OPINION

The experiences that fuelled an oilseed innovation

When I was a kid, I'd talk to my grandfather about his farming experiences.

He'd tell me about his tractor that he'd warm up on kerosene, and then switch over to run on peanut oil. I remember marvelling at what a fabulous machine that was.

Later, I remember hearing a radio interview with a crazy Yank who'd come out to Australia on holiday with his Winnebago.

Behind it, he towed a small biodiesel processor which converted the waste hot chip fat from fast food outlets into biodiesel that powered his motorhome.

Apparently, people were complaining about the smell of chips making them hungry as he drove past.

I credit these memories for making me first investigate the economics of processing oilseeds for fuel, and my last job of building machinery for rent that inspired my idea of factories providing shared biofuel processing services to communities of growers.

Then my two children were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and I had to stop travelling to work as an engineer on remote mine sites.

My attention was turned to the needs of the agricultural community I grew up in on Queensland's eastern Darling Downs.

My idea - called Seed2Diesel - is to collect farmers' oilseed crops and build local factories that will process the crops into biodiesel, which I'll return to them to run in their machinery.

I want to get all farmers off using fossil fuel diesel, while improving the economics of their operations.

Initially I'm targeting broadacre farmers, who are already capable of growing conventional oilseeds and using tens of thousands of litres of diesel each year.

For every 1000 litres of 100 per cent biodiesel a farmer uses, 2.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions are reduced.

In the eastern Darling Downs, there's about 2000 farmers, of which about 700 are broadacre croppers.

Nationally, there's about 85,000 farmers. That's a lot of diesel and CO2 emissions that could be removed from our atmosphere.

Earlier this month Seed2Diesel progressed to the semi-finals of ClimateLaunchpad, the world's largest clean-tech competition.

If I make it to the finals, I'll get a place at Accelerator, a prestigious business school for start-ups, based in Europe.

For this, I have to thank the EnergyLab program in Brisbane and Climate-KIC Australia.

So when Seed2Diesel gets off the ground, I guess we can thank my grandfather, a mad American, and my family for inspiring me to improve Australia's agriculture industry.

Johnny Wapstra, founder of Seed2Diesel, will compete in the global semifinal of the ClimateLaunchpad clean-tech start up competition on September 30.