Farmer working to make teff the next big thing in ancient grains

Ancient grains have found a place as part of the modern diet, with options like quinoa becoming common on supermarket shelves and cafe menus.

But a southern New South Wales farmer is hoping Australian consumers will develop a taste for another ancient grain: teff.

Wakool farmer Fraser McNaul is growing the crop and working on a system to package and market the product from paddock to plate.

He said he believed consumers would be excited by the grain, if they could be informed about what it was.

“Teff is an ancient grain from Ethiopia, it’s gluten free and its main use over there is in injera bread,” he said.

“We want to develop some products out of it that are more in line with the western palate, so that’s what we are working on at the moment with our paddock to plate process under our own brand.

“We think it’s got great qualities to it, it’s very nutritious.

“The issue that we have to deal with the most is educating the public on what teff is to try and broaden the market for it and also compete with the really cheap imported teff.”

Mr McNaul said farmers are often price takers but he is aiming to gain control of his product and be the middle man.

He said teff had been difficult to grow, but he was hopeful the venture would be a success.

“I want to make farming more economically viable and be a price setter, not a price taker,” he said.

“It takes up a lot of time, every minute that I don’t have to be on the farm I spend in the office or in Melbourne trying to learn things and make contacts.

“We did a lot of trials and a lot of trial work over the last couple of years with different agronomy and sowing techniques.

“And we’ve had some absolute disastrous failures and some good ones as well, so it takes a lot of ground work.”

teff

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Pig poo power plant set to boost jobs and energy in northern Victoria

An ambitious plan to turn pig poo and food scraps into power is being developed in northern Victoria.

The power plant, glasshouse and piggery expansion, called Waranga Green Energy, will be built at Stanhope, west of Shepparton. For over five years, it has been the dream of piggery owner John Bourke.

The project is set to transform the quiet town of Stanhope, providing an additional 30 jobs and estimated $10 million per year for the local economy. The aim of the property is to develop a closed system for power and waste on the farm.

Pig poo and straw from the intensive farming environment will be used, along with other food waste, to create power in an anaerobic digester plant to be built nearby. The plant will be used to power the piggery and provide heat to an expanded and upgraded farm.

Next to the power plant, a 4.6-hectare greenhouse will be built, using power and heat to grow leafy green vegetables, year round, to supply gaps in the seasonal markets.

The goal is to sell up to 20 million lettuces and over 20,000 pigs per year, along with liquid and solid fertiliser (a bi-product from the power plant) to the farm’s customers.

The price tag for the Waranga Green Energy and farm project is around $75million which Mr Bourke is planning to raise through superannuation and foreign investment.

He has hired a company to raise the capital needed.

An additional $1 million grant has been awarded by the Victorian State Government.

Mr Bourke is confident he will get the investment dollars he needs because of the high return from the project.

Construction is set to begin in early 2017 with Mr Bourke expecting the farm to be fully operational and sending food to market within the year.

Pigs on straw beds at a piggery at Stanhope

Pigs on straw beds at a piggery at Stanhope

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