Food safe bearings save local snacks

From meat pies, to lamingtons, to fairy bread – it’s no secret that Australians love their snacks. Australia is home to a few iconic homegrown snack brands with the industry peaking in demand last year at an annual revenue of more than 4.2 million AUD, according to Statista. Read more

Safe passage from keg or cask to glass

The food and beverage industry in Australia is subject to regulations that align with ANSI requirements and promote acceptance by USDA and FDA regulatory authorities. “Beverage producers such as wineries and breweries must ensure that the pump and valve equipment on site are in accordance with hygienic standards and guidelines and do not compromise the quality of their product,” says Michael Rowe. Read more

Premium hydraulic oils age like fine wine

In the last two years, the Australian harvest has seen the end of a long drought season, bouncing back with buoyancy, with incentives from the government boosting sales of agricultural equipment to accommodate the demands of high yields.

Read more

How to save time on belt repairs: A grain handling case study

When you work in the grain handling business, ensuring your conveyor equipment is in tip top condition for harvest season is essential. Which is why Kerry Hickmott leans on BSC in Toowoomba for the support and supply of LOCTITE®product for preventative maintenance and belt repair. 

“I run a workshop that primarily builds and repairs grain handling equipment for a major grain producer,” explains Kerry. “In Queensland we have two harvest seasons for grain – these fall over spring and summer. For this reason, we carry out maintenance and repair work from April through to September to make sure the equipment is in good condition for harvest.”

Grain belts are, of course, critical to these operations. Business Development Executive for BSC in Toowoomba, Mark Brocherie, explains why.

“When it comes to handling the grain, conveyor belts are commonly used. This rubber belting can tear from time to time,” he says. “If you do have a tear in the belt, it can lead to premature failure and consequently cause a lot of damage, including a potential breakdown.”

According to Kerry, breakdowns have to be avoided at all costs. 

“Downtime is not an option for us – if it does occur, it has serious implications for our business, not just in terms of immediate costs but in how those subsequent delays will affect our customers,” expounds Kerry. “It’s a competitive business. If people are waiting too long to drop their grain off, they will call another grain depot to make alternative arrangements.”

Read more

Baker Farm truck fleet runs smooth with Alemlube

As a third-generation family business, Baker Farm in the Riverina region of New South Wales is not just a farm producer. The business, which comprises Baker Farm, Baker Grain and Baker Transport, also offers contract farming services, feedlot facilities, freight, and storage of grain, hay and machinery.

To help the farm managers maintain all of their equipment in perfect condition with minimal manual work, BSC’s Wodonga branch recommended installing Alemlube Automated Lubrication Systems on the farm’s  truck fleet to automate the greasing, which helps the farm save significantly on maintenance time and costs.

Read more

No easy options for MDB water recovery

A new study examining the impacts of water recovery in the southern Murray-Darling Basin has found both buybacks and on-farm efficiency programs result in higher prices.

ABARES Executive Director Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds said the study separates the effects of water recovery on water allocation prices from seasonal variations in water supply and expanding perennial crops.

“Seasonal conditions are the primary driver of annual variation in water prices,” Hatfield-Dodds said.

“Both direct water buybacks and on-farm infrastructure programs put upward pressure on water prices. ABARES finds that total water recovery to date, on average, has added around $72 per megalitre to allocation prices.

“On-farm infrastructure programs provide significant benefits to the farmers that participate through better productivity and profitability. That means they want more water and will pay a higher price.

“This extra demand puts more upward pressure on allocation prices than an equivalent amount of water buybacks. ABARES finds the price effect of on-farm irrigation infrastructure projects is about double that of buybacks, per unit of water recovered.

“If the water recovered through on-farm programs had instead been recovered through buybacks, then the total price effect would be an increase of around $63 per megalitre, rather than $72 per megalitre.

“The study also found that off-farm infrastructure projects and rationalisation of irrigation networks are best placed to avoid price effects, but are typically more expensive than buybacks and may be difficult to negotiate.”

Other factors putting pressure on water market prices include the expansion of high-value, water-intensive crops such as almonds.

“High-value crops are estimated to add $25 per megalitre to allocation prices—likely to increase a further $15 per megalitre as those plantings mature in coming years,” Hatfield-Dodds said.

“Estimated price effects are sensitive to assumptions about seasonal conditions and wider economic drivers.”

