Thursday, February 22, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Thirst Things First Agave Spirit Release Under Way

By Paul Gellatly

Bowen’s Chamber of Commerce has raised a jar to the health of Whitsunday region projects ahead of council elections in mid-March.

At its monthly meeting on February 14, the chamber heard addresses from Chris Monsour, agronomist and director of Prospect Agriculture, which operates a 250-hectare agave farm between Bowen and Proserpine; and Sean Brown, director of Bowen Pipeline Company, which is planning to build a 115-kilometre water pipeline from the Burdekin River to Bowen.

Chris Monsour told the audience of about 40 people that Prospect Agriculture's first agave harvest was in December 2023 and the resulting bottled debut has been on a limited release online, with Mr Monsour assuring  thirsty first customers that their purchases were being delivered "about now".

The focus of the first four years of the project has been to determine how best to harvest the plants to yield its heart, or pina, which has a 35 per cent  sugar content, about twice that of sugar cane. There is a range of uses for the processed pina, and one of the first is a trio of alcoholic beverages including whisky, vodka and agave spirit (known in Mexico as tequila).

Mr Monsour said agave had proved an ideal crop for the dry-region farm, although he conceded that "the Mexicans are probably not too happy with what we are doing".

The agave is harvested by a computer-controlled harvesting machine, which will process about 1000 plants a day, or a plant a minute, far faster than the manual harvest of Mexican tequila. The agave hearts are processed on site and according to Mr Monsour, "all the reports from those who know about spirits is that it is a very good spirit."

Mr Monsour said the international agave project was based on a slow-growing succulent crop (planting started in 2020) that was only really starting to get into gear now. New plantings were being added continuously and there are hopes that there will be a million agave under cultivation by 2025, up from about 580,000 now.

"If you laid the rows of agave end-to-end you would go from here to Rockhampton", he said

The farm is following green practices, with weed control being left to three goats, which Mr Monsour said gratefully were not eating the agave plants ... so far.

1: Bowen Chamber of Commerce chairman Bruce Hedditch (left) with Chris Monsour, Cr Julie Hall and Sean Brown.

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