Virgin Australia is collaborating with the Future Farm Industries CRC, GE and Airbus on developing the supply chain to produce jet fuel from mallee eucalypts that grow across southern Australia and particularly in the wheat belt of Western Australia. A key part of this supply chain is the development of a machine that can quickly and efficiently harvest the trees, chip and transport them at a reasonable cost.
A prototype mallee harvester has been developed by Biosystems Engineering, based in Queensland, and the Future Farm Industries CRC. Currently in the final stages of its development, the harvester has exceeded expectations being able to process a range of tree types. During trials near Casino in New South Wales, trees were harvested at a rate of 38 tonnes per hour, far surpassing the milestone target of at least 20 tonnes per hour for at least an hour.
David White and Robert Boyd from Virgin Australias renewable jet fuel team recently visited the trial site in Casino to watch the harvester in action and discuss the next steps that will see commercial operation of the machine. The harvester is the first of its kind in the world and has drawn interest from other countries including Brazil.