The $180 million cassava plantation complex has taken a huge step forward with the combination of financial support from CJ CheilJedang and the mechanised cassava farming system from CassTech as a joint venture known as Australian Cassava Technology.
The ambitious project will see a large-scale cassava farm and gluten-free flour mill built in the first year with further expansion to include a starch factory, biomass pellet mill and feed mill. The site for the project is cleared land west of Home Hill along the Elliot Main Channel.
Cassava is a shrub with starchy tuberous roots and protein-rich foliage. The tubers and foliage are a staple food in all tropical regions with the exception of Australia. Tapioca starch – produced from the tubers – is used in processed foods, paper making, bioplastics and many other industries especially those based on new bio-processing technologies.
CassTech Director Stewart Peters said the approval process for the two stages of the project had commenced.
“The approval process is lengthy and has been complicated by legislative changes during the four years it has taken to develop the project,” he said.
“There are a number of approvals processes that have to be completed before we can progress, but we have started taking soil samples and have a been assisted by government agencies.
“During the past four years, we have developed a unique mechanised cassava farming system including building the machinery used to plant and harvest.
“This closed system will enable us to use all of the cassava plant and its by-products. There’s no waste, and it is carbon neutral.
“The roots will be processed into native tapioca starch for the domestic and export markets, the foliage and solid waste from the factory will be used to produce stockfeed. A co-located feedlot will allow manure to be used as fertiliser on the farm.
“The woody stems from the plant can generate carbon-neutral green electricity or carbon-sequestering agrichar.”
Mr Peters said stage one would see CJ ACT – a joint venture between CassTech and CJ Cheiljendang – establish 6000 hectares of cassava and produce 100,000 tonnes of native tapioca starch.
“There is a growing world-wide demand for starch and starch-derived products and we have a big blue print to increase our output of tapioca starch when the project enters its second stage,” he said.
“We have sent samples of our gluten-free flour product to processed food producers in Australia for testing in food products and results are very positive.
“I would like to thank the Burdekin Shire Council for its enduring support over the past four years and am pleased that this project is moving forward.”
CJ Australian Cassava Technology Project Leader Scot Kim said his company already had a close link with the Burdekin through the sugar industry.
“CJ is the largest buyer of Burdekin sugar, importing 1 million tonnes,” he said.
“Most of that sugar comes from the Burdekin and Herbert regions.
“So it is in our interest that this cassava project does not impact on the sugar industry here.”
Burdekin Shire Council Economic and Community Development Manager Tony Vaccaro said this project was a huge coup for the Burdekin region.
“We have been working toward this day for four years and to have finance secured for the project is a fantastic achievement,” he said.
“This project is one of the biggest developments to come to the Burdekin in decades.
“The project offers diversification and establishes a whole new industry for the shire. We are very pleased to see CassTech moving forward with their plans.
“CJ and CassTech have shown great faith in the Burdekin and the region will reap the benefits from this project.
“It will employ up to 100 people, has already established a working business relationship with many local firms and will likely attract more companies to invest in the district.”