Nuffield scholars to explore value adding

Value-adding will be a major study focus for two grain growers who have been awarded 2013 GRDC-sponsored Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarships

Grain growers Lachie Seears and Matthew Hill are among 18 Nuffield Australia Scholars who will travel and study overseas next year to develop their practical farming knowledge and management skills and techniques while joining a unique international agricultural network.

Mr Seears, who manages the operational and financial components of his family’s farming business in Lucindale, South Australia, will use his scholarship to better understand the supply-chain process and explore value-adding opportunities for the pulse industry. He crops wheat, barley, canola and broad beans on the family’s mixed farming enterprise, and operates a 5500-tonne grain handling facility that supplies processors and end users throughout the year to capitalise on market opportunities.

Image of man standing in canola crop

Nuffield scholar Lachie Seears.

“As producers of pulse crops in the high-rainfall zone we are ideally situated to grow a consistent supply of a high-quality commodity, but the skills required to turn that commodity into a consumable product are not widely known,” Mr Seears says.

“There are opportunities to develop relationships with processors and packers overseas that could enable us to further process and add value to our product further up the supply chain, effectively taking broad beans from the paddock to the plate.”

Mr Seears proposes to conduct a risk-assessment strategy to provide in-depth knowledge of market requirements and specifications necessary to process, value-add, market and export broad beans to end consumers, particularly those in the Middle East and Europe.

“Most growers don’t have an understanding of quarantine, trading or cultural issues to enable them to set these relationships up,” he says. “I intend to use my research to develop a model that can be adapted by other growers and applied to their pulse crops.”

A visit to the Gulfood 2013 trade show in Dubai and travel to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are planned as part of Mr Seears’s Nuffield tour.

Mr Hill, who farms a 13,000ha property east of Esperance, Western Australia, with his wife’s family, plans to use the scholarship to study harvest residue management and control of weed seeds, and to investigate potential for adding value to the operation’s chaff portion.

He says a move from 60 per cent to 80 per cent cropping on his family’s property, combined with “a series of poor starts over the past five to six years”, has placed pressure on weed control and chemical use.

Image of a man in field with dog

Nuffield scholar Matthew Hill.

During his scholarship, Mr Hill plans to travel to the US and Europe to investigate how other countries are handling crop residues and to investigate technologies being used to produce feed, heat and power.

“I would like to develop a mobile process that converts weed-seed-laden chaff into an inert product suitable for livestock feed or energy production, effectively transforming a by-product that is otherwise burnt into a valuable commodity” he says.

“This concept, should it be viable, would be immediately applicable to any broadacre grower.”

Mr Hill says while chaff production is small compared to grain production, the scope for value-adding is not insignificant. “Chaff represents about five to seven per cent of the mass of cereal grain harvested,” he says. “On our property we produce up to 1500t of chaff each year, which equates to a potential feed pellet asset worth $300,000 to $400,000 based on an average price of $300/t.”

Both growers will participate in a six-week global focus program before pursuing their specific studies in the countries of their choice.

More information:

Nuffield Australia,
03 5480 0755
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Next: Expanding subtropic zone the clue to dry autumns

GRDC Project Code NUF00009

Region South, West, National