New agricultural precinct could support more than 1200 jobs
THE path to turn a long-term vision into reality is now clear, with a $10 million agricultural precinct in the Scenic Rim slated to sustain more than 1200 jobs and bring in hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in the next decade.
The State Government has declared Kalfresh Vegetables' proposed 40-hectare rural food production hub at Kalbar as a co-ordinated project, having identified the need for such a precinct to come to fruition.
It would enable food businesses to base themselves around Kalfresh's Kalbar operation, adjoining the existing facility on the Cunningham Highway and a stone's throw from farmland.
The vision is for the precinct to become a home to food processing, production and manufacturing businesses, and enable fresh food to get to consumers more efficiently.
A vital part of the proposal is a bio-energy facility that transforms food and urban waste into renewable energy, which would be used to power the entire precinct in a model used in agricultural regions in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Kalfresh has entered a preliminary agreement with waste company Cleanaway to construct an anaerobic digester capable of diverting almost 50,000 tonnes of waste from landfill annually.
The plant would create energy as well as commercial-grade organic fertiliser to support cropping land.
Preliminary figures show the Scenic Rim Agricultural Industrial Precinct could generate about $350 million in annual revenue and support 1250 local jobs once fully operational.
Kalfresh CEO Richard Gorman said the government declaration opened a "clear pathway" to get the project off the ground as quickly as possible.
The bio-energy facility will be the key to the precinct and will entice businesses with a reliable source of utilities.
"We now know we can do it. In the words of the co-ordinator general, it's now up to us," he said.
"There's a whole host of food production that's currently based in very urban areas and sometime have issues being in those areas.
"It might be a decade before the place is entirely filled. If we have our way it will be a lot quicker than that.
"It's been a long time coming for us and we need it."
Initial construction will create about 32 full-time jobs and if its full potential is reached, up to $219 million in further capital investment is expected, which would create up to 960 additional construction jobs.
Kalfresh supplies produce to customers nationally and internationally and operated from its Kalbar site since 1992 and also farms in the Lockyer Valley, Stanthorpe and Liston.
Mr Gorman, who has been with Kalfresh for 25 years, said the proposed precinct would create new opportunities for innovation and open up new markets for producers and supporting industries.
"This is about giving the rural sector a competitive advantage by allowing fresh food to be delivered to customers faster; reducing food miles, improving operational efficiencies and responding to market demand for trusted, value-add food and beverage products," Mr Gorman said.
"Our industry is facing many challenges and producers must grow more efficient to remain competitive. Food processing and value-adding is one of the best ways to deliver additional value to farmers and to the communities where they operate."
The next step is preparaing a draft Impact Assessment Report for the co-ordinator general.
As soon as approval for highway construction is given, which is expected to take nine months, works will begin.
If you are a business interested in the precinct email firstname.lastname@example.org.