It has been five years in the making, but a Legana, Tasmania, agricultural machinery manufacturer has developed a processor that has strawberry growers around the world asking for demonstrations.
Marshall Machinery researched and developed the COIR-RX substrate processor that feeds growing bags in and separates the plastic from the organic growing material.
Strawberry, tomato, capsicum, cucumber and similar crops can all be grown in such material, making the potential market a large one.
The plastic is packaged ready for recycling and the organic material is converted to mulch.
After speaking with berry growers about their substrate wastage, Marshall Machinery managing director Rod Marshall said he started thinking about how he could develop a machine that helped with the plastic recycling as well as converting the growing material into something usable.
“They had to get people into the polytunnels to manually take the material out. It was an environmental challenge to recycle [the plastic] and labour intensive,” Mr Marshall said.
“It has been a hard job to get a machine to separate the plants and make sure the plastic is clean enough for recycling,” he said.
What he came up with ticks both boxes and is now in the final stages of development.
“Now it’s all about awareness,” Mr Marshall said.
While the work has continued on and off over five years, Mr Marshall estimates it would have been the equivalent of one person working on the project for two years full time.
“There are lost of different components. We trialled different methods and rejected others. Some we scrapped and started again,” he said.
COIR-RX has already been tested at field trials and demonstration days at Tasmanian berry farms and on the mainland.
Growers in Tasmania, mainland Australia, UK and Europe have all expressed interest in the COIR-RX and Marshall has already been working on another variation for tomatoes.
“Once we showed the machine their eyes lit up,” he said.
“I have a grower in South Australia who has been begging me to send it over.”