Business

Local macadamias coming out of their shells

GYMPIE GOLD: Gympie is part of one of the largest macadamia producing regions in the country
GYMPIE GOLD: Gympie is part of one of the largest macadamia producing regions in the country Patrick Woods

BEYOND it's reputation as a favourite treat for Australian families, the humble macadamia nut is undergoing new life as an unusual, but effective source of clean, green energy.

When combusted, the discarded nut shells yield an enormous amount of energy.

This yield is so great that local macadamia processing plant Suncoast Gold has partnered with Ergon Energy to use the shells to power local homes.

Otherwise ending up in landfill, the world-first initiative aims to use nearly 5000 tonnes of shell waste as biomass fuel every year.

The electricity generated from these shells is enough to power 1200 Queensland homes every year.

Accounting for nearly 10% of all the produce grown in Australia, the Queensland macadamia nut industry's origins can be traced to the Gympie region.

The nut itself was first uncovered by the Butchulla and Kabi Kabi people thousands of years ago, where it was considered a delicacy and a regular staple of feasts.

But in the mid-1800s, it was rediscovered by European settlers as they slowly began to colonise Queensland, earning a variety of different names from explorers and botanists.

In the Gympie region, the majority of the macadamia trees were centred near the small town of Bauple, where the Bauple nut first got its local name.

The area surrounding Mt Bauple itself is considered the biological home of the tree - it's where the genus the rest of today's trees have been bred from.

Today, the Gympie and Glass House Mountain regions are two of the largest producers of macadamias in the country - an industry valued in the tens of millions.

More than 130 farms across both regions have made excellent use of the rich volcanic soil and climate to produce more than 5000 tonnes of nut-in-shell each year.

This output has a farm gate value of nearly $23 million, making it an integral part of the local economy.

With a number of applications for the macadamia, it's no surprise 2016 has been a particularly strong year for the industry. With Gympie and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland undergoing rapid population and economic growth, local farmers are expecting to smash a number of records for this season's crop.

"Macadamias are still the best investment I know of,” says Col Dorey, who runs his award-winning farm with his brothers.

"It's the best decision we ever made.”

Topics:  agricultural business macadamia macadamia industry

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