Tasmanian farmers Rob and Eliza Tole of Cressy have been announced as the Australian region and supreme winners of the inaugural Zimmatic Trailblazer Sustainable Irrigation Awards.
Mr Tole is a third generation farmer on Greenvale, a 560-hectare property with 350ha irrigated.
He and his wife Eliza run an operation which includes lamb production and a cropping rotation of significant variety, including peas, seed potatoes, poppies, grass seed, clover seed, hemp, chicory and pasture.
The Zimmatic Trailblazer Sustainable Irrigation Awards were created to celebrate excellence and recognise farmers leading the way in responsible irrigation, innovative water management and environmental stewardship.
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The awards were open to irrigating farmers in Australia and New Zealand and were assessed on four components - sustainable irrigation management, irrigation-driven improvements, waterway protection and environmental stewardship.
Mr Tole said they were surprised and honoured to take the win.
"There are so many farmers around who I look up to and seek advice from who could easily have won it, so for us to be named supreme winners across Australia and New Zealand was very humbling," he said.
"We also acknowledge the dedicated staff within our operations because without their commitment to achieving our goals, these results wouldn't be possible and we certainly wouldn't be where we are now."
Head judge Keri Johnston noted that judges were looking for innovation in water management, steps taken to ensure sustainable water use on farm, and an obvious passion for protecting one of the most precious natural resources.
"The Toles exemplified all of these attributes both on their own farm and through their work supporting other irrigators," Ms Johnston said.
"Being on the front foot in adopting new technology and ideas has been pivotal to their success."
James Craft, Zimmatic ANZ, said the awards acknowledged innovative farming operators and rewarded them for the vital role they played in the primary sector.
"We were extremely impressed by the calibre of applications for the award and the excellence being practiced by these farmers who are focused on improving their irrigation and water management," Mr Craft said.
"The awards are an opportunity to help showcase the innovative farming operators who will influence future generations and play a role in strengthening Australia's success story as global leaders in sustainable and profitable farming."
Having worked in various agricultural roles on broadacre, feedlot and intensive industries in Tasmania, WA and NZ and studying at agricultural college, Mr Tole returned to the family farm in 2000.
With only a small amount of irrigation in place he started with a clean slate in terms of irrigation layout which has evolved over time to achieve the irrigation operation they have today.
Mr Tole said he focused on efficient drainage systems, application of variable rate irrigation and had an enthusiasm for technology and innovation.
Even though hesitant at first, he encouraged other farmers to enter and give it a go as they would learn so much about their own operation in the process of applying.
It was also important to get the message to urban communities that irrigation farmers managed water and soil resources really well.