A vision to create a rural food production hub at Kalbar is a step closer to being realised, following a State Government decision to declare the proposed 40-hectare agricultural industrial precinct as a coordinated project.

Kalfresh Pty Ltd CEO Richard Gorman says the declaration, announced on May 31, provides the company with a clear assessment pathway to turn vision into reality and deliver local jobs and investment to the region.

The proposal to create a formal hub for fresh and frozen food production on a site adjoining the existing Kalfresh facility on the Cunningham Highway at Kalbar, would enable food processing businesses to base themselves where the raw ingredients are grown.

Preliminary figures indicate the Scenic Rim Agricultural Industrial Precinct (SRAIP) would deliver strong investment and jobs growth for the region, attracting approx. $10m investment during construction and creating 32 direct jobs.

Once fully operational, it is predicted the SRAIP could generate approx. $350m annual revenue and lead to 1250 local direct jobs.

“We’ve been working on this proposal for the past five years,” says Mr Gorman.

“The idea has always been to create a precinct which supports the existing rural community and businesses and strengthens their future by providing more avenues to sell produce.

“This is about giving the rural sector a competitive advantage by allowing fresh food to be delivered to customers faster; reducing food miles; improving operational efficiencies; and responding to market demand for trusted, value-add food and beverage products.”

Kalfresh Vegetables is a leading vegetable farming, production and marketing business which supplies fresh produce to customers nationally and internationally. The business has operated from its Kalbar site since 1992 and has production in four QLD regions, including the Scenic Rim.

Mr Gorman says the proposed Precinct would enable agricultural diversification and would create new opportunities for innovation for existing and future state-wide rural industries, opening up new markets for producers and related support industries.

“The Scenic Rim is ideally located between Brisbane, Beaudesert, Ipswich and Toowoomba and has a reputation as one of Australia’s most fertile farming regions,” he says.

“Our industry is facing many challenges and producers must grow more efficient to remain competitive. Food processing and value-adding is one of the best ways to deliver additional value to farmers and to the communities where they operate.

“Our vision is to create a precinct where the raw ingredients could be turned into a range of value-added products – frozen, fresh, dried, baby food and juice.”

A key part of the Kalfresh proposal is to co-locate food processing businesses alongside a proposed Bio-Energy facility to generate renewable energy through anaerobic digestion. This renewable energy would be used to power the precinct in a model which has been proven in agricultural regions in the UK and Europe.

Kalfresh has entered a preliminary agreement with a leading Australian waste company to construct an anaerobic digester capable of diverting almost 50,000 tonnes of waste from landfill annually. The plant would create energy as well as commercial-grade organic fertiliser to support the cropping land.

“We welcome the decision to declare our project and we will now start work on the next phase, preparing a draft Impact Assessment Report for the Coordinator-General,” says Mr Gorman.