Nine Japanese agriculture students will spend 2019 living and training with farmers in the Whitsunday region as part of a new international education program.

The Whitsunday Agri-Knowledge Sharing Project will give 5 female and 4 male students practical on-farm training to complement their classroom studies already completed in Japan.

The project, an Australian first, is a collaboration between the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association, Whitsunday Regional Council, TAFE Queensland and Study Queensland.

Study Queensland Executive Director Shannon Willoughby said the project was a win-win for regional Queensland and Japan’s agriculture sector.

‘International education and training is helping to diversify the Whitsunday region economy, and Japan’s future agriculture leaders are sharing in Queensland’s agricultural skills and expertise,’ she said.

‘The project also has the potential to extend into the future and attract agriculture students from other countries.

‘By supporting this first cohort of students to have a memorable and positive experience, we can create ambassadors for Queensland and attract further students to the region in coming years.’

The Japanese students’ North Queensland experience will begin with a month of English classes at Bowen TAFE before they move to on-farm activities.

The students will then work with local growers to learn Australian horticultural practices, including laying plastics, irrigation, planting, picking, packing and organic growing.

Five local farms, a seedling company and agronomy business will be involved, including growers of beans, corn, tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, pumpkins and mangoes.

Study Queensland worked with TIQ’s Japan office and TIQ Mackay to connect with the Japan Agricultural Exchange Council and the collaborating North Queensland groups.

Queensland Trade and Investment Commissioner for Japan Tak Adachi said the project had the potential to contribute to trade outcomes in the future.

‘Bringing together the next generation of Japanese agricultural leaders with local Queensland farmers has great potential,’ he said.

‘It can contribute to a better understanding of opportunities arising from the Japan–Australia free trade agreement, and hopefully help to stimulate more agricultural trade between Queensland and Japan, especially from regional Queensland.’

The Whitsunday Agri-Knowledge Sharing Project is co-funded by the International Education and Training Partnership Fund under the International Education and Training Strategy to Advance Queensland 2016–2026.

It was initiated by the Bowen Chamber of Commerce and also supported by the Greater Whitsunday Alliance (GW3).

The project launched in Bowen on Thursday 14 March.