Mapping grain paddocks from space

Scientists at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, have solved a farming challenge using artificial intelligence to identify the boundary of every individual paddock in Australia’s grain growing region from space – around 1.7 million of them.

The technology has been developed into a new product called ePaddocks, designed to save time for farmers and others in the agricultural sector when using digital services for farm analytics and insights.

Currently, farm management software requires users to manually draw paddock boundaries for every service they use, like satellite-assisted fertiliser application or crop growth monitoring, and they may have to update this information every growing season.

Unlike property boundaries, which are recorded in local council or title records, paddock boundaries aren’t historically recorded anywhere.

ePaddocks can identify paddock boundaries from season to season but doesn’t identify a particular property or landowner, or what paddock belongs to whom.

CSIRO remote sensing specialist Dr Franz Waldner said ePaddocks was highly accurate, detailed and available at the touch of a button.

“The satellite images we use, although publicly available, are cumbersome to download, store and analyse by the average person,” Waldner said.

“So we apply our deep neural network and algorithms to produce the paddock boundaries based on vegetation signatures and land features.

“Our method only needs one satellite image taken at any point in the growing season to distinguish the boundaries. It relies on data driven processes and decisions rather than assumptions about what’s on the ground.

“Paddock boundaries have been highly sought after in the digital agriculture world for a little while now, but we’ve tackled it over the past year or so with new technologies and solved it. Our method will set the standard for similar geo-spatial products.”

CSIRO experts in agronomy, satellite imagery, data science, software engineering and innovation joined forces and developed the product in record time.

The ePaddocks technology could also be used in other countries and to improve land use maps and track species richne

New platform predicts farm productivity

A new software platform, Ag360, has been launched by a University of New England (UNE) subsidiary, offering predictive capability  to producers anywhere.

Some aspects of Ag360 will be familiar to producers. The platform is an expanded version of ASKBILL, the application developed by the Sheep CRC. When the CRC finished its last cycle, the Centre’s intellectual property was bequeathed to UNE for future development.

Drawing on data from the Bureau of Meterology ACCESS S global weather forecasting model, the Ag360 platform can predict livestock and pasture performance up to six months ahead. The BoM data is customised by Ag360 to reflect conditions within five kilometres of any chosen point.

With this information, Ag360 can make paddock-specific forecasts for rainfall and soil moisture, pasture condition, sheep and cattle live- and carcass weight, condition score and fat cover, wool growth, and stressors like blowflies, worms and extreme weather.

The platform provides alerts via text or email if certain production targets are likely to fall out of selected parameters. Users can also enter farm management data, like grazing rotations, pasture biomass and animal health treatments, which serve as a management record and can be used to enhance the software’s future predictive capability.

“Ag360 is unique in its ability to simplify the complex relationship between weather, pasture and livestock performance to predict the future and reduce uncertainty,” said Ag360 Pty Ltd chief executive Steve Potts.

“It’s a unique and powerful tool to assist producers and land managers make more informed decisions that drives greater value and profit from their operations.”

ASKBILL subscribers will be invited to transition to the new and improved Ag360 platform. All other producers interested in harnessing the benefits of Ag360 can take advantage of a 21 day free trial at They will be supported if they adopt the platform.

Ag360 has the capacity to operate across a range of agricultural enterprises and distribute timely production information right along the supply chain. The company is eager to build on this capability.

With the right investors, Potts hopes to expand the new platform into new sectors, and ultimately, expand it into an international business.

“We are currently investigating opportunities to develop dairy and cropping functionality, ways of giving producers easy access to carbon markets, better linkages to supply chain participants and enabling access for agricultural service providers,” Potts said.

Free trade agreement good for agriculture

The Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud has welcomed the news that Indonesia has completed the domestic ratification process for the free trade deal with Australia. Littleproud said this bilateral agreement has been an objective of the Australian Government for a long time and the benefits will begin to flow from the 5th July.

“This is great news for Australian farmers and Australia’s agricultural sector,” Minister Littleproud said. “Indonesia is already our 6th largest agricultural export market. This agreement will help us see the $2.5 billion export market grow even further. There is still more work to be done on technical barriers for trade with Indonesia but this is a great basis in which to start from.

“The benefits will be across the board and is a reminder of how our farmers and the agriculture sector will continue to be the bedrock of our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. There will be duty free access for 575,000 head of live male cattle per year, increasing 4 per cent a year to 700,000. The remaining 5 per cent tariffs on Australian frozen beef and sheep meat will be reduced to 2.5 percent and then eliminated after 5 years.

