Riverine Ag Tours Newsletter for June 2020


Agricultural Tours Riverina remains active during the COVID19 hiatus and is already working with several clients, designing itineraries to run at the earliest opportunity – John Collins, Manager.


Agricultural Tours Riverina (ATR) conducts tours of Australian agriculture.  We are COVID19 aware and pay particular attention to the health and hygiene policies and practices of the farms, factories, caterers, accommodation providers and coach companies we engage on behalf of clients.  We have a head start in terms of hygiene awareness because we have always been highly conscious of farm biosecurity risks, and customer safety in sometimes unfamiliar farm and factory environments, so it is easy for us to extend our efforts to include coronavirus safety measures.


In these uncertain times you may arrange your tours with confidence.  ATR will negotiate flexible terms and conditions so that any problems that arise for you the client, or at sites to be visited will not leave you out of pocket.

ATR remains able to commence and finish tours at any points in eastern Australia convenient to your group’s overall travel itinerary.

Leeton’s Historic Hydro Motor Inn has used the COVID19 interregnum to upgrade many of its facilities. Built in 1920 to house engineers constructing the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme, the Hydro has had its ups and downs over the years – but 2020 will prove to be an important positive chapter.


We thrive on detailed requests for itineraries. If we don’t know exactly what you want we may have to make assumptions that don’t always suit your purposes. We deal with requests from a wide range of tour groups – investors, schools and universities, policy-makers, professional groups and others. So please tell us exactly what you want to know at the conclusion of your tour that you did not know at the beginning. Use the enquiry form sent with this Newsletter to get the ball rolling. If we are uncertain of how best to satisfy your wishes we will contact you to ask more questions.

We can write letters of invitation to satisfy your funding agency and we can also furnish detailed audit and assessment reports at conclusion of tours if requested.


Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has issued forecasts suggesting a very favourable winter cropping season for southern and eastern Australia. Better than average rains are indicated and some of the major irrigation dams are already showing positive signs of replenishment after several years of below-average rainfall.


Central to the Region’s agriculture is the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA). From large dams in the higher altitude parts of the Region, water has been distributed by gravity to a number of irrigation schemes since 1912. Towns such as Leeton, Griffith and Coleambally came into existence to support farmers taking up offers of irrigated farming land. The MIA experienced rapid expansion in the period 1920 to 1960s, a period of enormous immigration into Australia. Many of the new arrivals found ready employment in the expanding irrigated farming areas, and as a result the Region exhibits great cultural diversity. Walk down the street of any of the three towns and you are likely to hear many languages spoken and see Indian turbans, Polynesian lavalava, Italian fashions in shop windows, and great cuisine from many countries. More than 60% of the 20,000 residents of Griffith have Italian family heritage although Punjabi Indians have dominated among more recent settlers.

Rice was the most prominent industry in the Region for many decades and Leeton remains the administrative and research centre of Australia’s rice industry. See https://www.sunrice.com.au/ In the past two decades other crops such as cotton (https://www.southerncotton.com.au/), citrus (https://www.pacificfresh.com.au/)and winegrapes (https://riverinawinegrapes.com.au/) have assumed growing importance and large acreages of almonds (https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-06-27/almondco-plant-opens-in-griffith/8654620), hazelnuts (https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2018-11-22/one-million-hazelnut-trees-planted-nsw-nutella-ferrero-rocher/10542478 and walnuts have been planted. The fastest growing industry in recent years has been commercial farming of native eating fish – Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Golden Perch. See for instance https://aquna.com/

One problem for the Riverina, emerging due to travel restrictions associated with the COVID19 pandemic is a shortage of casual labour for harvests. The problem will be first experienced by table citrus and table grapes growers in NSW and by vegetable farmers in Queensland. In the NSW Riverina much citrus and winegrape harvesting and pruning is completed by machinery, but a large army of (mainly foreign) casual workers has been relied upon nonetheless.

If you were interested to try your hand at farm work, this link might be useful to you: https://jobsearch.gov.au/content/documents/harvest%20guide.pdf


Barley, a versatile cereal, was one of the earliest cultivated grains. Barley is used in making beer and spirits, in soups and stews and in health foods aimed at lowering blood cholesterol. Other human uses include barley flour for making gruel, and Italians use it to make an acceptable coffee substitute. Animal feeds include barley for cattle, poultry and fish.

The Village of Barellan (Narrandera Shire in NSW) has been the centre of an area growing high quality dryland barley for generations of farmers. Some of those farmers have also been eager amateur home beer brewers. In late 2012 some of the farmer/brewers began to experiment a little more seriously with the malting qualities of their range of barley crop varieties. Within a couple of years they were producing a commercial product – Barellan Beer – and had established their own commercial sized malting equipment.

Under the name Voyager Craft Malts (see https://craftypint.com/news/1476/the-collaborators-voyager-craft-malt ) the group now supplies brewing and distilling malts to brewers across Australia and to several south-east Asian countries. They also supply malted and sprouted grains to bakeries and food processors interested in producing healthy alternatives. Malting barley consumes lots of energy, and their malting house generates electricity from burning waste products from the neighbouring tree nut and cropping industries, incidentally creating useful biochar for soil conditioning, animal feeds and odour containment.

Stuart Whytcross and Brad Woolner – farmers turned processors at Voyagers Craft Malt

The group is in the process of building a whole new complex within Leeton Shire area which will allow visitors to see the malting process in operation and taste the various brews made from different varieties of barley.

Agricultural Tours Riverina can take visitors through the barley industry supply chain. Any such technical tour must include sampling Barellan Beers, of course!


Thane is based in the Riverina town of Yenda where he runs a consultancy business called Independent Precision Agriculture. As the name suggests, Thane specialises in methods of collecting detailed agronomic records and data to analyse what works, and what doesn’t work, on particular farms. He helps farmers make decisions informed by hard data measurements and high level analyses of outcomes from their past management decisions.

His interest in precision agriculture began in 2000 while working with Yenda Producers, one of Australia’s largest cooperative businesses, supplying farm equipment, chemicals, fertilisers and advice across the Riverina Region. (See https://www.yendaprods.com.au/ ) In that role he worked with farmers growing summer crops such as rice, soybeans and maize, and winter crops such as cereals, oilseeds, pulses and pastures.

In 2015 he started Independent Precision Agriculture to assist farmers establish the best hardware for collecting information on their farm’s physical attributes and their farming operations. The information collected must be useful in farm decision making.

Thane (far right) with Malaysian rice farmers near Finley NSW April 2019

Thane Pringle, soil lime formula – and beard, just a week into COVID19 lockdown!

Having worked with clients for two decades, Thane has developed a high degree of experience in automated data collection and means of presenting data in ways which assist farmers to progressively refine their business decisions.

He also has an interest in a family beef cattle grazing enterprise in the Hunter Valley.

Thane’s formal qualifications include a degree in systems agriculture from University of Western Sydney and a certificate licensing him to teach and assess various qualifications in Australia’s national Vocational Education system.

Thane has helped design and conduct tours for Agricultural Tours Riverina since 2017. His client groups have included Japanese rural professionals, Malaysian rural cooperative members and domestic Australian groups.

And if you are wondering where an interesting name like Thane’s comes from, Dr Google will tell you the surname dates back to 13th Century Scotland and his first name means “Land owning Warrior”. So be warned. If Thane happens to be your group’s tour guide – don’t mess with him! J