Trials to turn waste from potato farms into fertiliser and energy are underway in regional Victoria in a bid to be environmentally friendly and lower the costs for farmers.
- MADE Energy is on a short sprint to prove it can turning waste from potato farms into fertiliser and fuel
- Australian farmers use around 4.9 million tonnes of fertiliser per year
- The research project is funded by a Commonwealth Business Research and Innovation Initiative grant
The research and development project based in Mollongghip, between Ballarat and Daylesford, aims to convert agricultural waste, known as biomass, into hydrogen.
Joe Finnegan from start-up power company MADE Energy is part of the feasibility study, and said being able to create these utilities from waste on a local scale will create a circular economy for farming communities.
“What we’re trying to do in our research, in terms of biomass and converting it to hydrogen, it really hasn’t been done in Australia before. So we probably are leading the curve,” he said.
“Australian farmers use around 4.9 million tonnes of fertiliser per year, and hydrogen is a major building block in building ammonia.
Mr Finnegan said just twenty farmers in the spud-growing region around Mollongghip are collectively using about 1.4 million litres of diesel for irrigation per year.
Hydrogen could eventually replace that, as the renewable fuel is able to be stored and transported, with the only by-product of burning it is water, making it an attractive product in reducing carbon emissions.
“Our goal is to off-set some of those costs. We’re confident in the future we’ll get there. Our aim is to make it cheaper and better for the environment,” he said.
“In reality, money is a key driver, so fundamentally we’re going to make this as cost effective and cheap as possible.
“Communities will be able to change the way they use fertiliser and fuel.”
Investment in sustainable resources
The research project is the only one of its kind in Victorian agriculture, Mr Finnegan said, and is funded by a Commonwealth Business Research and Innovation Initiative grant.
“The idea of the grant is to give small companies who’ve got a great idea a bit of support and help to try and make an impactful change,” he said.
Mr Finnegan said although the project was starting small, with just four people researching its feasibility over fourteen weeks, there were big plans to develop the sustainable technology.
“We’re starting locally, trying to engage with broadacre farmers in the area,” he said.
“The goal, the vision, is actually to roll this out across Australia.”