Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award finalists chosen

August 19, 2011

Tom HillThe judges have concluded their difficult task and the results are in. Six finalists will vie to become the 2011 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year – three each in both the animal and plant categories.

Hosted by Kondinin Group and ABC Rural, and sponsored by Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia, the award recognises the efforts of producers dedicated to keeping their operations free of diseases, pests and weeds.

Animal finalists

Livestock producers Lindsay Bourke (of Launceston, Tasmania), Pepe Bonaccordo (South Windsor, NSW), and Tom Hill (Colbinabbin, Victoria) are now in the running for this prestigious national award.

Lindsay Bourke owns Australian Honey Products and is chairman of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council. At the age of 60, when most people would be looking forward to retirement, Lindsay relaunched his honey career with just 92 hives. Seven years later he runs 3000 hives and has created a unique honey extraction business as part of a vertically-integrated strategy.

Lindsay does not use any insecticides, preservatives or additives and maintains disease-free colonies at a time when the Australian honey bee industry is being confronted with major biosecurity threats such as the varroa mite and colony collapse.

Pepe Bonaccordo founded Pepe’s Ducks in 1973 as a backyard business with 22 Pekin ducks. Today he supplies 80,000 ducks a week and is a major player in the Australian specialist poultry meat market. His commitment to biosecurity has helped the duck industry develop and implement stand alone quality systems outside the umbrella of the chicken industry. He has been dedicated to industry leading work in animal welfare, risk management, zoonotic disease management, marketability, productivity and profitability.

Tom Hill is a partner and manager at his family owned farm of 1500 hectares of crops, and oversees 200 hectares of pasture for Merino ewes in a prime lamb venture. Tom has a philosophy that everything enters and leaves the property clean: “We don’t want to take weeds or diseases onto any other property and we don’t want them to arrive on ours,” he says. 

Plant finalists

Plant producers Bill Casey (of Ulverstone, Tasmania), Sandra and Peter Young (Woombye, Queensland), and Lynn and Ian Rathjen (Colbinabbin, Victoria) have been recognised as oustanding entrants in the national award.

Bill Casey says his company, Biological Resources Australia (BRA), is the major player in contracting pyrethrum growers in Tasmania, providing agronomic and other crop advice to growers as well as harvesting, transport and storage. The company has recently expanded its operations, including into Victoria, so stringent biosecurity standards must be met to allow plant material and machinery back into Tasmania. With markets across the US, Middle East, the European Union and Asia, BRA today exports as much as 98 per cent of its annual production and its commitment to biosecurity stretches back more than 30 years.

Sandra and Peter Young own and operate Birdwood Nursery Fruit Trees, Queensland’s leading tropical and subtropical fruit production nursery. They not only supply the country’s fruit growers, but also the shelves of Bunnings and a wide range of other retail outlets. Birdwood helped pioneer a nursery industry accreditation scheme and in 2006 became one of the first nurseries to achieve EcoHort certification. Producing more than 150,000 trees annually, the Youngs say biosecurity has been at the forefront of all production processes in the business.

Lynn and Ian Rathjen run a diverse farming enterprise producing wine, native trees, cereal crops and pastures, as well as running a Border Leicester sheep stud. The Rathjens introduced strict biosecurity practices because of the immediate threat to both their income and their way of life. They took these measures not just to protect their business but also to protect agriculture in their region.

Our judges were impressed by all the finalists’ proactive approaches to implementing best practice biosecurity. Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia would like to sincerely thank all those who took the trouble to nominate. The strong field of entries this year demonstrated an excellent range of practical on-farm biosecurity measures being used by Australian producers.

The winner of the 2011 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award will be announced at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards dinner, held in Sydney on 7 September 2011.