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$2 million budget for pre-farm gate waste investment – Open call seeks innovative ideas

Australians produce over 74 million tonnes of waste per year, with the amount of waste produced by farmers, fishers and foresters presenting a significant challenge. Limited support and practical options exist to avoid waste in the first place or manage it as part of the production process. 

Jen Medway, Senior Manager of Rural Futures at AgriFutures Australia, said the pre-farm gate waste program has been launched to support innovative ideas and options for the avoidance, recycling and reuse of pre-farm gate waste, and ensure there is clear direction and coordination of activities for the sector to achieve the required change.  

“Historically we have looked largely at downstream waste, food and food packaging, but on-farm plastics and waste are often overlooked,” said Ms Medway.  

AgriFutures Australia is seeking applications from individuals and organisations who are currently developing waste solutions for rural industries, or can bring an understanding of the waste ecosystem as it relates to Australian producers to respond to the Open Call: Pre-Farm Gate Waste Program.  

The key waste streams produced by agriculture, fisheries and forestry include organic matter (plant and animal), plastics (hard and soft) and hard waste (hazardous and non-hazardous). Although there is a strong framework guiding waste management at the national level, there is limited guidance on how to implement these frameworks at an industry level.  

The open call seeks to explore opportunities and challenges related to pre-farm gate waste and scope out a research program which looks holistically at the issue of waste across rural industries.  

“The effective management of waste will result in positive environmental impacts and assist farmers to meet sustainability targets,” said Ms Medway. “We need to make sure we are offering farmers more sustainable alternatives and  devising innovative ways to repurpose hard plastics and other waste once they are no longer being used on-farm.” 

There is currently a lack of consistency and understanding in pre-farm gate waste management, with complex waste management processes and legislation for different streams causing confusion for Australian producers in best practices for disposal of pre-farm waste. This often means waste is disposed of in harmful practices, including burning or burying that require careful environmental management.  

Oli Madgett, Platfarm co-founder and wine grape grower from McLaren Vale, recently upgraded the irrigation across his vineyard and was left with 14 kilometres of poly-pipe to dispose of.  

“It is quite common to see piles of piping that growers don’t really know what to do with, potentially sitting on-farm for years,” said Mr Madgett, “but there are some really great problem solvers looking into this area and trying to provide solutions for farmers.” 

The Pre-Farm Gate Waste Program will involve successful respondents consulting extensively with industries, government, and producers to develop a clear understanding of the current status of pre-farm gate waste. The Program will explore barriers and opportunities that need to be addressed to bump the sector up the waste hierarchy so it can engage in and support a circular economy. 

There are many innovative novel solutions being used around the world to repurpose farm waste, from breaking down plastics to use for garden stakes and garden beds, to harvesting methane from effluent and turning it into energy to power the farm.  

For this investment, the projects will look at developing an action plan and strategy specifically for three pre-farm gate waste streams, namely: plastics (hard and soft), hard workshop waste, and animal waste. The strategy and action plan will be used to align the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sector with the National Waste Policy and provide clear implementation guidance to industry. 

AgriFutures Australia has committed up to $2 million in potential budget to invest in research and projects that help achieve the goal of reducing pre-farm gate waste.  

AgriFutures Australia has two funding opportunities available for the pre-farm gate waste program:  

Pre-farm gate waste program open call for research partners  
Pre-farm gate waste program management services request for quotation  

Applications close Tuesday, 6 April 2021 at 12pm (AEDT). 

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