Tequila agave production for North Queensland

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 12th July 2017

An agave farmer with his crops

Traditionally grown to make tequila with in Mexico, MSF Sugar in North Queensland plans to start growing agave in the Atherton Tableland near Cairns.

MSF will grow agave as part of its Biorefinery Project that will produce sugar, help create green energy and make ethanol all in the one location, using agave crops grown in the surrounding region.

Diversifying the sugar industry’s income

MSF CEO Mike Barry, said the sugarcane industry needs to diversify its income as it is becoming too reliant on raw sugar pricing and not obtaining full value from sugarcane crops.

“The crop we’re investigating to deliver on the project is blue agave, which is a new crop to Australia but it is extensively grown in Mexico to produce the drink tequila,” Barry said.

“The advantage of blue agave is that it grows in a climate similar to that of the dry tropic part of the Atherton Tableland, it produces around 400 tonne per hectare of bio-mass in 5 years, does not need irrigation, and you have a high amount of fermentable juice and fibre,” he said.

It is estimated by MSF the project will double Australia’s sugarcane industry’s revenue and create year-round employment. The project includes the development of a sugar mill, an agave juice mill, green power station and a distillery.

The first harvest of agave is expected in 2025. Agave crops take five years to grow to productive capacity.

MSF received AUD $250,000 grant from the Queensland state government for the project.