In an Australian first, Queensland trucks and buses are on the road to being fuelled by vegetables and food waste.

Scenic Rim farming business, Kalfresh, which supplies fresh vegetables to supermarkets nationwide, wants to broaden its reach into the energy market. They have modelled their project on what they’ve seen working overseas, where regional farming communities have been revived by diversifying into renewable energy production.

The Kalfresh Bioenergy Plant will be the centrepiece of the new Scenic Rim Agricultural Industrial Precinct at Kalbar.

Kalfresh CEO Richard Gorman says agriculture has the answers to decarbonise heavy vehicle transport, which is Australia’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and industrial manufacturing and he knows it works because it’s already happening in Europe, the UK and America.

Stage 1 of the Kalfresh Bioenergy Plant will be 1.6MW and will use anaerobic digestion to produce heat, electricity and digestate fertiliser. Feedstocks will include vegetable waste, poultry and cattle manure, paunch, food waste and energy crops.

Fully-developed the plant will increase to 10MW and will be capable of producing 1.6PJ of renewable compressed natural gas (RNG) – enough to fuel 26,000 truck trips from Brisbane to Sydney. 

“I’m confident this system will put agriculture in the driver’s seat to solve some of Australia’s most urgent environmental challenges. This new fuel made from plants could power the trucks that deliver our products to the city, where we can collect food waste from retailers and industrial customers to feed the digester to create more power, fuel and fertiliser to grow the next crop,” Mr Gorman says. 

“In every crop we grow 30 to 60 per cent of the plants don’t make the specification for retail sales. In addition to this there is waste generated during our processing and packing system. Instead of feeding this waste to cattle and returning nothing to the farm, we can use it to generate electricity and renewable natural gas, and return the by-product of anaerobic digestion, digestate, to farms. 

“We will use the nutrient-dense digestate as a biofertiliser on farms, reducing our reliance on synthetic fertilisers. People talk about closed loop systems – this is the real deal. Nothing goes to waste.

“The Kalfresh model will allow farmers to enter the energy market and introduce new income to their business by selling their waste streams and dedicated feedstock crops to the energy plant.

“The best part is it’s already proven overseas, where agricultural waste is fuelling truck fleets for Amazon, Waitrose Supermarkets, and the LA County buses and rubbish trucks, so we know it works.

“We have a plan to repeat this model throughout regional farming communities and build resilience and prosperity, and deliver on Australia’s sustainability and carbon-neutral goals,” he says.