The farmers are from the tsunami-devastated area of Fukishima prefecture, Japan.
Farming land there was inundated by salt water and much of it rendered unusable for up to 40 years by radiation poisoning following the 2011 Great East earthquake, tsunami and subsequent reactor melt-down.
The “Iwaki World Tambo Project”, as the scheme is called and which has now been running for more than a year, is aiming to create a new rice industry in Queensland while also providing an alternative location for growing the Japanese food staple.
The trial is being conducted in the Burdekin River Valley around the Ayr Research Station of the Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).
The rice-plantings (the Kochi variety preferred by Japanese consumers) are being farmed the traditional way with hand-planting in rice paddies, flood irrigation and with little reliance on pesticides or chemicals. First crops harvested last year show promise.
The project has been partly funded through a AU$20,000 Food Connect grant from the Australian Government.
While the aim is to build an export industry of the rice to Japan, the Burdekin region is expected to benefit through crop diversification and the leasing of land from local landholders.
The Prado donated by Toyota Australia will serve as transport to the group of volunteer farmers for at least the next 12 months.
Toyota Australia President and CEO Max Yasuda said the company was pleased to be involved in the project, which aided both North Queensland and Japanese communities.
"The 2011 natural disaster had a devastating effect on many communities in Japan, of which many have still not recovered," Mr Yasuda said.
"We believe that this project will not only assist with replenishment of rice supplies in Japan, it will also benefit the Burdekin region. Our donation will ensure volunteer farmers can easily access the land to undertake the project, which we understand will strengthen the agricultural industry in Burdekin and has the potential to create new export opportunities for North Queensland."
Mr Yasuda travelled to North Queensland this week to hand over the Prado’s keys to Takemi Shirado, Chief Director of the Iwaki World Tambo Project.
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