Beef facility to boost jobs and exports
GLADSTONE could be exporting Central Queensland beef to the Asian market within the next three years after yesterday's announcement that a high-tech processing plant and renewable-energy facility will be built at Aldoga.
The $260-million abattoir is set to deliver more than 300 construction and 380 ongoing operational jobs after Queensland's independent Coordinator-General approved the development application for the Asia Pacific Agri-Corp project.
Construction is expected to start about May, subject to subsequent approvals, and is anticipated to be operational by 2021.
The 340ha site, located on Mt Larcom-Gladstone Rd in the Gladstone State Development Area, has been purchased by APAC to accommodate the development.
The facility's administration building will be located at the 98-year-old Euroa Homestead, which will be restored to its former glory.
APAC (Projects) managing director Dan Daly said the plant would have the capacity to process up to 2400 cattle per day.
The plant has been earmarked as the first of its kind in Australia due to its on-site renewable energy facility.
The development provides for 95ha of solar panels, capable of generating 78 MW of electricity or almost one third of the site's total electricity needs.
Mr Daly said the decision to power a portion of the facility with renewable energy came down to increased waste and energy costs.
"We had the room here and within our approval we've got a large solar farm that can power up the processing plant," Mr Daly said.
"We have a bio-gas facility within the unit that takes waste and there's two value-add products that come from that - one is energy that drives boilers and the other is a dry waste.
"We also have approval for a hydrogen plant and the components for the manufacture of hydrogen are energy and water - we use waste water, which would normally be a huge cost, to go through hydrogen so we actually value-add from a waste.
"When we look at the whole project we're insulated from a lot of what adversely affects a lot of other industries. We'll have our own energy, we control our own destiny with waste and the whole plan sets us out as being carbon neutral."
Mr Daly and business partner, Calliope grazier Leo Neill-Ballantine have worked on the project for five years and are confident their business model stacks up in the current climate where drought and abattoir closures have been prevalent.
"Our business model has been extensive and detailed and we believe we've covered all the bases," Mr Daly said.
"Cattle supply is an absolute part of the business model that had to be addressed.
"Leo and his associates within CQ have worked on a very unique supply model."
Mr Daly wouldn't go into detail regarding potential supply chains due to commercial in confidence but spoke confidently when describing the "new and unique" mechanisms in the chain.
Mr Neill-Ballantine reiterated Mr Daly's faith in the chain.
"Like all good businesses, building a relationship with producers and working with them is going to go a long way to supply," Mr Neill-Ballantine said.
"I don't know why they'd ever be an issue with supply and going further on from that people ask about the drought - well droughts come and go and we're three years away from build.
"Moving forward as any industry we have to be looking at ways to make ourselves more sustainable anyway, which all goes through to supply."
"We've just got to be on the front foot and think outside the box."
Tapping into the lucrative beef-export market to Asia will be top priority once Asia Pacific Agri-Corp's processing plant and renewable energy facility becomes operational.
The $260-million project has the backing of all three levels of government with Gladstone Region mayor Matt Burnett, Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher and Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd excited over the possibilities the plant can deliver for the region.
"This project will utilise people like boners, butchers, people driving forklifts, people herding cattle and all those jobs needed to run a facility like this," Mr Butcher said.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for local people to not only get jobs but get trained and be prepared for work like this going forward.
"Rocky can call themselves the Beef Capital but we want their beef. We want to be able to turn that beef into a package facility and send it out through the Gladstone Port.
"The Asian market is desperate for Australian beef and as you know from what's in Rockhampton we have the best beef in the world right here in Central Queensland."
Mr O'Dowd said Australia's free trade agreement with a host of Asian countries sets the plant up for the future.
"(The developers') timing is good, the market is there - let's go," he said.