Liquid food waste is being injected into the soil of a northern Victorian farm as part of a novel solution to disposing the growing amount of manufacturing waste.
Naring farmer Peter Schwarz will grow a crop, possibly canola, on the dry property next year, with the advantage of extra moisture and nutrients the waste will provide.
Last week the company, Transpacific, demonstrated how the project would work, using a massive four-wheel drive Claas tractor towing a tanker fitted with a nine-tyne plough that pumps the waste 30cm into the ground.
The company has secured Environmental Protection Agency approval and guarantees the safety of the product.
The project could be extended to other farms one day, but the company said after a two-year process to get approval, it was content with this site for a start.
Transpacific transport division managing director Tony Roderick said the area was chosen because of its strategic location between major food manufacturers in northern Victoria.
‘‘It’s the foodbowl of Victoria, 25 per cent of the state’s food comes from this region,’’ Mr Roderick said.
‘‘You have some big manufacturers in the region.
‘‘It’s keeping the waste stream in the region, and removing the risks of heavy haulage out of the region.
‘‘We are hoping most of the supply will come from the region.’’
Transpacific has been disposing of food waste in a similar way in NSW for about 20 years.
Mr Roderick said the company dealt with about 90000 tonnes of liquid waste annually in soil injection in NSW.
He would not disclose the financial arrangements with farmers, but said food manufacturers had to pay for the waste to be disposed of.
‘‘It adds moisture in dry periods but also adds nutrients, so (farmers) find yields are increasing.
‘‘It also removes a waste stream for manufacturing people, it would normally have been put through a waste treatment facility or go to landfill.
‘‘It’s safe and productive.’’
The waste stream includes products like yoghurt, milk waste, fruit juices and alcohol.
‘‘Big manufacturers are looking for alternatives for disposal where shelf life has been exceeded,’’ Mr Roderick said.
‘‘Soil injection sounds easy, but there is a science to it and we have a range of environmental scientists and agronomists working on it.
‘‘You can’t saturate the land. There is a set formula, with a testing regime. We don’t want to damage the land, we want to improve it.’’
The EPA will monitor the project.
Mr Schwarz said the injection process should improve the carbon and organics in the soil.
He anticipated a lot of the waste would be from the region’s milk factories.
‘‘I’ve always thought we should be recycling this stuff. It’s about 95 per cent water.’’
Mr Schwarz said his involvement came about through a friend in a consultancy business when they were looking for a location which made the transport cost effective.
He has been involved in Landcare projects and with the Grains Research and Development Corporation over the years.
Mr Roderick said the number of farms involved in the future would depend on the volumes produced by the manufacturers.
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