The Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) has partnered with the Mackay-based firm, Townsend Industries, to establish a pilot facility to test a new sugarcane processing system to deliver a variety of high-value products.

The $1.7 million-dollar, year-long project will support the development of a pilot for the “Mackay Alternative Sugarcane Processing Facility”, based on the Tilby Separation Technology System.  The Tilby separation system will split sugarcane stems into four components, Dermax (skin and wax of the sugarcane), Comfith fibre (inner core fibre), Comrind fibre (rind) and Comflo (sterilised sugarcane juice) and samples of these will then be sent on to third party laboratories for testing, and secondary processors and manufacturers for further processing into final marketable products.

Townsend Industries Director Gary Townsend said sugarcane is a key component in achieving a sustainable future for the industry.

‘Utilising a greater portion of the approximately 85% of the plant left post-harvest will open the door to a diverse range of value-added products and industry.

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

Minister for Northern Australia, Hon. David Littleproud said Townsend Industries have demonstrated a commitment to innovation which had the potential to create news industries and jobs for north Queensland.

“Currently only about 15% of the harvested sugarcane plant is utilised to produce a direct revenue stream to its growers (commercial cane sugar).

“While this CRCNA co-funded project is about proving a concept, it speaks to the possibilities of sugarcane to offer renewable alternatives to plastics as well as health products like nutraceuticals and other health and wellbeing products,” he said.

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 under cane due to competition from 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

Carla Keith, CRCNA  Communications Manager | 0499 330 051