Project Cane Changer is a world-first project in which the application of behavioural science has been used to tackle large scale environmental issues. This industry-wide initiative is designed to recognise Queensland sugar cane farmers as custodians of the land and to promote their innovative and ground-breaking farming practices that contribute to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Project is an initiative by the Queensland CANEGROWERS Organisation, funded by the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science, and delivered by Behaviour Innovation.

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The Queensland cane industry has a long history of innovation.


Challenges around water quality and the sustainability of the industry have been the focal point in recent years. Run-off from cane farms, especially nutrients and pesticides, are linked to poor water quality affecting the Great Barrier Reef. Project Cane Changer is an initiative led by the Queensland CANEGROWERS Organisation that is designed to better understand and support growers.

The Cane Changer project draws on evidence-based principles of psychology and human behaviour to design, implement, and evaluate an industry wide program that aims to understand the day-to-day challenges facing cane farmers and to recognise, value and accelerate their efforts to adopt farming practices that help protect the Reef.

Cane growers have a long history of innovation and change is nothing new. Therefore, the goals of the Project are simple:

  1. Recognise the hard work that farmers have put into their industry

  2. Foster innovation and positive change

  3. 'Set the Record Straight' with regards to the public image of the Australian sugarcane industry

In May 2016, the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce handed down its final report and recommendations for improving water quality entering the Reef, including a recommendation to implement an industry-wide behaviour change program for the sugar cane industry.

Phase One

Phase One of Cane Changer was completed late 2016, where the BI team took to the cane fields of Queensland to meet the growers, their families, and all of those who work in the industry.

Phase Two

Phase Two saw the official rollout of project activities and workshops begin throughout the Wet Tropics. Since then, more than 260 Wet Tropics growers having signed up to the project to tell their story and ‘Set the Record Straight’ which has helped to contribute to a 316% increase in Smartcane BMP accreditation in active project areas covering 35% of the total land area under cane. The project has gained the support of the 2 most recent Environment Ministers, Steven Miles and Leanne Enoch each signing their own Cane Changer Commitments to demonstrate their support to the sugar industry.

Phase Three

The third phase of the project began in early 2019 and started strong for the project with former Federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price MP, visiting CANEGROWERS Chairman, Paul Schembri’s farm in March to announce funding for the project. Phase three will see the project continue momentum in the Wet Tropics and work with key stakeholders in the Burdekin, Mackay-Whitsunday and Southern regions to design and tailor the project.

Cane Changer continues to be a world-class example of the diverse application of behavioural science to create positive, long-lasting change at a population level.