practices, challenges, and technology-focused solutions. 

It also took a group of growers on a study tour to evokeAG. 2023, to observe agritech in practice in another producing region of Australia. 

But the biggest impact came from an on-farm trial and demonstration day, where growers were able to see, touch, and try the innovations that could level up their business.  

“We designed the BGGA Innovation Day to whet the appetite of growers around what’s available in the market – and broker awareness around how it could help them,” explained Ry.  

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“We had over 20 agritech vendors in trade stalls, plus a rotating schedule of infield demonstrations. Across the day around 160 people saw a broad gamut of agritech solutions: drone spray delivery, virtual and augmented reality, sensor technology, biologicals, connectivity, pest management technologies, security monitoring, and farm management software.”  

But the biggest drawcard? Autonomous vehicles.  

“There’s something about seeing a robotic tractor drive around a paddock that just gets people interested!” Ry said. 

“Being a regional area, we don’t get a lot of tech companies coming up to do business development,” he continued.  

“Events like the Innovation Day – which allowed us to showcase a range of innovations in one place; get producers interested; and get the vendors here, too – are really important for brokering the uptake of innovation.” 

Students watch a drone

The BGGA Innovation Field Day attracted growers, students and industry stakeholders. Image | BBGA

RELATED: Queensland mango grower Ben Martin uses robots to power the next stage of growth 

With commercial trials and contracts for purchase drawn up afterwards, it’s clear there’s an appetite for agtech to justify an innovator’s trip north.  

Turning it up a notch

Based on the success of its Innovation Day, BGGA received additional funding to amplify its impact. On the agenda is a November field day, coined ‘Grown in NQ 2024.  

“We wanted to take what we did with the Innovation Day and knock it up a notch,” said Ry. 

 “We’re targeting 300 attendees. We gave it a brand, and we’re building out a program with a central stage for guest speakers, plus trade stalls, and infield demos.” 

RELATED: More than just beaches and rainforests: why Queensland is the perfect host for evokeAG. 2025 

Hosting the event at the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s Bowen Research Facility means BGGA can utilise the farming plots – “Planting them out three months in advance so we can run the machinery over them and make it more interactive,” explained Ry.  

“We’re also looking at running some site tours of commercial operations in the region, and to the Bowen Orbital Spaceport – our region’s small satellite rocket launch site – to see and hear about low earth observation as an emerging tech in agriculture, too.

Ry hopes evokeAG. 2025 delegates get behind Grown in NQ as a lead-in event to evokeAG. – and a showcase of the determination, diversity, and pioneering spirit of Queensland’s agrifood and tech industries. 

What do NQ growers want from evokeAG. 2025?

“For BGGA members, it’s all about efficiency and productivity – so we’ll be looking to see innovators and problem solvers who can address those challenges,” explained Ry. 

RELATED: Dialling up diversity: Powerhouse panel at Beef2024 to explore how to make agtech more inclusive 

“A key part of that is labour. We saw through the COVID-19 pandemic just how reliant our region is on agriculture – but it exposed limitations in our workforce.” 

“And it really identified the critical need to start making changes around how we do our tasks on farm, and how we can utilise technology to reduce our exposure to seasonal labour shortages.” 

If you’re an agritech innovator with a market-ready solution you’d like to showcase at the Grown in NQ 2024 field day, contact the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association here. 

Tickets are now on sale for evokeAG. 2025 to be held on 18-19 February 2025 in Brisbane, Queensland. Following a sell-out event in 2024 we are encouraging delegates to secure their tickets, flights and accommodation early.

We look forward to seeing you in Brisbane for evokeAG. 2025. In the meantime, catch up on the other conversations about sustainability, climate resilience and the role of agtech in meeting those challenges from here.

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