An alternative ingredient for speciality soy sauce will provide a boost for local sugar cane farmers when a food processing facility starts operating next to the Mossman Sugar Mill.
CocoNutZ is a patented agricultural bio-manufacturing platform seeking to diversify FNQ agriculture through producing a range of condiments using local sugar cane.
CocoNutZ Australia was one of 15 businesses to receive a co-contribution grant of up to $250,0000 under Round Three of the Rural Economic Development (RED) Grant program administered by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA).
The technology allows for production of Kecap Manis, a sweet soy sauce commonly used in Asian dishes, in Queensland at a lower cost than current market participants, while paying farmers more than a standard mill quality sugar cane.
The CocoNutZ food facility, to be established alongside the Mossman Sugar Mill (see below), will have the ability to process up to 20,000 tonnes of cane in the first year.
Managing director Lucas Van Der Walt said the project would directly support Far North Queensland sugar cane producers, who were previously impacted through lower sugar prices.
“Due to the remoteness of the region and distance to alternative markets, growers have limited obvious alternatives to cane growing. By producing value-added product from cane, crop purchase prices can be raised and guaranteed for a longer term,” Mr Van Der Walt said.
CocoNutZ will replace coconut sugar in the manufacturing of Kecap Manis with its own bio-transformed sugar cane juice through its patented process, which aims to turn sugar cane juice into a natural coconut like sugar product. Demand for Kecap Manis, based on coconut sugar, is growing annually.
Coconut sugar is inherently in short supply globally and despite several attempts, coconut sugar harvesting has never been successfully industrialised. The CocoNutZ platform allows for the valuable coconut sugar flavour to be created from Queensland sugar cane and exported at a lower cost than the traditional coconut sugar production method.
Coconutz has devised a patented bio-process with proprietary natural fermentation technology to successfully produce a range of natural aromas and flavour precursors, Mr Van Der Walt says.
Early in 2021 the project will create twelve new jobs including plant operators, laboratory analysists and microbiologists, another six during construction and support a further three indirect jobs during its first phase of operations. During subsequent phases more jobs are likely to be created.
“The community of Mossman has grown around the Mossman Mill over the last 120 years. It employs 90 people during the cane season, and 60 in the off-season, along with being the main customer for many supporting businesses in the area,” Mr Van Der Walt said.
“Small independent sugar mills in Queensland can no longer compete on a global scale, and have endured financial hardship over the last 10 years as sugar prices have been declining.
“The CocoNutZ platform has been identified as a key diversifying strategy for the mill and the CocoNutZ food facility will be the first tenant of the planned Daintree Bio Precinct, an advanced manufacturing hub that would be co-located on the Mossman Sugar mill site.”
The Rural Economic Development (RED) Grants program offers emerging projects up to $250,000 in co-contributions to build industry and grow employment opportunities across the agricultural sector. The $10 million grants program provides for three funding rounds over a three-year period ending 2021.
A total of 15 businesses have received $3.14 million under the third round of funding for the RED Grants program. Overall, these projects are expected to create more than 600 jobs across the agricultural sector in regional Queensland.
Across the three rounds of the RED Grant program, a total of 43 agricultural businesses have received funding toward economic development projects worth $40.8 million and estimated to create 1,897 new direct and indirect jobs over the lifetime of these projects
For more information about the RED Grant scheme visit www.qrida.qld.gov.au
The Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) administer the RED Grant scheme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.