Launch of Australia's first carbon farming piggery at Blantyre Farms, Young, NSW.
MARK DREYFUS: This is the Government's carbon price in action. This farm could earn $175,000 per year extra because of the carbon price. The carbon price that's paid by Australia's largest polluters is flowing to projects like this, creating clean energy and cutting Australia's carbon pollution. It's a great pleasure to be here today at Blantyre Farms with Edwina and Michael Beveridge who are here with me to launch Australia's first carbon farming piggery.
It's been some months in developing this project, it is a fantastic project, I've got here with me also Andrew Spencer from Australian Pork and Richard Brimblecombe who is the developer of the biogas generator that we've seen at this farm. And we can see here behind us the sheds where there are some 22,000 pigs, generating from their effluent enough electricity to make this farm not have to pay an electricity bill. And of course, as I have said, it could earn $175,000 extra per year for this farm from carbon credits which are funded by the carbon price. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: In terms of this system, how widely can it be applied?
MARK DREYFUS: This system is capable of being applied to all Australian piggeries with over, I think, a couple of hundred pigs. This is a larger piggery with 22,000 pigs but I am told that it is capable, this system, of being applied to much smaller piggeries. So we can expect to see this system either capturing the methane and flaring it or capturing the methane and using it to generate electricity being adopted in piggeries right around Australia.
JOURNALIST: The piggery industry has been struggling for a few decades now, how much do you think the Government is willing to put in to help farmers transfer over to this system?
MARK DREYFUS: This isn't a government assisted system; this is the market operating here with the carbon price funding the installation of methane gas capture from the effluent ponds on piggeries and generating extra income for farms from the sale of carbon credits, as I say, funded by the carbon price.
JOURNALIST: The federal Opposition is concerned that there is a bureaucratic go slow' getting more farms getting up and running. Is that the case?
MARK DREYFUS: We need to have scientific rigour in the development of methodologies. This was the first methodology approved, this is the capture of methane from effluent on piggeries, and we now see, within months of the approval of that methodology the first project up and running and more projects are going to follow. It is very important that there be rigour and it's very important that projects follow that methodology.
JOURNALIST: And you've been working on this for a long time, how happy does it make you to stroll around here this morning?
MARK DREYFUS: It's fantastic to see this project, the first carbon farming piggery, up and running, and I'm hoping it is the first of many more that are going to be installed in piggeries right throughout Australia.
JOURNALIST: And is it only piggeries? Or can other animals also be used to contribute?
MARK DREYFUS: We're expecting that another methodology suitable for use in the dairy industry is going to be approved soon and it will follow essentially the same lines, it's collecting the methane gas from effluent from dairies.
JOURNALIST: And is there any concern about the move to a floating carbon price in terms of the sustainability and viability of these farms if there in the open market?
MARK DREYFUS: Not at all. Edwina's calculation of $175,000 that's going to be earned by this farm each year is not even based on the $23 a tonne fixed price that we've got until 2015. The calculation is based on a price of $15 a tonne. There is plenty of money to be made and of course we are moving to a market price in 2015.
JOURNALIST: So this is not a case of pork barrelling?
MARK DREYFUS: No, this is the first carbon farming piggery and it doesn't use government funds because it's a market system that rests on the market price, the carbon price that's been paid by Australia's largest polluters and the money from that carbon price is flowing to Australian farms.
EDWINA BEVERIDGE: My husband Michael and I are thrilled to be part of the Carbon Farming Initiative. It's a wonderful opportunity for us. We're even more thrilled to have our methane digestion system up and running and supplying all our own electricity and also selling our excess to the grid.
JOURNALIST: What made you go down this path? You only took over five years ago and obviously a quite lot has been happening since then.
EDWINA BEVERIDGE: Australian Pork Limited helped bring a New Zealand consultant out who'd seen systems similar to this. A group of pig farmers met with him and we've headed down the track.
JOURNALIST: And tell us a bit about your power bills prior to setting up this system.
EDWINA BEVERIDGE: Our electricity and gas bills used to cost us $15,000 a month; we no longer have those bills, and we're selling $5000 worth of electricity into the grid at the moment.
JOURNALIST: Can you just tell us a little bit about how the operation works?
EDWINA BEVERIDGE: We've built a great big dam which is 100 metres long, 40 metres wide and holds 15 mega litres. We have put a cover over that and it captures the methane gas from the pig manure, from that we pipe the gas to a generator which then turns the biogas into electricity. We also use waste heat from the generators to heat some of our little pigs which further reduces or increases the amount of power we have to sell.
JOURNALIST: And where's the system from, who developed the system?
EDWINA BEVERIDGE: We've bought the generators from Quantum Power, and they've been a huge help getting the system set up.
MARK DREYFUS: This is Andrew Spencer, CEO of Australian Pork.
JOURNALIST: So tell us what this development means for the industry.
ANDREW SPENCER: Well it's fantastic to be on the first farm in Australia that can sell carbon credits. And it's even better for us that it is an Australian piggery. And I think the concept of taking a waste like pig manure and turning it into an asset and at the same time working to lower its emissions and do something for the environment is just a win win for everyone involved so were really proud to be here today.
JOURNALIST: Are there any other similar operations to this kind in the pipeline?
ANDREW SPENCER: Absolutely, there are a number of piggeries working with similar technology that we've been able to develop thanks to the research and development money that we have as an industry and the Government has contributed to. Some of those developments have been part of the implementation on this property, there's many other properties looking at the same thing today. We expect over the next few years that well see this type of technology on many more pig farms.
JOURNALIST: Is it feasible to see it through the whole industry do you think?
ANDREW SPENCER: In terms of the production base of the industry we believe that the scale that this technology can be applied to will mean that in effect a very large proportion of the industry could be covered by this technology, having that emissions in effect halved, that pond is taking away around about half of the carbon foot print of the pork that's being produced on this farm and that's making our product also giving it an intangible quality that we can go out as the Australian Pork Industry and say this is something different about our product.
JOURNALIST: And how good is this for the image of the industry to link a farm like this with an initiative that's environmentally friendly and is about cutting greenhouse gas emissions?
ANDREW SPENCER: Well I think it's very important. We at Australian Pork compete a lot with product coming into this country from countries overseas. Most of the bacon and ham we consume in Australia comes in as meat from overseas. And we're trying to say to Australian consumers Australian pork is different, it's different because it is better welfare, its different because it's got a better environmental footprint, and we believe its fresher and purer too. So this is part of the big story for us about our product and industry.
JOURNALIST: And does it give you a leg up over the cattle and sheep industries at the moment?
ANDREW SPENCER: I love a good steak occasionally but our product pork is improving in terms of its consumption in Australia. We want to see that keep happening and we believe there's plenty of scope for that to happen because it's a great product.