For Australian grain producers there will be a guaranteed duty free access for 500,000 tonnes per year of feed grain such as wheat, barley and sorghum and that will increase 5 per cent each year.

Dairy farmers will benefit from the elimination of 5 per cent tariff for milk and cream, concentrated or containing added sugar. There will also be the elimination of 5 per cent tariff for grated and powdered cheese of all kinds.

“And there will be improved access for citrus fruits such as mandarins, oranges, lemons and limes,” said Littleproud. “The Nation’s farmers have been calmly going about feeding the Australia and exporting to the world. The Australian Government will stand with our farmers and continue to work to find new and expand existing markets to give them a competitive edge.”

Softening the COVID-19 disruption risk

Increased use of precision agriculture practices and other workarounds can play a key role in softening the impact of potential agricultural input shortages due to COVID-19, agribusiness specialist Rabobank said in recent research.

As the nation’s grain growers begin sowing the winter crop – in some of the most favourable seasonal conditions experienced in recent years for many – optimism has been tempered by concerns the coronavirus pandemic may restrict availability of supplies of some imported agricultural chemicals and fertilisers.

Rabobank agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy said while the bank’s research indicates adequate supplies of agricultural inputs – including urea and agrochemicals – would be available in most instances, in cases where there were supply shortages, satisfactory alternatives or workaround strategies could be adopted.

These include the expanded use of precision agriculture practices, such as plant and soil testing and variable rate application.

“While global farm input supply chains are operating at near-full capacity, the risk of interruption still remains high”, Lefroy said. “The source of this interruption may be at production, or moving the product by road or at the port.”

Despite earlier concerns regarding the availability of agrochemicals, Australian growers have generally been able to access adequate stocks to begin seeding. However, more recently, urea imports have become an increasing concern to growers, particularly those looking to make the most of the first favourable soil moisture they have seen for some time following good rainfall and on the back of a promising outlook for the season ahead, Lefroy said.

“In the event of major disruption to supply which causes shortages of either fertiliser, including urea, or agrochemicals, we see a number of ‘work arounds’ for growers to consider,” he said.

Precision ag and work-around strategies
In particular, Lefroy said, grain growers would benefit from expanding precision agriculture practices this season.

“In light of a potential reduction in the availability of inputs for this season, we consider the full use of available precision agriculture practices will help growers maximise ‘bang for their buck’. This includes soil testing, plant testing and variable rate technology to ensure maximum efficiency of ag chemical and fertiliser usage,” he said.

Lefroy said following a below-average crop for many farmers across the country last season – and in some cases for multiple past years – residual nutrients in the soil were likely to be higher than usual heading into the new season, allowing for lower rates of fertiliser application.

“In addition, a wet summer will have driven greater mineralisation of nitrogen in the soil,” he said. “So both of these factors mean, in some cases, additional nutrient requirements may be lower than usual.”

Lefroy said growers’ planting intentions may be altered according to the suite of chemicals and fertilsers available to them. “In particular,” he said, “early-planted crops, such as canola may be most at risk of substitution in favour of cereals, which can be planted later in the seeding program, when inputs arrive.”

Assessing alternative weed management strategies should also be a consideration. “Depending on the availability of particular chemicals, some growers may be forced to change the suite of chemicals used on a crop,” he said.

Lefroy said growers would be prudent to maintain regular contact with suppliers about the availability of ag chemicals in their region and to consult with their agronomists about “plan B and plan C should adequate ag chem and fertiliser not be available”.

With most of the season’s phosphate requirements already on farm, all eyes are on urea – both in terms of import volumes and prices – ahead of nitrogen application during winter and spring, Lefroy said.

“We are now heading into the key importing period for urea in Australia,” he said. “On average, 60 per cent of our yearly imports of urea arrive on Australian shores during the April-July window. And Australia typically imports 90 per cent of its total urea requirements, so we are heavily reliant on global supply chains.”

To date, Lefroy said, production and logistics were operating with little interruption in Qatar and Saudi Arabia – Australia’s two largest sources for urea imports.

“And, in a scenario where supply was interrupted from the Middle East, sufficient alternative urea would be available from China, Indonesia and Malaysia – with whom we also have a strong trading history,” he said.

