$1.1m in innovation funds distributed

06 Jan, 2001 03:02 PM
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THE new Farm Innovation Program has delivered $1.1 million to 11 rural businesses in its first ever round of funding. Announcing the funds distribution, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said the two-year program was designed to help rural businesses boost their long-term viability through the adoption of new practices, processes or products. Successful applicants were able to demonstrate the practical use of up-to-date research and technologies to show a competitive edge. "Just as importantly, the applicants demonstrated their willingness and ability to share the results of their projects and benefits with others who may be considering options to diversify or capitalise on the experience gained," Mr Truss said. He said he was impressed with the quality of the applications, which covered a broad range of activities, including the production of organic fertiliser, concentration of herb extracts and the manufacture of champagne-style cider. While nearly 80 applications were received, Mr Truss still encouraged rural business people, including those in the forestry and processing sectors, to apply and take advantage of what the program was offering. "To be eligible, applicants must be registered businesses with an annual turnover of between $50,000 and $3 million in any of the preceding three years," Mr Truss said. "They should also be willing to work with officers in my department to profile their projects throughout rural and regional Australia." The only successful applicant from WA in the first round of funding was the Diamond family of Kim, Dianne, Neil and Joanne, Buntine. Renowned landcare advocates, the Diamonds secured a grant to help control salinity by introducing new cropping systems mid-slope. Although Agriculture WA has given a lot of technical support to the many landcare projects undertaken by the Diamonds in the past, this is the first time they have received any genuine fiscal support. Kim said that, while the technical support from Agwest had been magnificent, farmers undeniably contributed the greater part of the state's landcare achievements. "External support, while appreciated, needs to be better managed to match farmers' current commitment because the money is not getting to the coal-face," he said. "In my opinion, too much money has been spent on administration and re-identifying the problems and issue,s rather than on corrective action." During the past 30 years, the Diamonds have spent more than $300,000 on landcare works, such as salt-land pasture development, drainage systems, surface water control, tree planting and tree species evaluation. Mr Truss also announced the second round of funding under the program, with applications accepted until February 28. Selected projects will be funded up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the eligible project costs. For more information on the program call 1800 686 175 or visit the website at www.affa.gov.au/farminnovation ÿ

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