The pioneer of the Ecoganic® farming method, Frank Sciacca chats to us about the environmental benefits of the Ecoganic Protocol and shares with us how regular gardeners can implement eco-friendly farming practices within their own vegie patches.
Family farmers based in the Cassowary Coast in Far North Queensland, Frank Sciacca, alongside his wife, Dianne, have pioneered and perfected the Ecoganic farming method over the past 20 years.
You may already be familiar with Ecoganic®* Red Tip® bananas – they’re easily identifiable in supermarkets and grocers by their red wax tip.
We wanted to find out more about the Sciacca’s creature-friendly farming system, Ecoganic Protocol, and its benefits to not only the environment, but to the quality of the fruit it produces.
Frank also shares with us some ways in which regular gardeners can implement some of these same eco-friendly farming practices within their own vegie patches.
Tell us about your creature-friendly farming system, Ecoganic Protocol. How did you come to develop this system and what sets it apart from conventional banana production?
Ecoganic is Integrated Ecological Management (IEM). The Ecoganic method we developed focuses on repairing the natural ecosystem through a regenerative approach.
Ecoganic farming builds and strengthens the farm ecosystem, working in harmony with nature. Rather than relying on chemicals, the Ecoganic method utilises all of nature’s creatures on the farm to grow bananas slowly, carefully and sustainably.
How is Ecoganic farming different to traditional organic farming?
Organic farming substitutes synthetic products with organic products. There are no limits on the amount of inputs used. Organics does not audit ecology restoration management.
What sets the Ecoganic method apart is the biodiversity monitoring which occurs every two weeks, along with six monthly audits and annual carbon testing to ensure we’re having a minimal impact on the ecosystem cycling through the seasons.
Why is it so important that consumers source Ecoganic bananas over other producers?
Ecoganic Red Tip bananas are:
- Naturally grown using the Ecoganic farming method – grown in a healthy ecosystem and using no harmful pesticides or harsh chemical on the soil.
- When you buy an Ecoganic Red Tip banana you are paying for the protection of the environment in your purchase.
- Naturally delicious as they taste how a banana should – sweet and creamy.
- They’re the only bananas endorsed by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Why the wax tip on your bananas?!
Ecoganic Red Tip Bananas are dipped in a bright red food grade wax – our way of letting shoppers know we are different from ordinary bananas and indicating that our bananas are grown using the Ecoganic farming system.
Instead of stickers, we opted for a colourful wax, which is distinctive, unique and sustainable. When Aussies see produce with the red wax tip, they can be assured that it has been grown in insecticide- and miticide-free soil, where there is continual restoration of the ecology, ensuring minimal impact on the natural habitat.
We believe Ecoganic avocados have just hit the market. Any plans for you to branch out into other produce?
Yes, we have also expanded into papayas.
Is it possible for people to implement Ecoganic farming practices on a smaller scale in their own vegie patches? Where would you suggest they start?
The system is complex just as nature is. The existing environment will impact upon your garden until you can create mini ecosystem.
Most importantly, understand it is a long-term process. It was a 15-year minimum to restore the farm ecosystem and it continually changes as it improves.
Understand what was in the environment before it became what it is today and, if possible, look at introducing those plant species back into the garden.
Prepare the ground well in advance to ensure the soil is alive/healthy before planting. Healthy plants that are not stressed will be more resistant to pests.
Check you can see worms, ants and other critters living there. Create an environment with trees, scrubs that attract birds and insect pollinators. The garden ecosystem needs all insects so you have predators, recyclers in the soil, scavengers, herbivores and pollinators.
Experienced and successful vegetable gardeners who do not use a lot of synthetic products have probably identified these types of practices without putting a name to it.
If you have to use a product spot spray so you do not kill everything in the environment and go back to square one. Do not be afraid to experiment with different practices to solve problems. You will have some losses and you need to be happy to accept that. This is part of nature.
You’ve been supporting the Great Barrier Reef Foundation for nearly 20 years. Why is this a cause so close to your heart? Do you believe there’s hope for the Reef moving forward?
I’ve been diving on the Great Barrier Reef since I was young and saw the degradation of the coral reefs and devastating changes to the ecosystem firsthand. It was my passion to then create a system that would help solve the imbalances created by conventional farming methods.
Eco Labelling requires that you have stakeholder involvement ensuring you understand your off-farm impacts and are addressing those as well. It was important that we addressed farm runoff.
Unfortunately, the Reef’s decline cannot be resolved by any one industry; like all global issues we all need to make changes. The Australian Government has tried to legislate biodiversity measures but industry have pushed back. Ecoganic is certainly ensuring we do not contribute to decline of reef health.
Ecoganic® Red Tip® bananas is a registered trademark.