In terms of pricing, after an 11 per cent bounce in global urea benchmarks (FOB ex-Middle East) during late Feb and early March, prices have since retreated seven per cent in USD terms, and lie well below the five-year average.

”Chinese urea production has also increased to 70 per cent utilisation after the COVID-19 shutdown period in China. So, as the domestic spring peak finishes, we expect China to have more urea available for export which will weigh on global prices,”  Lefroy said.

However, despite favourable global prices, Australian growers should expect to pay slightly more than they budgeted for fertiliser this season, Lefroy cautioned, due to expectations for a sustained lower Australian dollar.

“Taking into account the currency impact, local prices will remain slightly above average for the next three months,” he said.

Lefroy said while not forecast by the bank, a scenario where there was a significant disruption to global or local urea supply chains which prohibited arrival of product, remained a potential risk in the current circumstances.

“If this were to occur, it would bring some significant upward movement to local prices, which will be amplified if we saw favourable rainfall conditions accelerate demand,” he said.

Ag chemicals
For agricultural chemicals, Rabobank said, a “perfect storm” had impacted some supplies – especially for glyphosate and trifluralin – with a combination of pre-existing lower production and higher local demand being compounded by disruptions to production and logistics in China due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Prior to COVID-19, the ag chem supply chain was already under severe pressure,” Lefroy said. “This was due to a couple of factors. From 2017 to 2019, China cut agrochemical production by 44 per cent due to a combination of tighter environmental regulation and the Chinese government addressing domestic over-supply issues.

“With China supplying approximately 90 per cent of Australia’s agri chemicals, this lower supply was compounded by an increase in demand sparked by significant rainfall in early 2020, diminishing stocks held by local retailers.

“Then on top of this, COVID-19 has caused disruption to production and logistics in China, which added an estimated three to five-week delay on stock coming into Australia.”

However, current observations are that Chinese ag-chem production is ‘ramping-up’ and logistics chains have started to move supply out of China to export markets, which will help address shortages, according to Lefroy.

“In the past couple of weeks, a number of major suppliers have reported arrival of new shipments and product on the water,” he said. “Some retailers have more stock than others and this varies from region to region. In the majority of cases, growers will have enough inputs to commence sowing as planned.”

Harvesting the benefits of lubricants in farm equipment

For cane and broadacre farmers, maximising crop yield is a constant challenge. To confront this challenge, farmers can turn to a number of different solutions, such as soil testing, changing chemical treatments, and better utilising fertilisers. A commonly under-utilised method, however, is to treat harvesters with better-quality lubricants.

“Essentially, you want to get the same level of cut from the start to the end of your paddock,” Gulf Western Oil’s National Account Manager, Christopher Bright, said.

“If you have a hydraulic fluid that is eternally shearing down, what happens is your harvester will drop its blades down to the ground, and then you’ll end up in a situation where you start picking up the dirt, or the bottom of the cane or the grain for example, which is not then able to be used for harvest.”

To maximise the level of the cut, and avoid that dropping effect, lubricants play a very important part.

“One of the products that we provide, the Gulf Harvester, is designed specifically for the harvester and to reduce the thinning effect that happens with hydraulic fluids over temperature – this controls the minimising shearing effect, therefore you get the same level of cut,” Bright said.

“One of the products that we provide, the Gulf Harvester, is designed specifically for the harvester with a new highly shear stable viscosity modifier that minimises the thinning effect that the fluid experiences as operating temperature increases, therefore you get the same level of cut throughout the day”, Bright said.

Recently, GWO reformulated the Gulf Harvester due to an advancement in the technology. In 2019, the fluid formula was changed to incorporate one of the most shear stable viscosity modifiers available in the global market.

The Gulf Harvester is a premium grade, high viscosity index, super shear stable hydraulic oil designed specifically for extreme applications where very high temperatures are common, such as cane harvesters. It is formulated with extremely shear stable additives offering minimal viscosity loss, minimal oxidation and thermal stability.

“Because of this, the Gulf Harvester outperforms its competitors, which are good products but they are still using the old technology before the advancements in 2019. So, they have that issue where, over time, they deteriorate and they shear down, which ultimately changes the cut,” Bright said.

“It’s like upgrading from a Plasma TV screen to an LCD. The market may be going well, but this is a significant enhancement. We’ve upgraded to one of the most shear stable viscosity modifiers available on the global scale.”

