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Ken Bellamy Ken Bellamy

James Cook University in Townsville, Australia is the first university in the world to use a Bio-Regen unit, a machine that takes food scraps and turns them into a liquid bio-fertiliser.

Each year, JCU’s kitchens (including private colleges) produce close to 100 tonnes of food waste, according to JCU’s Environment Manager Adam Connell. That results in 380 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions when sent to landfill − as much as 84 cars on the road for a year.

The usual solution would be to start using a composter, but that still produces carbon emissions. So, where does that leave those wanting to do more to save the planet? JCU’s Environment Manager Adam Connell and Vital Resource Management’s Ken Bellamy have teamed up to tackle this issue.

“The number one thing on the ‘can’t be recycled’ list was food,” said Mr Bellamy.

“Since I’ve been in the industry food and organic waste has been the elephant in the room when discussing greenhouse gases and the cost of recycling. It’s the thing that’s never touched. “

Until now… Bellamy has invented the Bio-Regen unit, which turns food scraps into a liquid bio-fertiliser. Food waste gets put into the unit, which is about 1.5m tall and 40cm wide, and is pushed down a shoot with a wooden pole. It’s then processed into a liquid slurry and pumped to tanks outside. When the tanks are full the microbes are left to do their work for 28 days, converting the food into a product similar to apple cider vinegar. Bellamy’s team then empty the tanks and process the liquid into the fertiliser and give the final product back.

JCU’s Environment Manager Adam Connell had been aware of Bellamy’s work for quite awhile and jumped at the opportunity for JCU to be the first university in the world to use one of his systems.

“I’ve seen other universities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on composting machines only to have massive labour requirements to actually get an output,” Mr Connell said.

“Then I saw the Bio-Regen unit and thought it’s a low-cost, high-efficiency machine that gives you 100 per cent of the product back at the end,” Mr Connell said.

“You’re not losing anything in the process, like you do with composting, and it’s cutting down the cost for the university. We’ve basically wiped out all our cost of sending food waste to landfill, which is expensive and wasteful, especially now the government’s brought in a landfill levy.

“We’re turning something that’s cost us lots of money in the past into something that’s making us money.”

Mr Connell said the bio-fertiliser produced by the Bio-Regen unit will be used on JCU’s grounds to improve soil quality.

“And we’ll use it on our sports fields to make sure they’re growing well,” he said.

University Hall is currently the only JCU residential college using the Bio-Regen unit, but Connell and Bellamy are hoping for more to roll out to the other colleges soon.

Article by Jessica Milsome. More information can be found at

Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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