Australian sugarcane grower, David Cox, has been awarded the 2012 'Precision Farmer of the Year' at the 11th International Conference on Precision Agriculture held in Indianapolis, USA this week. The award is presented annually by the USA based PrecisionAg Institute and this is the first year the award has gone to a grower outside the USA.
The award is to recognise a farmer who has embraced precision technologies such as GPS, satellite imagery and computers with demonstrated impacts on their production systems through improved yield, input efficiency and/or profitability as well as improvements in land stewardship through resource conservation and environmental enhancement.
Paul Schrimpf from the PrecisionAg Institute said “We were thrilled to have David Cox come all the way up from down under to accept his award and attend the conference. David was able to gather up technology and, with the help of collaborators around the world, find the best ways to employ the technology to his particular crop. By the mid-2000s he was fully employing technologies that were barely on many grower's radars at that time.”
David is the Principal of Davco Farming, a sugarcane farming operation near Ayr, Queensland, Australia. The operation includes 2,450 hectares fully irrigated by furrow producing 250,000 tonnes of sugarcane at 15% sugar content.
The global sugarcane industry looks favourably upon David and his operation as he really has been at the forefront of precision agriculture practices over the past 30-plus years including laser land forming (1979), sugarcane yield mapping (1996), sugarcane control traffic farming system (1997), 2cm GPS machinery guidance (1998), variable rate input application (2001) and optimum surface (GPS) landforming (2007). Most of these applications were firsts in the world of sugar cane production. They have allowed David to minimize chemical use, save fuel, reduce field cultivation, minimize erosion and minimize water use.
David said, “Ever since I entered the cane farming industry in 1987 I’ve made it my mission to seek out emerging technologies. I select the ones that I think will have the greatest impact and then try to implement them in a practical, cost effective way on the farm. Most of the technologies come from the US but a key one was the 2cm tractor guidance developed in Australia by the Mailler Family which became known as Beeline Technology.”
He charmed the award luncheon crowd with a terrific acceptance speech and drew a standing room only crowd to his presentation on his farming system. David seemed to have a halo of people talking to him for the rest of the event. "Coming up here has been a real inspiration for me," he said on the last day. Many were inspired by his story as well.
David has also demonstrated leadership and professionalism with all agricultural industry participants, from agricultural educators to fellow growers themselves. He openly invites and gives tours on his own farm to sugarcane producers from all over the world, and busloads of visitors regularly come to see what many consider the most advanced sugarcane farming system in the world. From time to time, John Deere Co. even requests his view on the likely direction of future sugar cane farming technologies.
David also came to the attention of the huge Brazilian sugar industry, becoming the first international keynote speaker at Brazil’s national sugarcane conference (IDEA) in 2006 where delegates learned of his passion for precision agriculture. Dib Nunes, conference organiser, said “David is an innovator who loves to continually improve the sugar cane farming system and push the limits of technology. He sees advantages of technologies years before almost anyone else in the industry.”
David’s latest innovation, Optimum Surface (GPS) Landforming, is reportedly the next generation in landforming beyond laser grading. Cox conceived of the technology way back in the late 1990s. According to his website (optisurface.com), Optimum Surface Landforming uses GPS machine control and optimized field topography to improve water management with minimum earthworks.
For more information see:
Watch Video Interview with David Cox, 2012 Precision Farmer of the Year
Listen To An Interview With David Cox By ABC RADIO (13MB Download)