According to distributor BSC’s National Product Manager, Steve Keown, this technology is especially significant because farmers have a limited window in which to sow and harvest crops.

“The Gulf Western Harvester provides protection to the highly stressed hydraulics systems of the modern-day harvester, resulting in less time spent on maintenance and letting farmers get on with the job.”

Keown emphasised BSC’s presence in the Australian agriculture market – the company has been around since 1921. Moreover, ‘BSC AG’ is a newly developed division of BSC that has been created specifically for this market, wholly specialising in agricultural products for broad acre farmers. Alongside harvester lubrications, BSC distributes lubricants for all farm equipment.

“From heavy duty diesel engine, drive line and ancillary system lubricants, through to bespoke lubrication solutions, our customers rely on us to have a large amount of stock available,” Keown said.

With its national branch network, BSC has built a reputation as a respected distributor of products to the Australian agricultural market. Through BSC’s network, they have the capability to deliver parts directly to the farm.

The brand’s large presence means, not only that they have access to the significant technical expertise for bespoke solutions, but that they are agile one-stop shop for farm equipment, from procurement to maintenance and more. As such, BSC is constantly adapting to the changing demands of the market.

The relationship between BSC and GWO is ideal in that BSC can provide the support in the field and are available to customers 24/7, while GWO keep their pulse on the market with an ever-evolving line of high-quality lubricants.

“Harvesting and agriculture is the backbone of our business – it’s what we’re known for,” Bright said.

While Keown reiterates, “BSC customers rely on the advice we provide them as well as our ability to deliver products and services around the clock. We’re proud to have GWO in our portfolio as their products are of such a high standard.”

Read more articles like this at:


Dairy code of conduct essential to help dairy farmers get a fair price

Australian dairy farmers now have a tough and fair rule book to help them negotiate a fair price for their product with a mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct taking effect from 1 January 2020.

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said Australia’s dairy farming organisations had worked hard to develop a Code that would support dairy farmers right across Australia.

“I want to thank each and every organisation for their constructive input in agreeing to the Code,” Minister McKenzie said. “The mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct was a key recommendation from the 2018 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Dairy Inquiry which found contracting and industry practices were weighted heavily in favour of processors.

“That’s why it has been so important for state dairy farming organisations and dairy farmers, from across our eight unique dairy regions, to detail the protections needed and to agree what is, and what is not, acceptable conduct in negotiations and in contracts.

The final Code is different from the draft that was consulted on and is said to be stronger, clearer document that delivers the protections it should for dairy farmers.  In line with feedback received from dairy farmers, the Code prohibits retrospective pricing step downs, said McKenzie. It also prevents unilateral changes except in a narrowly defined set of emergency circumstances; it stops processors withholding loyalty payments from farmers who are changing processor; and it prohibits exclusive supply arrangements where other conditions would be to the detriment of dairy farmers.

“It also establishes a dispute resolution process, increases the powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the space and introduces civil penalties,” said McKenzie. “While the mandatory Dairy Code is an important step forward for our dairy farmers in protecting their interests, it will not be a silver bullet for all the difficulties they are facing.

“We are making $10 million in grants available to upgrade or invest in energy efficient equipment to reduce dairy farmer energy costs and we’ve invested $8.1 million in additional funding to the ACCC’s Agriculture Unit and established a dairy specialist.

Up to $1.5 million has been provided to dairy farmers for contracting and legal advice including $560,000 to design, develop and test new milk pricing and trading concepts. Antoher $3 million has been provided in grants to support farmer groups to set up farm cooperatives and other collective business models.

Powering the future of farming

In times past, farmers were at the mercy of the elements to determine a successful yield of crops. As the global population grows and consumer preferences evolve, today’s modern farmer must also consider the scarcity of natural resources, the threat of climate change and the growing problem of food waste.

The oldest human industry has undergone a transformation like no other. The 1800s saw the use of chemical fertilizers, while farmers began to plan their work using satellites in the late 1900s. Today, the world needs to produce more food against a background of climate change, which is adversely affecting crop yields and encouraging crop diseases. So, how can we produce 70 per cent more food to meet the needs of a growing population, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Smart farming offers a solution.

Using remote sensors to avoid costly manual monitoring, informed decisions can be made using real time data. This allows farmers to manage their inputs, such as water and animal feeds, more effectively to increase yields while maintaining minimal labor costs.

