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Planting Computers

Posted on March 30, 2004

Burdekin district, Australia — It’s not every day you come across a grower whose crop will be harvested by a Japanese firm to go into computers and mobile phones.

But Andrew Saunders is such a farmer. He’s growing kenaf, a fibre crop, similar in appearance to industrial hemp.

Andrew was one of nine cane farmers in the Burdekin district who put his hand up to grow kenaf when he was told a foreign firm was keen to contract growers in the area.

And so far, everything is going well. In five months the crop is towering at two point five metres, and is expected to be harvested after Easter.

Depending on which way you look at it, Andrew is one of the more fortunate cane farmers. Having only been in the game for seven years, he’s never known a season with good sugar prices. This has encouraged him to try new things on a property with ample water, good soil and plenty of sunshine.

And he hasn’t stopped with kenaf — Andrew is also experimenting with companion planting soybeans with cane, to increase soil nitrogen and reduce fertiliser inputs.

He’s eagerness to experiment goes beyond the crops. His true passion is managing the best soil possible, leading him to use unconventional, but true and tried methods.

It’s this part of farming that fuels his love of primary production in an environment that’s unpredictable — and still returning low sugar prices.

Copyright © 2004, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.