THE brains behind an increasingly popular children's agriculture character have been recognised for utilising the internet to further their business and give back to the community.
The co-creator’s of Australia’s rising agricultural star, George the Farmer, were named one of 10 Regional Online Heroes by the Regional Institute Australia and Google last month.
The award recognises outstanding use of the internet to grow a regional business, reach new customers and give back to the community, with the top 10 finalists each receiving an all expenses paid trip to Google headquarters in Sydney where they will participate in a digital marketing masterclass.
The George the Farmer character was created in regional South Australia in 2014 after Ms Kain identified that a children’s farming character was missing to inspire her farm-obsessed son, also called George.
George the Farmer’s aim is to inspire children, while also teach them about farming practices along with where their food and fibre comes from through quintessentially Australian stories, songs, apps, free educational curriculum-aligned teachers guides and performances right across the country.
George the Farmer co-creator, Simone Kain, said some changes to George’s website recently helped the business double its online sales.
"And we’ve been able to do this all from our regional home-based offices," she said.
“Additionally, we’ve been working hard to raise the profile of Australia’s farmers through the creation and sharing of news items through George’s blog and social media channels.
"The posts that we’ve created have contributed in growing a varied audience, currently sitting at over 25,000 followers on Facebook alone with some posts nearing one million people in reach.
"It’s really fantastic to see people engaging and interested in agriculture."
The current George the Farmer app consistently sits in the iTunes top 10 educational apps for Australia and New Zealand in the Technologies section and the original music is currently being played on top national kids radio stations Funky Kids Radio and Little Rockers Radio.
Minister for small business, Michael McCormack, presented the awards and said advancements in technologies and connectivity in rural and regional Australia have given country small businesses a boost into new and emerging markets right across the region and the world.
“In almost every community – no matter its size or location – is a story of unparalleled opportunity, with country people taking their natural resilience and entrepreneurial spirit and turning that into a story of online success and strengthening their community,” Mr McCormack said.
“You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley or even Sydney to make a success of a modern, online business.
"You can do that from Swan Hill, from South Australia or from the Daintree or the Darling Downs."
Being recognised as a Regional Online Hero also takes into consideration how a business gives back to the community.
For every George the Farmer book sold, the creators reinvest 50c of that sale back in to producing free curriculum-aligned teacher’s guides available on the website.
"Over the past six months we’ve had over 3000 downloads of which we estimate that that’s helped educate over 40,000 children across the country with regards to agriculture,” Ms Kain said.
The award comes as George's third picture book, "George the Farmer, Ruby and the Dairy Dilemma", is released just in time for Christmas.
The new story focusses on women’s strong involvement in agriculture by showcasing George’s agronomist wife, Dr Ruby, in her role as a crop doctor, inspecting pasture at a nearby robotic dairy.
The story aims to teach children about dairy foods while showcasing the industry as being innovative through the use of robotics.
“We hope that this story will not only capture the hearts and minds of lots of little future farmers - both boys and girls, but also inspire children to consider innovative careers in agriculture in their future," Ms Kain said.
Co-creator Ben Hood said the thirst for information about farming processes and where food comes from was evident.
“It’s become clear that George’s down-to-earth manner and grassroots charm has universal appeal, and while he is resonating extremely well with young children in rural locations, he is also inspiring city-based children to have a better understanding and connection to agriculture, which is imperative for an equitable and sustainable food supply chain in to the future,” Mr Hood said.