READ MORE: Digitisation makes for more productive and sustainable farming

In the last few decades we’ve seen the rise of indoor urbanised farming, the use of aquaponic farming, and a vast departure from the traditional field cattle farming of old. The Third Agricultural Revolution, which we are arguably in the midst of, is based upon IT solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, sensors, and drones.

The use of robotics for repetitive tasks is a trend across many industries. In farming, farmbots are employed to perform once laborious manual tasks including seeding, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. Farmdrones are also utilized for monitoring purposes and data on plant health and soil conditions are fed back into the system.

When making significant upgrades to a system, power quality issues must be addressed. Although robotic systems and sensor networks have practical benefits, they often use electrical and electronic components that can introduce harmonic currents into electrical networks. If the harmonic levels in an electrical system are too high, this can cause load failure. To mitigate against power failure and unplanned downtime, ABB’s capacitors and filters product portfolio offers a range of solutions.

In particular, the ABB PQF active filters tackle the problems caused by harmonic currents, load unbalance and reactive power demand, while offering a host of system benefits in low voltage networks. Compliance with the strictest power quality regulations is not something that farmers should overlook. ABB’s solutions are rigorously tested to ensure filtering efficiency and system reliability, so that smart farms can operate with uninterrupted systems for maximum productivity.

Smart farming has the power to increase yield and efficiency, raising overall productivity of the supply chain without requiring significantly more land investment. With this, farmers are able to reliably and sustainably produce yields to maintain the growing global population, without being at the mercy of increasingly unpredictable climates.

To discover ABB’s wide range of high, medium and low voltage capacitors and filters, visit their product area of the website and explore how to address power considerations that arise through smart farming

Digitisation makes for more productive and sustainable farming

Progressive digitisation is increasingly important in the farming industry: data-supported targeted application of fertiliser and crop protection products, soil analysis sensors and autonomous operation are just a few of the buzz words in the current discussion around Farming 4.0 and smart farming.

“Smart Farming can support more productive and sustainable farming via an accurate and resource-efficient approach,” said Dr Jan Regtmeier, director product management at Harting IT Software Development. Regtmeier demonstrates application of the Harting Mica and its benefits for agriculture. The Edge Computer controls processes and procedures seamlessly and records all of the relevant data. “This gives farmers security, also creating consumer trust,” Regtmeier said.

Two application scenarios show how Mica gathers data. In the first one, Harting Mica  records data from two sets of scales, which are used to weigh tractor and trailer, recording the weight of maize delivered. The tractor is also given a single ID to ensure that it is uniquely assigned to the crop area. The data recorded is processed and sent to the Cloud for further evaluation. In the second application scenario, Mica records data during the critical mashing process. The data is then used for process optimisation with data analytics.

“Data-supported farming allows for new approaches, ensuring sustainable food production now and in the future,” explains Dries Guth, principal innovation manager and Head of the IoT Innovation Lab at itelligence. Data collated via sensors, from the soil and farming machinery and satellite imagery and fed into intelligent systems supports not only yield optimisation, but also the resource-saving application of water and crop protection products. “It is also about exploring new forms of food production, as we are now seeing with the successes in Urban Farming and Vertical Farming for example,” said Dries Guth.

“The potential for smart farming is huge,” says Regtmeier with conviction. “The farming industry has only just begun to make use of digitalisation.”

Why industrial gases are important in fish farming

Fish is a nourishing, healthy food that is popular throughout the world. However, as the planet’s population grows, fish stocks in some oceans are dwindling. One way to address this shortage is fish farms. Popular in Europe, especially Nordic countries, aquaculture also occurs throughout Australia – from the tropical north to the more temperate climes of Tasmania.

Like any commercial venture, there are many facets to make it a successful enterprise. When it comes to fish farming, an essential ingredient are various industrial gases, which have many applications in aquaculture – from hatching the eggs through to when the final product is shipped for sale.

Air Liquide is a gas specialist that has a lot of information and experience when it comes to fish farming. Its Tasmanian sales representative, Grant Stingel, works closely with the industry, not only as a supplier of gases, but also giving advice on how much, what type and how often a certain gas needs to be applied to the various production processes.

The most prolific gas used in fish farming is oxygen. There are two main reasons it’s needed. The most obvious is to sustain the life of the fish as they hatch and are grown. The other is a little more interesting.

