$693,429 sweetener for Mackay sugar cane processor

Mackay-based Townsend Industries will receive $693,429 in funding for a pilot facility that will test how processed sugar cane can produce high-value products.

The Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, David Littleproud said Townsend Industries has demonstrated a commitment to innovation which has the potential to create new industries and jobs for north Queensland.

“This project will separate the sugar cane components of skin, wax, fibre, rind and juice by a method known as the Tilby Separation System,” Minister Littleproud said.

“I commend Townsend Industries for putting innovation in action, by taking a proven separation system and for the first time using the full sugarcane plant to see if they can deliver high-value products.

“It speaks to the possibilities of sugarcane to offer renewable alternatives to plastics as well natural health products. It creates products and grows the sugar industry.”

Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said this funding boost to Townsend Industries will go a long way in testing how processed sugar cane can produce high-value products.

"Cane farmers are very ingenious people and I commend Townsend Industries for having a go to add value to the cane industry,” Ms Landry said.

"Their courage and willingness to explore the possibility of how sugarcane can be developed to offer renewable alternatives is a testament to the local businesses in Capricornia."

Queensland Senator and Special Envoy for Northern Australia, Susan McDonald, said newer generations of cane farmers were interested in diversifying their income streams to include cane by-products.

“Diversifying allows farmers to take advantage of the highest price of either sugar or by-products and helps shield them from the at-times volatility of the world sugar market,” Senator McDonald said.

“Queensland cane growers are recognised by large international confectionary companies as being the best in the world at what they do, and now this expertise can be applied to many other products.”

The Member for Dawson, George Christensen said the project has potential for generate more revenue for local growers.

“We’re currently using only about 15% of the harvested cane to produce raw sugar, which is the main revenue stream,” Mr Christensen said.

“This project is about adding other income streams for cane growers from the remainder of the crop."

Townsend Industries Director Gary Townsend said the company has spent the past five years refining the concept.

“Sugarcane is without doubt a ‘super crop” and a key component in achieving that viable and sustainable change for the industry is to utilise a greater portion of that remaining 85 per cent and open the door to a diverse range of value-added products and industry.    

“We are at the third stage and will aim to test the various technologies and its intended output products and markets, as a preliminary stage to our broader, five-stage project the final stages of which will see the construction of the semi-commercial Alternative Sugarcane Processing Facility based in Mackay QLD.   

CRCNA CEO Anne Stünzner said the CRCNA has invested more than $2 million towards sugarcane diversification projects.

“The Australian sugarcane industry continues to face challenges including being exposed to market fluctuations, yield decline and loss of land due to competition with high-value agricultural crops and other developments. This project is one of seven we have funded looking to support a long-term sustainable future for sugarcane producers and their communities.”

Media enquiries:

Douglas Ferguson Minister Littleproud 0455 448 985

Carla Keith, CRCNA 0499 330 051