Giant Sustainable Farms glass-house project fast-tracked near Melbourne

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th November 2014
Government approvals fast-track Sustainable Farms glass-house project
Government approvals fast-track Sustainable Farms glass-house project

An ‘Australian-first’ enterprise using recycled timber to create energy to support fresh food production, planned for a site at Lara, located between Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria, is among several projects that have been fast-tracked through the planning approvals process by Victoria’s State government.

Sustainable Farms Australia Limited has proposed a $320 million project between public, unlisted Australian owned energy, technology, technical services and project development company HRL Developments Pty Ltd, recycling development company Mercer & Stokes and vegetable growing and marketing company Fresh Select.

The project will use leading edge technology, research and business practices to create a sustainable, cost-efficient, large-scale food production enterprise with significant export potential. The project was proposed for a 371 acre site near Avalon airport, and is expected to create over 1,000 jobs and generate $160 million a year for the local economy by 2021.

Glass-house heated through waste recycling operation

To be built in six stages over a seven year period, Sustainable Farms will chip and consume unprocessed, natural timber collected from its demolition waste recycling operation, to produce both heating steam and electricity, which will power up to 60 hectares of hydroponic glasshouses.

According to Sustainable Farms spokesperson Barry Dungey, the project’s feasibility required the support of State Government to fast track the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and planning approvals process.

The first stage of the development, due for completion mid 2016 will focus on building 10 hectares of glass houses and developing an energy centre from a Greenfield site. Mr Dungey said the hydroponic glasshouse facility will be based on “best practice design principles” currently in use in a wide range of similar plants within Europe “allowing for the production of tonnes of vegetables all year round, with minimum impact to the environment”.

“Our protected cropping technology also allows us to minimise and potentially remove the use of pesticides and reduce the use of resources such as water and fertilisers compared with field grown produce,” Mr Dungey said.

The energy centre will use steam and hot water to generate electricity, and will be capable of meeting the energy needs of up to 40Ha of glasshouse. Once the project reaches the final stage of building the last 20 Ha of glasshouse, an additional energy plant will be constructed.

Use of waste timber to reduce landfill

Mr Dungey said “significant” quantities of waste timber existed within the construction and demolition industries, with “the majority of this currently going to landfill”.

“When in full production, Sustainable Farms will be able to process 220,000 tonnes of timber per year through its recycling capacity reducing waste to landfill,” Mr Dungey said. “From this, the project will have an annual 120MWh energy production facility using renewable energy with a near zero carbon footprint. Potash produced as a bi-product will also be utilised to enrich local market gardeners soils,” he said.

Victorian Government fast-tracks other Geelong developments

The planning approval for the Sustainable Farms project is among several projects fast-tracked through the planning approvals process by the Victorian Napthine Coalition Government.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy announced the fast-tracking of a number of job-creating major projects in the Geelong region, including a major retail and logistics precinct at Avalon Airport; expansion of supermarket planning provisions, allowing German-owned supermarket Aldi to expand in the Geelong area; improved Geelong CBD investment attraction with streamlined zoning rules; and approval of the Armstrong Creek Town Centre structure plan.

Mr Guy said more than 3000 jobs will be created by the new fast-tracked projects, with another 5400 jobs to be generated at the recently approved Armstrong Creek Town Centre. He said a re-elected Napthine Coalition Government would also fast-track planning approvals in Geelong’s industrial precincts, including the Geelong Ring Road Employment Precinct.

Mr Guy said Geelong has already been a leader in using 10-day VicSmart permits to fast-track CBD approvals.

“We will put in place fast-tracked approvals for manufacturing, warehousing and logistics projects by July 2015,” Mr Guy said. “With this new reform, Geelong’s industrial precincts will be the most attractive in the state for job-generating investment,” he said.