The 2022 Zimmatic Trailblazer Sustainable Irrigation Awards will celebrate and recognise farmers who are demonstrating excellence in water management and irrigation practices.
A panel, including three industry professionals who are expert in their respective fields, has been selected to join this year's judging panel.
The panel is led by Dr Pat Hulme, owner of Sustainable Soils Management based in Warren in Central West NSW.
Other judges are Bonnie Dawson, the vegetable industry extension officer with Gippsland Food and Fibre; Iva Quarisa OAM, the executive officer with the Griffith-based Irrigation Research and Extension Committee, and awards co-ordinator for the past two years, Sarah Elliot from Lindsay ANZ.
Ms Elliot has more than 10 years' experience in supporting the adoption of irrigation technology in Australia and New Zealand as well as catchment group leadership positions.
"Having judges of such a high calibre is essential to the integrity of the Awards," said James Craft of Zimmatic ANZ.
Mr Craft said their variety of experience will be valuable in assessing applications, which he hoped would come from across the whole range of irrigation areas in Australia.
Dr Hulme also led the judging panel in 2020 when the awards were last run in Australia.
He noted the finalists then had included farmers with an incredible diversity of enterprises, who had each in their own way, adopted practices and technology to better match irrigation water supply with crop demand.
The 2020 finalists included farming operations in Tasmania and Victoria.
. Evan Ryan of "Clontarf", Yarrawonga, Victoria who runs a1000 hectare property (586ha irrigated) producing broadacre winter and summer grain, hay and fibre production.
. Stephen Eyles of Hillcrest Family Trust, Selbourne, Tasmania whose 400ha property (250ha irrigated) includes mixed cropping, sheep and fat lambs.
. Brendan Watson of Kilter Rural, Lake Boga, Victoria who runs a large irrigated cropping enterprise with 3,000-ewe sheep flock on 9070ha with 3730ha irrigated.
. Overall supreme winners were Rob and Eliza Tole of "Greenvale", Cressy, Tasmania who run a mixed cropping and livestock operation on a 560ha property with 350ha irrigated.
This year Dr Hulme is keen to see even more farmers enter the awards, or be nominated by their peers, advisers or industry representatives.
"I really encourage any adviser, agronomist or industry representative out there to consider nominating a farmer they know to be doing well in their irrigation operation," he said.
"When you work with a farmer you get to see their operation and what helps them to be successful - so help to showcase that to the world.
This year's awards will recognise winners in four categories:
. Supreme Award Winner
. Sustainable Irrigation Management Award
. Lamb Weston Stewardship & Community Award
. Future Trailblazer Award (awarded at judges' discretion).
The Awards, which are open to irrigating farmers anywhere in Australia, are assessed on four key aspects.
Three applicants will be shortlisted for on-farm judging by the panel of irrigation and industry professionals who will provide an in-depth review of the four categories judged.
"As part of the judging process, finalists receive feedback which helps them to benchmark their own operations against other entrants and highlights where they are leading the way," Mr. Craft said.
"We find that nominees and finalists value the process, which in itself helps, to foster best practice."
The judges for the 2022 Awards bring a wealth of knowledge in irrigation and farming practices and between them will be able to offer insights to current best practice and the expectations of industry and community when it comes to water management.
Nominations will close August 8 and entries close August 15.
Andrew Marshall is the group agribusiness writer for ACM's state agricultural weeklies and websites. He is a former editor at The Land and has worked in various Rural Press group roles in Canberra, North Richmond (NSW) and Toowoomba (Qld).
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