Australian cotton industry 'pushing boundaries'

The Australian cotton industry has wrapped up its biennial conference on Queensland’s Gold Coast, with the theme ‘Pushing Boundaries’. A record number of delegates – almost 2500 – met over three days to network and hear about advances across the whole spectrum of the industry.

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay said that among the conference speakers, sustainability was a key focus. “Alice Payne from the University of Queensland shared the work she has done on Value Chain Stakeholders Views on Sustainability, and there were also some very relevant presentations on new methods of weed control,” Mr Kay said. “We looked at future farms and the role of robotics, automation and big data to help reduce chemical usage even further, as well as energy use. Dr Sharon Downes of CSIRO reviewed advances in integrated pest management and outlined how Australia can stay on the top of the game in IPM.”

The conference also featured a number of speakers who described the threat of microfibre pollution from synthetic fibres. Speakers from some of Australia’s leading brands and retailers presented their sustainability journeys and the important role that Australian cotton plays in their products.

The wellbeing of those working in the industry was also front and centre at the conference and Mr Kay commented, “There was a real focus on the health and safety of those on the farm. One well-attended session, titled Towards Zero, highlighted the importance of ag safety and the goal of having zero farm fatalities.”

The conference was notable for the release of the cotton industry’s sustainability strategy and the opportunity for growers and stakeholders to provide feedback as part of a consultation with industry. A broader communication and launch to external stakeholders will follow.

Another new initiative of the conference was the ‘Pitch from the Paddock’, which gave a number of promising start-ups the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts from both within and outside the industry. Successful pitches have the chance to receive seed funding and mentoring to develop their ideas.

The conference culminated in a carnival-themed awards night attended by more than 1000 people. Hosted by comedian Tom Gleeson, the night celebrated the achievements of the industry’s brightest and best, and recognised those who have contributed to the industry over many years and, in some cases, decades.

The Australian Cotton Conference once again highlighted the optimistic, vibrant and innovative nature of the industry in Australia.

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