One of the key requirements for development of a biorefinery industry is ready access to cost effective sources of biomass in large quantities. As a first world country with significant areas of land in tropical and sub-tropical climate zones and an efficient and technologically developed agricultural sector, Australia is in a unique position for the establishment of industrial biotechnology industries.
Tropical crop systems
QUT has significant research capability in developing agro-industrial technologies for tropical agriculture production systems. Crops of particular focus include sugarcane, bananas, tropical pulses (mung beans, pigeon peas and chick peas), sweet sorghum, energy grasses and horticultural crops. Research at QUT includes development of models for integrated agro-industrial precincts incorporating crop production for use in producing food, feed, biofuels and biochemicals products.
Tropical crop biotechnology
QUT has comprehensive expertise in tropical crop biotechnology with a product research and development pipeline from gene discovery and genetic manipulation, through to field demonstration and pilot-plant scale production specialising in tropical crops (including sugarcane, bananas, tobacco, papaya, pulses, tomato, taro, and sorghum). This expertise is particularly focussed on biofortification of food crops and abiotic and biotic stress tolerance of agricultural crops. In addition, QUT has experience and intellectual property in biofarming technologies to produce medical and industrial proteins in tropical crops including the production of biomass degrading enzymes (cellulases) in sugarcane.
Feedstock assessment and supply chain analysis
One of the major impediments to the successful commercialisation of biomass conversion technologies is the dispersed nature of and high costs associated with feedstock supplies. In addition large scale stockpiling to ensure a year-round supply of biomass requires careful management to minimise the risk of catastrophic feedstock losses through spontaneous combustion or the gradual degradation of feedstock quality during storage. QUT has extensive experience and capabilities in supply chain analysis and optimisation to minimise biomass costs and have provided both R&D and consulting services in this area to industry and public sector clients. QUT has also developed and undertaken commercial scale demonstration of proprietary technology for the efficient recovery of harvest residues for biomass power generation and second generation biofuel production. QUT has developed unique simulation capabilities for predicting the behaviour of and test facilities for determining key biomass characteristics associated with large scale stockpiles.