READ MORE: Cryogenics offers alternative freezing solutions

“During the production of farmed fish, one of the high cost inputs is the food,” said Stingel. “It can cost up to $2,000 a tonne or more depending on the species and feed type.

Maintaining a stable level of oxygen in the tank increases the fishes’ metabolism, which in turn increases the conversion of food into fish mass. So the Feed Conversion Rate (FCR) reduces, meaning lower feed costs per kilogram of fish.

“And if you’re talking tonnes of fish, you’re talking tonnes of food per day. In the larger aquaculture systems, maintaining stable oxygen levels in the tanks will increase production. If you can increase the growth of the fish each day by adding oxygen, this reduces the time the fish are in the water, which in turn increases efficiencies within the whole production cycle.

“Typically, modern land-based aquaculture farms use what is called a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS). This is essentially a water treatment plant to circulate and reuse the water. This plant uses pumps to push water through a series of filters to help purify the water before going back into the fish tanks,” said Stingel. “Oxygen is also used in this process to produce ozone to sterilise the water.

“In the inlet water to each of the ponds or tanks, the oxygen level is elevated by injecting oxygen, typically using a pressurised oxygen dissolver, to 120 to 140 per cent of normal saturation, depending on the biomass. This ensures that the respiration demands from the fish are taken care of and a stable growing environment is achieved.”

There are other applications where oxygen is necessary. Just before the fish are harvested, whether in ponds or sea cages, higher doses of oxygen are needed due to the fish being crowded into a small amount of water within the harvest area. This ensures that the fish are not as stressed before processing, giving a better end product.

Also, in some farms, oxygen is used to supersaturate baths of water to treat the fish for pest and disease, such as sea lice.

With all the oxygen being used, what are the costs involved? Not as much as you would think, said Stingel.

“Oxygen is typically only about one or two per cent of the cost of your production but it’s very important,” he said. “It is an essential element to the fish farming process. In some cases, oxygen can be seen as just a commodity, but oxygen used efficiently can also add benefits to your production.

“Oxygen supply to fish farms is essential so we have engineering support available,” he said. “As far as technical support, we can calculate how much oxygen you will need for the quantity of fish in each system. Based on the calculated oxygen required, we also offer advice on the oxygen dissolving system best suited for the application. Measuring the efficiency of your existing oxygenation system is also something Air Liquide can offer.”

Other gases are also used once the fish have been processed. Oxygen goes from being the hero to the enemy once the fish are ready to be sent to Australian supermarkets or exported.

“After harvest, we use other industrial gases for packaging fish products,” said Stingel. “Some aquaculture companies use Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP). This is a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide injected and sealed inside the trays often seen on the shelf at your local supermarket.”

The carbon dioxide inhibits bacterial growth, which will increase shelf life for the end product.

The nitrogen is to displace the oxygen and also maintain the package integrity so that it looks good on the supermarket shelf.

Another industrial gas used in the processing phase is liquid nitrogen, which is used to snap freeze the fish products by sending it through a freezing tunnel, which sprays the gas onto the product. This achieves a better quality product when thawed. This is because when a product is snap frozen, the cell structure of the food is maintained, meaning when thawed, the fish not only looks good, but tastes fresh.

“Even when it comes to the presentation of the food we can help. For example, dry ice produced from liquid carbon dioxide is used to add a bit of theatre at serving counters in restaurants or markets,” said Stingel. “As the dry ice thaws, vapour is formed, giving off a nice smoke effect. Dry ice is also good for keeping the product cold and fresh.”

In almost every stage in the production of fish in aquaculture systems there is potential to use an industrial gas of some type whether it is oxygen, nitrogen, argon or CO2. But the use of the various gases doesn’t stop there. Air Liquide can also provide gases for other, practical uses.

“The other application for industrial gases is for maintaining plant and equipment,” said Stingel. “With quite a lot of machinery involved in the process, you will also need oxygen and acetylene for heating and cutting, argon gas mixtures for welding, and LPG for heating and maybe also powering forklifts.”

Cattle company serves up carbon neutral beef

One of Australia’s largest and oldest cattle producers has launched one of Australia’s first carbon-neutral beefs.

Five Founders is the first branded beef product to be launched by the North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCo) and has been officially accredited as carbon neutral after meeting the Australian Federal Government’s strict criteria.

