Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Value For Region In Getting Smart

By Kevin Borg, Chairman, CANEGROWERS Mackay

CANEGROWERS Mackay was even busier than usual last week. CANEGROWERS Queensland Policy Council committee members visited our Wood Street offices from across the state’s cane growing regions to attend meetings and to tour our region’s array of sugar industry bio-manufacturing facilities.

Our region is bursting with a great mix of tradition, innovations and cutting-edge research that is taking cane from our humble core sugar product to a suite of renewable, sustainable foods, fibres and fuels that can offer solutions in a world on the hunt for sustainable fuels and energy, and for novel fermented protein sources that could help feed an exponentially growing world population.

Aside from a meeting to discuss developments in the Future Foods space with Queensland State Development, members of the Farm Inputs and Research committee visited Wilmar Plane Creek Bioethanol plant and the Queensland University of Technology Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant at Racecourse Mill. The Trade and Economics committee had the opportunity to visit Mackay Sugar’s Cogeneration Plant, and met with Queensland Farmers Federation and Pioneer Valley Water to discuss microgrids and investment potential for cost-effective, reliable power solutions.

We were able to show our visitors how the bio-ethanol distillery in Sarina is creating ethanol for use in fuels and pharmaceuticals, alongside the biological fertiliser Biodunder. We saw how QUT researchers are working on a host of projects looking at separating the chemical components of bagasse (the waste from the mill crushing process) to create aviation fuels, or potentially bioplastics, and more. New facilities will build research on fermentation and use of fungus. There was research on novel feedstocks for livestock from steam expanded bagasse. And at the Racecourse Cogeneration plant, the important role of the mill in generating its own power, and supplying a third of Mackay’s power into the grid.

These are all manufacturing streams that close the loop on industry waste and/or add value to the sugar product.

This is happening. That moment where sugarcane, a carbon neutral to positive crop, has its place in the sun as a renewable food, fibre and fuel.

As an industry, we have come together to set the Sugar Plus roadmap for this, and applied pressure and collaborated with government to see it happen.

The opportunities are there, and our grower members are an important part of that – the very base of the supply chain from paddock to processor to port. And if ever there was a financial incentive needed for people to get on board and have their land stewardship accredited through Smartcane BMP, that time is now.

We have an opportunity in the slack between harvests to knock out any remaining modules, and thanks to the recent State Government announcement of continued funding for Smartcane, we have officers at our two productivity services who can help growers.

Companies looking to invest in our region, who are looking to our cane as feedstock for sustainable bio-products need to see that that feedstock is sustainably produced, and Smartcane BMP is a world-recognised badge of honour in this space. It makes us an obvious choice for investment.

Nearly every grower in this region is on their way -or there- with best management practice accreditation.

CANEGROWERS Mackay is working hard to make sure our growers have a voice at the biofutures table as it continues to develop in our region. We want to ensure that growers get a financial return as the base feedstock of any emerging sustainable biomanufacturing sector. A return on investment in sustainable land management, precision ag equipment, and in increasing productivity is only fair.

Investing time and refining management practices for Smartcane BMP accreditation is a vital step for growers interested in the real and emerging prospect of a place in the strong value-add to our product that is bio-manufacturing. 100 percent accreditation would make a real statement of commitment.

The Farm Inputs and Research committee tours the QUT Biocommodities Pilot Plant at Racecourse Mill. Pictures: Kirili Lamb

The state CANEGROWERS Trade and Economics committee tour Racecourse Mills Cogeneration Plant. Pictures: Kirili Lamb

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