Sunshine Sugar, Australian sugar mill owned producer of raw and refined sugar products, has teamed up with AquaBotanical, an Australian company based at Mildura in Victoria. To create the new product which harvests water from mature sugar cane trunks to bottles for human consumption.
The product has been using new innovative technology which was developed by Dr. Bruce Kambouris, a chemical engineer. This new technology has tested in India, the world’s second largest sugar producer, where water scarcity is an important issue.
Mature sugar cane trunks contain more than 60 per cent moisture which have mostly wasted in Australian sugar industry.
“The water gets squeezed out anyway as part of the sugar production process and then goes into an evaporator condenser system, so it’s already there. We’ll just polish it up a little bit. After the juice has been condensed, effectively we’ve got a water that is as pure as you can get. You can’t have calories and other sweeteners in water, it’s purely water. I don’t think I need to argue that.” said Chris Connors, Sunshine Sugar’s chief executive officer.
It was estimated that the project will cost $5 million to $6 million over a five year period, but Mr. Chris Connors said the payback will be great.
“I expect around $2 million profit over the next couple of years, and then after bottling and everything it will be significantly more,” he said.
It is about 8 to 10 million litres will be bottled in the first year, that is possibly expected increasing to 60 million if all three alliance mills of Sunshine Sugar are capturing water. Next, the first batch of water from sugar cane is expected to be ready for bottling in September.
The potentiality of equipment and technology will enable the mills to have the capacity to collect water 140 to 150 million litres a year. Furthermore, They have plans to built the other two mills and a bottling plant operational within three years.
The Sunshine Sugar boss said that the water could be exported to China, where AquaBotanical is already exporting fruit and vegetable water. The next exportation will begin from early October this year.
Capturing the water in cane might be new for Australian sugar industry. Nevertheless, the technology has already been used to bottle water from fruit and vegetables.
“We catch rain water and mineral water and river water, but plants are a natural source of water. We can harvest that water for drinking purposes or even operational purposes.”
“The technology allows us to harvest the water from all sorts of plants, so as you’d appreciate there will be subtle differences in the composition as we take out any flavours or aromas or toxins and create a standard natural water” said Terry Paule, AquaBotanical’s executive chairman.
In the cost to set-up of the technology, it is quite low because the company uses existing infrastructure. “We don’t need to go along to build new factories anywhere in the world, we attach the technology to existing processors. In fact, the unit that we’ll be using with Sunshine Sugar sits in a 40 foot shipping container. You can move it around if you really want to.” Said Terry Paule
Besides, the company has already set up the Botanical Water Foundation to use the technology to harvest water from cane for operational use as well as much needed fresh drinking water for local communities.