Darrell Fiddler from DeBortoli Wines in Bilbul has been awarded the SunRice C21 Grower of the Year, in recognition of his innovative approach to farming and commitment to sustainability.
In their third year, the annual Grower of the Year awards are designed to showcase the very best in the rice sector, and highlight innovation in production and irrigation methods, as well as water efficiency.
Applicants were assessed on production and agronomy, water use efficiency, innovation and technology, business management, sustainability, work health and safety, and industry and community involvement.
Mr Fiddler is a Farm Manager and said he was very appreciative of being awarded the title, calling it a 'humbling experience'.
"I have always been motivated by the phrase always strive to do better',"Mr Fiddler said.
"Winning this award is a humbling experience because it is an industry recognition of all of the hard work myself and the team have put into the farming operations over the last 12 years," Mr Fiddler said.
Rice Extension Officer Harriet Brickhill said that it was Mr Fiddlers' innovative approach to farming and consistent commitment to sustainability that caught the judges attention.
"He grows rice as a part of a rotation with other irrigated summer crops and winter cereals and has demonstrated a strong focus on improving his water productivity through management having successfully automated the irrigation for a Viand crop in C21," Mrs Brickhill said.
Mr Fiddler attributes the operation's strong yields, productivity and sustainability to improved agronomy practices which include the likes variable rate fertiliser application, sod sowing and minimal tillage, double or triple cropping, and implementing a rotation including wheat and other summer crops.
"Using permanent tracks for spraying and spreading of fertilizer means that we can be really timely and efficient," Mr Fiddler said.
"Being on time with all our operations is very important for rice, and planning is key to that timeliness."
By adopting numerous practices to increase water efficiency including the aerobic rice trial with Deakin University last year, Mr Fiddler has also delayed permanent water since 2012 which has since reduced his water use by 30 per cent compared to his aerial sown crops.
"We have very much appreciated the support of Matt Champness of Deakin Uni in working with us to successfully implement automation and help us achieve excellent water efficiencies - maximising 'crop per drop', Mr Fiddler said.
Mr Fiddler will now receive $2500 to be spent on personal or business development and has been nominated for the Australian Farmer of the Year Award.
A SunRice Grower of the Year Field Day will be held on December 9 at Bilbul to showcase Mr Fiddler's farming practices.
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