Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 - Wholesale Investor
Next-generation renewable energy and agribusiness innovator AgriFuels is seeking to expand their renewable energy and agricultural operations following two years of successful trials of the powerful energy crop Sweet Sorghum.

AgriFuels began field trials of Sweet Sorghum as a potential feedstock for renewable energy and bio-fuel production in 2007 in Childers, Queensland, after undertaking three years of extensive research and development with the aim of determining what was the most efficient and sustainable energy crop available.

In recent years, Sweet Sorghum has been globally touted a “super-crop” as a single crop yield can be processed into multiple high-value end-products.

Brendon Ellett, co-founder and Managing Director of AgriFuels, explains the process: “First, we harvest the grain head from the Sweet Sorghum plant. We use the grain for human food and animal feed.

The cane that remains is harvested next. By squeezing the cane, we extract the juice which is processed into industrial ethanol or biofuel.

The remaining waste fibre (bagasse) can then be processed into a myriad of additional valuable by-products such as fertiliser, alternative sweeteners, paper pulp, and building materials or used for green electricity production.”

As well as being efficient in terms of sheer utility, AgriFuels have discovered that Sweet Sorghum has significant environmental advantages over traditional feedstocks, such as corn and grain. Simply growing the crop uses one fourth the water needed to grow sugarcane and one third the water and fertiliser needed to grow corn, dramatically reducing both the input cost of farming and total environmental impact on the land. The entire farming and production process of Sweet Sorghum is also carbon neutral from beginning-to-end, and unlike most other crops, Sweet Sorghum naturally sequesters carbon in its deep root structure.

These groundbreaking new developments are set to revolutionise the energy industry in Australia.

“While sweet sorghum has been grown overseas for centuries, particularly in India, Africa, China and since the late 1800’s in USA, it is still relatively new to Australia, so we’ve had to demonstrate that it can be grown successfully here too”.

AgriFuels are pioneering the use of this crop as a food and energy and feedstock in this country, a fact Rob Smallwood, AgriFuels Executive Director is proud of: “With less water and fertiliser we can produce three sweet sorghum crops annually compared to one crop of sugarcane during the same period. Sugar juice from sweet sorghum is only 1/10 the cost of grain AND it’s more efficient as a feedstock for ethanol production. As it turns out, SE QLD also seems to be one the best places in the world to grow it.”

AgriFuels is closely focussed on the triple-bottom-line, looking not only at the economic and environmental issues inherent in their business but also at the social perspective. AgriFuels have continuously consulted and collaborated with local community leaders, state and federal government bodies, farmers and local industries to ensure there is cohesion and harmony between company and community values.

Bill Trevor, OAM, former mayor of Childers for more than 15 years, has been an advisor to the project from the beginning, ensuring that any plans are receiving extensive community consultation prior to implementation.

AgriFuels’ flagship first project is located in south eastern Queensland within the Isis Shire, near the township of Childers. Additional projects are being planned for other locations around Australia.

“We’ve done nearly all of our feasibility testing and we’ve passed with flying colours – now we just need to raise the remainder of the funds required to make it all happen” said Mr. Ellett. “Once we’ve made the first project work, we can duplicate its success relatively easily in additional projects around Australia.”

AgriFuels is currently seeking private capital from sophisticated investors. Their deal is currently featured in Wholesale Investor. For more information head to www.wholesaleinvestor.com.au

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Next-generation renewable energy and agribusiness innovator AgriFuels is seeking to expand their renewable energy and agricultural operations following two years of successful trials.

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