Mackay alternative sugarcane processing pilot project: equipment and product test sampling phase

Reference number
CRCNA funding
Total project value
Project length
1 year
Finish date
Project Status
Project Manager
Ian Biggs


  • Townsend Industries


This project will test a pilot alternative sugarcane processing facility in Mackay.  The demonstration plant is based on the Tilby Separation System, which together with other necessary ancillary systems and equipment, will be used to separate the sugarcane plant and produce research samples, to develop a variety of high-value products.

The four components to be extracted from the sugarcane plant during this project are : 

  • Comrind - the hard, wood-like outer section of the sugarcane stalk that consists of the structural fibre, making up about 18% of the total weight of cane
  • Comfith - the soft, pithy interior of the stalk that consists of the softer inner core containing all of the high purity sugar bearing juice.
  • Comflo - the sugar juice extracted from the comfith that consists of the high purity juice extracted from the comfith fibre.
  • Dermax - the thin outer epidermal layer of the stalk that consists of silica, natural wax, components of molasses and valuable bioactive compounds.

The CRCNA's investment will fund operational activities like the hiring of equipment and laboratories, freight and carriage for cane and for general research  activities - not to build the semi-commercial facility, as that will come if this pilot phase proved successful.

Expected outcomes

Townsend Industries have identified a portfolio of unique products of high potential value, margin and significant market demand which will provide diversification opportunities along the sugarcane value chain, including producers, harvesting contractors, millers, marketers and in-direct suppliers.

The flow on impacts of this diversification shift in the sugarcane industry are potentially dramatic in terms of employment and wealth generation for the Mackay region and sugarcane production areas throughout northern Australia. The project does not wish to assign actual figures on the scale of this impact until the positive results of this project are realised, and the implications worked through.  

The direct and immediate impact of the results from this project will be the direction and speed of the next stage of the development of the Townsend Industries alternative sugarcane processing facility.