Report Synopsis

Rethinking Waste Streams. New alternatives for the Australian processing tomato industry

Andre Henry

The utilisation of waste streams in all forms of production, not just agriculture, has seen renewed focus of late with two driving aims. These are to reduce input costs, such as energy associated with production; as well as reducing the environmental cost of operations with many parts of the world now applying a price to carbon emissions.

This report investigates the potential technology that exists to make use of the tomato vine waste produced each season by the Australian processing tomato industry. The aim is to provide alternatives for consideration that may be suitable on an industry or individual grower scale.

The report defines the key challenges to the use of waste tomato vine as a material or energy resource as:

  • Relatively low calorific energy value per ton of dry vine mass (14.8Gj/ton)
  • The vines physical characteristics post-harvest

The technologies investigated have been considered in a context of how they might operate in Australia. Many technologies found in Europe were found to be highly effective in operating there, but unsuitable as an Australian alternative for technical and economic reasons.

A new concept of distributed ammonia production via the gasification of the waste tomato vine is proposed as a possible industry solution. It meets a present demand for nitrogen based fertilisers in tomato production and creates a high value product from a low value waste stream. The financial potential for such a system at this early stage appears positive, and a description of how an industry application could potentially operate in Australia is outlined.

It is hoped that this report offers a potentially new direction for the processing tomato industry which could see growers increase returns; unattached to their primary fruit production. The technology may also offer a path to industry energy independence as well as significant carbon emissions reductions.

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