Put your hands together for industry’s best

The banana industry celebrated the incredible work of five of its best at a gala event in Cairns last night.


Growers Dennis Howe and Franziska and Peter Inderbitzin, along with horticulturalist Jeff Daniells, received Awards of Honour at the Banana Ball, held at Cairns Convention Centre.


Gavin Devaney, a grower from Boogan, took home the Future Farming Award, acknowledging outstanding achievement in banana Best Management Practice.  


The Awards of Honour are given out every two years as part of the Australian Banana Industry Congress. This year, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) introduced the BMP award, to recognise the extraordinary environmental work being undertaken by growers.


ABGC chair Stephen Lowe said it was about celebrating those who are leading the way, going above and beyond with outstanding farming practices that contribute to water quality improvement in local waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.


“The idea is that it is given to someone who demonstrates commitment, innovation, a willingness to share information and a desire to contribute to the long-term improvement of water quality and farm productivity,” Mr Lowe said.


“I couldn’t imagine a more fitting person to receive the inaugural award than Gavin Devaney.”


Mr Lowe also paid tribute to the incredible careers of those acknowledged with Awards of Honour.


“We count some of the world’s most innovative growers and researchers among our Australian industry. To say we are lucky is an understatement,” Mr Lowe said.


“Growers like Dennis Howe and Franziska and Peter Inderbitzin are renowned for their hard work, resilience and willingness to take a risk. They’re also top people to boot.


“It’s thanks to researchers like Jeff Daniells, often working tirelessly behind the scenes, that our industry has such a positive future here in Australia.”


The Banana Ball was a fitting end to Banana Congress 2021, which saw a record number of delegates take in a range of speakers, social events and exhibitions in the banana heartland of Far North Queensland.


Award of Honour recipients:


Peter and Franziska Inderbitzin


Peter and Franziska, the second of three generations involved in the family’s Lakeland farm, have carved out a reputation as industry leaders. They are innovative, sustainable growers who produce a consistently high product.


To this day, they are the only banana farmers in Australia to utilise the South American cableway system. In addition, they were among the first to welcome overseas workers through the Pacific Labour Scheme and have led the way in using recycled organic waste for compost on-farm.  


Dennis Howe


In 1995, Dennis Howe became the first person to plant Cavendish bananas in Walkamin on the Atherton Tablelands – an area that was then believed to be too cold for anything other than lady fingers.


A year later, Dennis planted his second block which is still in production today. He is now the country’s second largest producer of Cavendish bananas and grows a wealth of other crops including avocados, coffee, blueberries, peanuts and sugar cane. He employs some 500 people around the Mareeba and Atherton regions.


Jeff Daniells


This year marks an incredible milestone for research horticulturalist Jeff Daniells: four decades with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.


Jeff has travelled extensively as part of his work, collecting germplasm in Papua New Guinea, working with ACIAR to identify black Sigatoka resistant varieties for Australia and Pacific nations in the 80s and 90s. He has developed scientific relationships that have benefited the Australian banana industry extensively. 


Jeff is currently leading the importation and screening of new varieties under the Plant Protection Program.


Future Farming Award recipient:


Gavin Devaney


Gavin Devaney has converted a former cane paddock into a best practice banana farm with innovative runoff solutions. In doing so, he has significantly improved the farm’s layout and reduced its environmental impacts, while also maintaining productivity and profitability.


Gavin has made land available to trial new methods on-farm, participates in project reference groups and has contributed to the Best Management Practice Guideline. 


His enthusiasm to embrace new technologies and share information for the benefit of his farm and the broader farming community is also evident through his participation Smart Farms project. This is a project that is using remote sensing to measure aspects of BMP including nutrient loss through leaching. The project has the potential to influence BMP standards for the entire industry into the future. 


More information on recipients can be provided on request. High res images also available.