WASTE NOT: Horticultural waste with ‘enormous value’

HORTICULTURAL waste could have "enormous value" with Bowen growers supporting feasibility studies that are assessing the commercial viability of creating food supplements from leftovers.

Studies are being undertaken by the Department of Agriculture with funding and assistance from Regional Development Australia Mackay Isaac Whitsundays (RDAMIW) and Bowen Gumlu Growers Association Inc to assess the feasibility of producing food supplements from fruit and vegetable waste in Bowen.

RDAMIW CEO Robert Cocco said the studies were still in the "early stages" but had been in the process for a long time.

"The major challenge for growers is that they don't sell up to 40 per cent of their produce, of which 30 per cent are still edible," he said.

The study aims to identify exactly what is left in the unutilised raw material that may offer commercially viable options for use in other products, Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker said.

"It's breaking the product down into different parts so that each part can be utilised. Can we use the seeds as part of supplements for vegans for example," he said.

Mr Walker added that even if the unutilised material isn't deemed edible, there are still products that could be made out of it, depending on what the produce is.

Mr Walker said the current way of working wasn't sustainable or commercially viable.

"Earth's resources are not infinite, we need to utilise the raw materials we are putting out," he said.

Aside from supplements the study will look into a range of different options that the unutilised material could be used for, including biogases and baby formula.

"There are an enormous amount of uses for the unutilised raw material, there are so many things we could do, if it proves to be cost effective," Mr Walker said.

"We are working out what is commercially viable and if there's a market for it."

"We need good sustainable and profitable yield. We need long term, sustainable market outcomes."

Mr Cocco said the creation of biogas was something that had not been done previously in Australia, though it was a well-proven technology throughout Europe.

"We have other commercial groups looking at taking waste from farms and converting that organic waste into biogas," he said.

"The unutilised materials are put into a machine which behaves effectively like a big digestion unit, creating methane gas which can be used in homes as a gas equivalent for cooking, homes, heating."

"The technique is well proven, they're a dime-a-dozen in Europe we just haven't seen it adopted here in Australia but now we have people interested in talking about it."

Though the feasibility studies are still in the early days, Mr Walker says the overall outcome would be beneficial for the whole community.

"If we can capture that little bit that's not being utilised, we can add enormous value from the products we are already producing," he said.

"We can increase the need for more labour, more goods and services from the community."

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