Australian Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2015

Blog site for the 2015 MSU study abroad program.

6/6 – Leon

New planting of sugar cane with mature sugar cane behind it.

New planting of sugar cane with mature sugar cane behind it.

Today we visited Sweet sugar cane and cocoa farm. Sweet farms has been family owned and operated since 1924. They grow 460 acres of sugar cane, and 5 acres of cocoa trees. We received a tour of the farm from Gerard Puglisi, he showcased the crops grown, cocoa, sugarcane, and a new vanilla project. The Puglisi family has grown sugar cane for the past 90 years. Sugar cane production starts with a soil test to analyze the nutrient contents of the field. Then the field is fitted and deep tilled to remove residue and soil compaction.
Deep tillage, this tool works like a garden rototiller but on a larger scale

Deep tillage, this tool works like a garden rototiller but on a larger scale


The soil sample from before tells the farmer how much fertilizer to add. Sweet farms uses an innovative tool to apply granular fertilizer below the soil surface. This greatly reduces the risk of runoff and in part saves the farm money while protecting water ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.
This is a Spool Splitter fertilizer applicator, It cuts a furrow or trench in the soil, places granular fertilizer in the furrows and closes the furrow with a press wheel.

This is a Spool Splitter fertilizer applicator, It cuts a furrow or trench in the soil, places granular fertilizer in the furrows and closes the furrow with a press wheel.


The field is now ready to plant. The sugar cane is planted using a specialized planter. The chunk of stalk will sprout about 25 shoots, up to 12 reach maturity.
This tool places a chunk of stalk in the ground every few feet.

This tool places a chunk of stalk in the ground every few feet.


Two hundred horsepower Tier 4 clean diesel Tractor.

Two hundred horsepower Tier 4 clean diesel Tractor.


The tractors used to pull and power the equipment reach a tier 3 or 4 emissions standard. They are some of the Greenest tractors on the market, and I’m not talking paint color.
GPS antenna, This connects to up to 20 satellites that ar orbiting earth, and a local tower. The information received allows the tractor to automatically follow a path within 2 cm. This allows the farm operations to be very precise and soil compaction is isolated to a small area between rows.

GPS antenna, This connects to up to 20 satellites that ar orbiting earth, and a local tower. The information received allows the tractor to automatically follow a path within 2 cm.


This tractor is used to apply pesticides to the sugar cane fields. Sweet farms has fitter this tractor with hooded sprayers in order to greatly reduce the drift of pesticides when applying. This helps to protect the farmer, the crop, and most importantly the surrounding environment.
This is a specialized high crop sprayer tractor. The ground clearance is over six feet tall.

This is a specialized high crop sprayer tractor. The ground clearance is over six feet tall.


The harvesting of sugar cane is done by a contracted harvesting company. This is because the harvesting equipment is too costly for one farmer to own and maintain. Sweet Farms does have an older harvester that is used to cut sugar cane for replanting stock.
This harvester works by collecting the row of stalks, a spinning blade cuts off the tops and then another blade cuts the cans stalk off just above ground height. The stalks are then cut into smaller chunk about a foot long , ran under a high powered blower to remove any debris, and then conveyed up and out to a Powerhaul truck.

This harvester works by collecting the row of stalks, a spinning blade cuts off the tops and then another blade cuts the cans stalk off just above ground height. The stalks are then cut into smaller chunk about a foot long , ran under a high powered blower to remove any debris, and then conveyed up and out to a Powerhaul truck.


The Powerhaul truck the drives to the end of the field where cane train boxes are waiting to be filled.

The Powerhaul truck the drives to the end of the field where cane train boxes are waiting to be filled.

The boxes are filled and taken by the cane train to the nearest cane processing plant, at Sweet Farms the plant is just a couple miles into town.

The boxes are filled and taken by the cane train to the nearest cane processing plant, at Sweet Farms the plant is just a couple miles into town.


We didn’t have the opportunity to see the actual processing plant but the process was explained to us. The cane is shredded up and ran through a roller that separates out the sugar water from the left over stalk or gas. The gas stalks is then dried and used to fire the furnace of the plant or some facilities are using the gas stalks to make ethanol. After the sugar water is separated out it goes into an evaporator. This process turns the sugar water into a thick molasses. The molasses can then be refined and sold or it can be crystalized and refined into brown sugar, raw sugar, or white table sugar.
Vanilla and Cocoa starts in a green house.

Vanilla and Cocoa starts in a green house.


The cocoa trees on 5 acres is a relatively new enterprise for Sweet Farms. They started growing cocoa about five years. Cocoa is a labor intensive crop, the cocoa is handpicked and the fruit is cut open to reveal the cocoa seeds. The seeds are covered in a thick skin, so the cocoa is fermented to remove the skin and add flavor. The beans are dried and screened to remove debris. The seed shells removed are made into a chocolate scented soap. To finish the flavoring process the seeds or beans are sorted by size and uniformly roasted. The cocoa bean is now ready to be ground up and made into many delicious goods.
Our crash course on Cocoa trees.

Our crash course on Cocoa trees.


Daintree Estates Chocolate uses sugar and cocoa from Sweet Farms to make an excellent chocolate bar. Sweet FArms is also one of the first in the country to produce Cocoa. Before Sweet Farms started growing cocoa all chocolate sold in Australia was made from cocoa grown overseas. Bring the production of cocoa into Australia has cut down on the amount of transportation needed for chocolate goods to be sold in country.
We saw what is inside the cocoa tree fruit.

We saw what is inside the cocoa tree fruit.


The Puglisi family have implemented farming practices that are efficient and protect the cropland as a resource for future generations. Gerard Puglisi is an officer for the Next Gen Program. He works as an advocate that represents the sugar cane industry and works to promote Agriculture education to young students interested in sugar farming. I could relate being an Ag. student at MSU, and I was glad to see a farmer passionate about his farm, family, and industry.

Our second stop is Hush Energy. Hush Energy is a retailer and installer of solar energy products. They sell solar panels that convert the suns power into electricity, as well as solar hot water heaters and battery storage systems. Tom owns Hush Energy and spoke with us about how the technology can pay for itself within four years and can provide renewable energy for a home owner or business for twenty five years or more. This is a very large industry in Australia after traveling around the country I have seen many homes with solar energy systems, as well as businesses. The adoption of this technology appears to be important to the Australian Government and Citizens. Solar energy appears to be an efficient way to provide sustainable power here in Australia , I would like to see the United States utilize the same technology for a more sustainable power source.

Hush Energy owner Tom showed us the many ways of efficiently using solar energy.

Hush Energy owner Tom showed us the many ways of efficiently using solar energy.

Our Farm.(2014). Retreived May 15, 2015, from http://www.sweetfarmtours.com/

Our Quality Commitment. (2015). Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://www.hushenergy.net.au/components-of-solar-systems/

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