Six environmental engineering and planning students from Griffith University are tracking the efforts of CitySmart partner Rocky Point to create a viable business out of ‘closing the loop’ on food waste in South East Queensland. Dr Savindi Caldera and Associate Professor Cheryl Desha share the story so far.

A three-generation farming operation, Queensland-based company Rocky Point has embarked on an ambitious quest to diversify processes and products, backed by sound investment decisions.

In addition to the brand’s core mulch and potting mix products, Rocky Point is now processing clean food waste into valuable compost for gardens and agricultural soils.

Three years into their journey, we take a look at their efforts in creating a viable business out of ‘closing the loop’ on food in the South East Queensland.

Early progress beyond ‘take-make-waste’

The company is passionate about demonstrating the business case for taking organics out of landfill, and value-adding nutrients from composted food waste to agricultural land.

Earlier this year Rocky Point undertook a project to compost 100 tonnes of clean food waste collected from key Commonwealth Games venues to produce high-value saleable clean composted food waste. Four months on, the compost is being purchased by local councils and industry buyers, and generating positive media coverage and interest from the local community.

Through Griffith University’s Cities Research Institute, we have been working to document the carbon footprint of these activities, building the evidence base for environmentally friendly food composting practices. Our findings were recently presented at the Future Waste Resources convention as Food Waste Organics Recycling: A call for action.

Student induction day at Rocky Point

Win-win for students and industry

Six undergraduate environmental engineering and planning students are gaining valuable work experience while helping Rocky Point with their food waste audits and tracking, creating capacity for our local graduates to service this growing industry need.

This model of capacity building while supporting industry growth is becoming popular amongst tertiary education STEM programs such as engineering, enhancing graduate employment prospects. In this case, the students will learn the skills of investigating food waste recycling processes, creating process flow diagrams, and developing recommendations for further improving efficient food waste monitoring systems.

These placements also help to address a critical workforce gap, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reminding us that STEM-related jobs in professional, scientific and technical services need to grow by at least 12.5% over the next five years.

Griffith University Engineering students on auditing work experience with Rocky Point’s Mark Rayner and Lars Hall.

Next steps: scaling up commercial food waste streams

To advance the food waste recycling agenda in South East Queensland, we are using our research to inform shifts in regulations, standards, guidelines, and consumer choice.

We look forward to providing a future update on this data gathering, which is a critical part of the puzzle in creating a circular economy in our region for food waste composting and resale.

Learn more

Free Industry project support: Final year student interns (Griffith Industry Affiliates Program)

Authors

Dr Savindi Caldera
Associate Professor Cheryl Desha
07 3735 7526, c.desha@griffith.edu.au