NAPCo, which was founded in 1877 and manages approximately 200,000 head of cattle across Queensland and the Northern Territory, undertook a 12-month accreditation process as part of its journey to provide consumers with a unique beef product.

Five Founders will initially be sold in NAPCo’s current markets of Australia, China and Singapore before a staged and measured expansion to other markets.

NAPCo CEO Phil Cummins said the company’s decision to pursue carbon neutrality in its first foray into selling its own cuts was to meet the desires of the modern consumer.

“When we decided to launch our own branded beef product, we studied the market and quickly realised that people increasingly want produce that not only delivers the highest quality eating experience but respects their affinity for environmental and animal care,” he said.

“Consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever and this is especially the case among younger generations such as Millennials, who want confidence they are buying sustainable products.

“NAPCo has always prioritised our animal welfare and environmental practices and embracing carbon neutrality has been a natural progression of this. NAPCo’s care for animals is also demonstrated in our ‘whole-of-life’ advantage as we breed and raise our own cattle, ensuring good health and full traceability within our supply chain.
“Creating such a ground-breaking beef product has been an eye-opening and incredibly rewarding experience for our staff.”

Cummins said the company engaged an independent national carbon and energy management consultancy company to help guide its bid to produce Australia’s first carbon-neutral beef.

“Pangolin and Integrity Ag Consultants were engaged to calculate our carbon footprint through a hybrid lifecycle assessment (LCA) of our herd, which was then combined with estimation of energy-related emissions from the properties and feedlot,” he said.

“A range of improvements on our properties and in our herds has subsequently allowed us to reduce our footprint, including genetic improvements that allow our cattle to breed and be processed at a younger age and thus emit less methane.

“Having made these efforts to reduce our overall footprint, we then purchased carbon credits approved by the Federal Government to offset the remainder.”

Cummins said NAPCo was also committed to conservation activities such as securing land for nature refuge programs and performing carbon sequestration trials.

“We are also looking to trial feed additives that will reduce the amount of methane emitted directly from our cattle,” he said.

“This is the beginning of our carbon journey, not the end, and we will be working to further reduce our footprint.

“NAPCo has prioritised animal welfare and environmental practices for almost 150 years and see it as our duty to find innovative ways to tackle this global challenge.”

Prior to launching Five Founders, NAPCo spent more than a century solely focused on breeding, growing and finishing cattle for both domestic and export markets.

The company manages more than 6.1 million hectares in Queensland and the Northern Territory, along with the award-winning Wainui Feedlot and Farm on the Darling Downs. About 180 people are employed across all aspects of its operations.

NAPCo is owned by a variety of shareholders, including the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) which bought an 80 percent stake in the company in 2016.

Support workshops to help with flash flood recovery for Victorian farms

A series of Agriculture Victoria workshops will be held in March, targeted at supporting producers recovering from the December flash flooding and ongoing dry conditions.

Two workshops will be held in March in collaboration with the North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA).

In addition, farmers can contact Agriculture Victoria if they would like to engage in a free one on one consultation to assist in planning for the months ahead.

State agriculture minister Jaclyn Symes said that the Victorian government was encouraging farmers to attend.

“We recognise the significant impact the December flood had on many landholders in Northern Victoria and that’s why Agriculture Victoria has been on the ground from day one, supporting farmers and the community to recover from the flooding,” Symes said.

“In addition to these workshops, Agriculture Victoria is also offering affected farm businesses a one-on-one consultation to assist them to manage the impacts of the flash flooding and continuing dry seasonal conditions.”

Topic experts will present at the workshops on farm water planning and management, planning on-farm fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements and feed budgeting through 2019.

The first workshop will focus on options for farm water management and will be held at Rutherglen on Monday 4 March.

The second workshop will focus on options for fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements, feed budgeting and planning ahead for the Autumn break.

The second workshop will be held in the flood impacted area at Tarrawingee on Monday 18 March.

The Victorian government is currently offering On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants of up to $5,000 to producers within Northern Victoria, including the shires impacted by the December flooding, to improve drought management and preparedness.

Assistance was made available to flood impacted farmers and the community through a range of mechanisms including Emergency Relief Assistance Payments, which provide up to $540 per adult and $270 per child (up to a maximum of $1,890 per eligible household) to help meet immediate needs, including emergency food, shelter, clothing, and personal items.