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Mort & Co fertiliser production, range bulks up

Liz Wells, February 20, 2024

Mort & Co value-adds manure from the Grassdale feedlot on site.

AUSTRALIA’S largest feedlotting operation, Mort & Co, is expanding its production of fertiliser using manure surplus to its farming needs as the base product.

This is expected to roughly double Mort & Co’s annual production from the initial 30,000 tonnes.

Mort & Co senior project manager Cameron Walker said the company has spent $2.4M on achieving the second line at the fertiliser factory.

“This project has delivered double the granulation capacity, along with improved throughput in line 1,” Mr Walker said.

“We should now be able to manufacture – based on recent production rates – around 11 tonnes per hour of finished, dried granules.”

“This includes three defined steps trialling different machines to prove their efficacy and new learnings around the composting process on the pad,” Mr Walker said.

Future product development is taking place at Grassdale, located south of Dalby on Qld’s Darling Downs.

It is home to Mort & Co’s main feedlot, the fertiliser business, and a major cropping operation, with grain and fodder produced value-added through the feedlot.

That means Grassdale can undertake some of its own farming trials to gauge performance of biostimulants, trace elements, and inoculants when added to fertiliser made in-house.

Expanding range, capacity

The expansion project includes a 1200sqm shed extension, automated raw-material mixing and liquids dosing, a third granulator, and additional dryer capacity.

“We’ve got our second granulating line in which doubles capacity, and the third one…will go in in the middle of the year.

“By then, we’ll also have a more sophisticated batching system.”

Mort & Co’s fertiliser plant started commercial manufacture in April 2022, and Mr Walker said the expansion currently under way was also about broadening the range of products available beyond Terrus, Terrus Pro, and Gyptek.

As the latest addition, Gyptek includes up to 50 percent mined dry-matter gypsum, and has been developed as an ameliorant for clay-based soil.

Research ramps up

To aid the development path, Mort & Co last year appointed agricultural engineer Tom Redmond upon completion of his PhD.

His research assessed the effects of organic and inorganic soil conditioners in combating salinity and sodicity, and improving prediction of how soil structure responds to amendments.

“Tom’s specialisation provides critical understanding in the composting process and underpins Mort & Co’s success in developing our fertiliser products.”

Mort & Co says its Terrus product can hold up to 235pc of its weight in moisture. Photo: Mort & Co

Dr Redmond is currently driving the research and implementation of the composting operations, and investigating ways to reduce the time needed to compost feedlot manure so it can be sold as is, or go into one of the granulated lines.

Using Micro-CT technology at Brisbane’s Translational Research Institute Australia primarily used in medical research, Mort & Co granules are being assessed to determine their water-holding capacity.

Work is also under way with Griffith University research, which is assessing the capacity of granules to carry rhizobial inoculants.

Mort & Co product is already in use in mungbean field trials at the Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Hermitage Research Station near Warwick, and plans are afoot to include product in University of Queensland mungbean trials at Gatton.

At Moree, Pure Grain is trialling Mort & Co products as a starter fertiliser, and extensive field trials on a range of crops including cotton, mungbeans, and corn are under way at sites in Qld and New South Wales.

Field trials looking at inoculation and nitrogen efficiency are also in the pipeline.

Carbon focus

Mort & Co fertiliser is already going out in bulk and bag to customers across eastern Australia, and to the company’s sites at Guyra and Gurley in northern NSW.

Mr Walker said consistency of quality is building market confidence in the granules which, like prilled urea, can be run through an air seeder.

“Some of the customers are moving from our humic compost and looking at granules now.”

The enterprise is also a positive for Mort & Co’s own carbon equation.

 

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