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Development of a financial model to examine the financial viability of Mallee Eucalyptus crops in South Western Australia

Firth, Hamish (2019) Development of a financial model to examine the financial viability of Mallee Eucalyptus crops in South Western Australia. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

In the current state of environmental change being experienced by the world, businesses and governments are looking for renewable resources which can be used to produce the products which are currently produced by harmful, non-renewable resources. More locally there is a large issue in regards to salinity affecting soils across the wheatbelt of Western Australia and therefore the production performance of farms in this region.

A species of plant that has been identified to help manage salinity issues in soils and that is native to the Western Australian wheatbelt is the Mallee Eucalyptus. Across the various subspecies it is able to grow across all of the Western Australian wheatbelt and grows well in lower rainfall areas of 350 to 600mm per year where other tree species struggle to grow. It is possible to grow Mallee Eucalypts in a belt configuration around existing crops or in a block configuration taking up a whole field themselves. There have been some efforts to increase the amount of Mallee Eucalypts included in agricultural projects since the mid 1990’s. It is estimated that about 14000 hectares have been planted so far and Mallee Eucalypts are not currently a common part of a farm planting mix.

There are many products able to be produced from Mallee Eucalyptus which can act as revenue streams for farmers however there is not the supply of biomass currently to support a Mallee Eucalyptus based industry nor the production capacity installed to make use of any supply created.

This research creates a model through gathering relevant values from academic papers and government based reports in order help farmers assess the financial viability of Mallee Eucalypts based on the specific conditions faced on their farm. The research found that there are currently products which are profitable such as woodchips and bioelectricity for most farm sizes above the very small. There are also products such as lignocellulosic ethanol and an Integrated Mallee Processing plant which are profitable given a sufficient amount of Mallee biomass produced. There are some products such as wood pellets, bio oil, eucalyptus oil and activated carbon which are currently not profitable due to similar production costs and selling prices. It was determined that an external catalyst, most likely from the government, is required to increase the utilisation of Mallee Eucalypts due to the large number of other possible sources to produce the same products. An increase in utilisation of Mallee Eucalypts should build the foundation of a Mallee based production industry and then through increased investment in the respective technologies lead to more products becoming profitable.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation: Engineering and Energy
United Nations SDGs: Goal 13: Climate Action
Supervisor(s): Bahri, Parisa
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/50274
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