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Bioenergy expertise draws national attention

University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Agricultural Engineering unlocking farm-based solutions to rising energy prices.

As increasing energy costs continue to plague Australian agriculture, a team of bioresource recycling experts is hard at work to find new ways to help industry cope.

The University of Southern Queensland has been working in the bioenergy space for more than a decade headed by expert Professor Bernadette McCabe (national team leader for the International Energy Agency Bioenergy Program ‘Task 37: Energy from Biogas’).

University of Southern Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Peter Harris said the Australian bioenergy sector held huge potential, but current supporting policy framework was underdeveloped.

“Australian Bioenergy Roadmap estimates that the sector could mitigate nine per cent of national carbon emissions, generate 26,000 jobs, and contribute 10 billion AUD to the economy,” he said.

Dr Harris said the University’s team was investigating the viability of renewable energy projects and looking at ways to reduce consumption of non-renewable energy on farms and in agricultural industries.

“The research is multi-faceted, my current project is focused on supporting agrifood businesses and regional councils in developing solutions that add value to their waste streams, and in doing so, turn these wastes into valuable commodities,” Dr Harris said.

“Our ability to interact with industry and deliver meaningful research outcomes is what makes us stand out in the bioenergy field.”

The research is supported by a host of funding bodies including the Fight Food Waste CRC, Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Meat Processor Corporation, Australian Pork Limited, Dairy Australia, Government Departments (i.e. Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment), and more.

His innovative work has attracted the interest of Federal Parliament with Dr Harris’s presentation at Science and Technology Australia’s Science Meets Parliament event resulting in a campus visit from Senator Greg Mirabella.

“During the event, which was designed to engage the STEM sector with policymakers, my field of research was matched with a politician with similar interests,” Dr Harris said.

“The meeting quickly revealed broad common interests in the agriculture and bioenergy spaces, so I offered the expertise of our team in supporting the Senator to craft policy that would support the Australian Bioenergy and Resource Recovery sector.”

Learn more about the Centre for Agricultural Engineering.