Etheridge Integrated Agricultural Project
The Project was established to create a large scale integrated farm and processing precinct in the Gulf Savannah region of North Queensland. A Greenfield agricultural enterprise comprising 50,000 hectares of irrigated cropping land, co-located processing facilities and associated water, electricity and logistics infrastructure will be established.
Sugar cane - already widely grown in Queensland and guar bean - a leguminous crop suited to rotation with sugar cane - will be cropped and processed.
Guar bean is used to produce a natural colloid used in food manufacture and, more recently, coal seam fracking. Increasing demand for gluten free food which requires alternative food additives like guar gum and the very rapid growth in coal seam gas is leading to insufficient supply. The project is well positioned to meet local requirements for guar gum close to one of the world's hotspots for coal seam methane.
The integrated enterprise includes on-farm and off-farm water storage and water distribution, farm and cattle grazing operations, factories, power station and other infrastructure.
Integration enables all parts of the project to be optimized.
Sustainability and environmental management can be delivered as a central element of the enterprise. New farming technologies can be implemented to reduce impacts and increase productivity.
By-products from farming such as green tops and trash can be used as stock feed when blended with protein by-product from the guar gum plant.
Process water will be recycled as irrigation water returning nutrient back to the farm. The carbon footprint of the enterprise can be minimized. A co-located cattle back-grounding facility enables nutrient-rich manure to be collected and reused in farming operations thereby decreasing artificial fertilizer application. Farm run-off during heavy rain events can be managed across the entire farm to capture sediment and overland flows which will be recycled and used on-farm.
Liquid waste from the processing facilities will be treated in a biogas plant. Biogas will provide additional energy for the cogeneration plant to dry sugar and gum products.
Regional cattle producers bear substantial live cattle transport costs and carcass shrink losses resulting in significantly reduced net returns. In some cases, cattle are left to die on the property rather than transported at a loss for slaughter. Over one million cattle are exported from the region. Processing of marginal cattle from the region will exploit a wasted regional resource.
Climatic conditions in the Upper Gilbert River are amongst the best in the tropical world - few rain days, high solar radiation (25% greater than Thailand) and all year round growth.
Why Tropical Australia?
Yields are amongst the highest in the world.
Large scale agricultural properties with well defined ownership structure
The Project has secured options over five cattle stations comprising 320,000 hectares. These properties are managed by less than 10 people.