Tuesday, April 13, 2021
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Renewable energy project soars to new heights

Crop trials prove record 30% increased growth

THE MULTIBILLION-dollar investment and bold vision of renewable energy producer, AgBioEn; ‘to produce in excess of 150M litres per annum, of commercially salable, locally produced, plant based, renewable energy and fuels, is becoming increasingly likely according to findings announced last week.

Ripples of excitement reverberated throughout the small crowd of attendees onsite, at the Numurkah road property in Katunga last Tuesday; as the potential enormity of project was made clear.

The presentation hosted by AgBioEn, and supported by affiliated project partners; La Trobe University, Shepparton Campus, and award-winning Australian innovative tech company, Lab3; saw each of the three organisations given the opportunity to translate their progress, results and unique learnings over the past five months.

The pilot program, which is the first of its’ kind across the globe; in summary, uses typically discarded waste product such as plant matter/green waste, organic chicken litter and biochar, to improve the chosen site’s soil’s quality and fertility as a priority, which in turn translates to a higher yield, providing increased harvest quantities and an increase in potential green waste – or biomass. This biomass is then used as the key element in the production of green gas, which can be processed to produce renewable fuel sources.

Through the continued application of organic matter the soil begins to soften and become more fertile, a gradual process that enables additional structural changes in the deeper layers of sub soils; further resulting in significant improvement in water distribution and overall moisture retention.

The result of this, a substantial reduction in irrigation requirements, a theory the team’s recently analyzed findings had proven correct.
LAB3 director of Data and Artificial Intelligence, Mr Alain Blanchette, explained that from a technical perspective, the innovation applied, through the use of sophisticated new technology enabled weather stations, soil probes, time lapse cameras and weekly drone data, to be easily accessible to La Trobe’s science and research teams; allowing them to monitor and adjust crop performance both above and below the ground via a real time, shared, live portal.

This improvement is anticipated to continue as well, through the continued repetition of the soil preparation process, future crops are expected to benefit significantly as moisture retention increases; assisting to build more drought tolerant crops, year on year.
AgBioEn executive director, Lubey Lozevski, stated that early indicators were very encouraging, “The organic fertilisers have already improved soil yield, reduced water use, and increased the amount of carbon captured in the soil, which is exactly what we hoped to achieve with these trials,” said Mr Lozevski.

“Additionally, the quality and amount of the agricultural waste also improved, which is vital for the next stage of the project,” he said.

The results that have stirred understandable excitement amongst the teams; who it seems, have not only created an agricultural recipe for success; but also appear to have also nailed the potentially game-changing combination of, scientific expertise, sustainability focused industry leaders, and innovative producers of renewable energy and fuels, highlighting the potential benefits of cross sector, multi-industry integration and engagement.

AgBioEn will now progress to the projects next phase, and the pursuit of additional land within the region to purchase, lease or share farms; properties that will be part of a supply chain for growing food crops, such as maize, oaten hay, barley and wheat.

The project plans to continue to harvest the grains traditionally, to sell as food, while the crop’s green waste (biomass) will be used in the production of renewable energy and fuels, producing clean gas that will be converted to renewable fuel sources such as 100 percent renewable diesel and bio-jet fuel. The Katunga site will house the processing plant that will be well equipped with the capacity to process all of the furure acquired site’s yields.