A vision to create a $50M regional advanced manufacturing hub for value-added food production, is taking shape in the Scenic Rim.

The Scenic Rim Agricultural Industrial Precinct (SRAIP) proposal from Kalfresh Pty Ltd, seeks to transform a 40ha site on the Cunningham Highway at Kalbar into a dedicated centre for rural food and beverage value-adding and production.

The draft Impact Assessment Report (IAR) for the SRAIP has been lodged with the Queensland Office of the Coordinator General and is available for public comment until June 26, 2020.

Read the Ministerial Statement

If approved, the Precinct would place Australian food and beverage manufacturers and rural support businesses in the heart of the fertile region where the raw ingredients are grown, allowing food to be delivered to customers faster; reducing food miles; improving operational efficiencies; and responding to growing market demand for Australian-made, value-added food and beverage products.

Kalfresh CEO, Richard Gorman, says the proposal will deliver agricultural diversification and innovation opportunities for producers.

“This region has a long, rich history of agricultural production and was once a powerhouse of food production,” says Mr Gorman.

“Our local area has been home to a butter factory, milk processors and a canning factory. We want to return to this concept of value-adding the raw ingredients in the region where they grow, to create employment opportunities for local people and diversify the opportunities for local farmers to sell their produce.

“With a large and growing population living on our doorstep in south-east Queensland, we are confident the Ag Precinct will reinvigorate the food manufacturing and processing sector. The infrastructure required to value-add raw ingredients such as vegetables calls for multi-million dollar investment in fit-for-purpose facilities. These are high-tech factories which can produce ready-to-eat vegetable and salad products, juices, dairy products, soups and sauces. 

“Our vision is to enhance the productivity of the fertile south-east Queensland food bowls by opening up new customer opportunities to producers, and in turn strengthening their resilience through diversification.”

Kalfresh estimates the initial stages of the project would create 126 direct full-time equivalent jobs during the 2-year construction period and 60 full-time equivalent jobs during operations.

An initial investment of $26 million would be required for site development to allow sales (construction of sewage and water treatment) and $19 million for the construction of a bio-energy facility. Kalfresh plans to expand its own business by investing $5 million in two new facilities for organic vegetable and snacking production within the proposed industrial precinct.

Subject to third party investment, the project has the potential for further capital investment of up to $230 million by the attraction of additional food production and manufacturing businesses to the precinct. This further investment could create up to an additional 500 direct construction jobs and up to 400 direct operational jobs when fully developed. Should this third party investment be realised, the project is expected create approximately 1,100 direct jobs and a further 900 indirect jobs.

Economic Benefit studies, completed for the draft Impact Assessment Report, reveal that fully developed the Precinct would add $140.5million operational gross value to the Scenic Rim economy annually. A cost-benefit analysis reveals the Precinct would deliver a net value of $279.6M to the region and that for every $1 invested, another $6.90 in benefits would be realised in the Scenic Rim.

Pivotal to the proposal is a plan to co-locate food processing businesses alongside a 1.6MW (scalable to 10MW) Bio-Energy facility which would generate renewable energy by turning urban and food waste into gas to generate electricity to power the Precinct and provide grid stabilisation in the local area.

This Anaerobic Digestion co-digestion model is widely used in agricultural regions in the UK and Europe and would be an Australian first, delivered by Kalfresh in partnership with Australian waste and renewable energy companies. The plant would be capable of diverting almost 40,000 tonnes of waste from landfill annually and would create electricity, plus a commercial-grade organic fertiliser for use in cropping.

“Our renewable energy proposal is innovative and seeks to utilise and add value to every waste stream in the system, including vegetable waste, urban waste, heat and digestate,” says Mr Gorman.  “We are very excited about the innovative nature of what we have proposed and our investigations suggest this closed-loop system will be an Australian first , and potentially one of only a few systems of this kind in the world.”

The Kalfresh proposal includes plans for an Agriculture and Farming Museum & Education Centre, celebrating the Scenic Rim’s agricultural history and heritage from settlement through to modern day.

Kalfresh CFO, David Krause, says the proposed Precinct would create new opportunities for innovation and would open 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. This in turn allows farmers to sell more of their crop and reduce food waste.

“The Precinct will create operational efficiencies for the food manufacturing chain, which will also open up new export opportunities for Australian farmers.”

“This Precinct won’t only benefit producers in the Scenic Rim, we believe the benefits will flow to agricultural regions throughout many parts of Queensland.”

During the consultation period, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Kalfresh will offer online information sessions to discuss the precinct proposal. Register your interest at www.kalfresh.com.au

Make a submission on the draft Impact Assessment Report at https://haveyoursay.dsd.qld.gov.au/coordinatorgeneral/sraip/