Monday, 25 July 2016

Promising results from South Pacific Cocoveneer project

ACIAR’s Forestry Research Program Manager, Mr Tony Bartlett, travelled to Fiji last month for an End of Project Review of the Cocoveneer project (FST/2009/062).  
The four year project “Development of advanced veneer and other products from coconut wood to enhance livelihoods in South Pacific communities” aimed to develop the technologies, processes and expertise to produce high quality veneer and complementary soil conditioning products from senile coconut stems and thereby enhance livelihoods in South Pacific communities.  
The project supported economic development in Fiji, Samoa and the Solomon Islands and there has already been some private sector interest in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. Partners included the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, SPC, Fiji Department of Forestry, Solomon Islands Ministry of Forestry and Research and Samoa Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and was managed by Dr Greg Nolan from the Centre for Sustainable Architecture and Wood (CSAW) at the University of Tasmania.

The review was conducted by Dr Lex Thomson, who has extensive experience in forestry and agricultural value chains in the Pacific. Dr Thomson and Mr Bartlett attended the project’s final workshop in Suva and also inspected the production of green cocowood veneer at Fiji Forestry’s timber utilization facility at Nasinu. They met with Australian project team members and research partners from Fiji and Samoa and a large delegation from the Solomon Islands led by the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Forestry and Research, Vaeno Vigulu. 

Mr Bartlett was pleased to report that the project, produced many positive results. In spite of a number of unforeseen challenges including the lack of senile coconut palms in Australia for trials and delays due to Cyclone Winston the project team were able to make significant discoveries about the “wood properties” of coconut stems and the processing techniques required to produce quality veneer products. Researchers also investigated uses for the associated waste material from the harvested stems and found the most promising uses to be as fuel or compost for use in agriculture. Although not included in the initial project development, a spindle-less lathe was sourced and installed at the Nasinu facility and local staff were trained to use the equipment.
Spindle-less lathe in action.
The project developed and tested a range of innovative products including veneer, laminated veneer lumber, overlay panel, engineered flooring and multi-laminar wood. The products showed a strong potential for commercial use as flooring, linings, some types of joinery surfaces and benchtops. . The project team conducted an operational trial of cocoveneer production at the private sector partner - Valebasoga Tropicboards Ltd mill located in Labasa on Vanua Levu. Mr Bartlett considers this to be a very important step in achieving wider adoption of the project’s research and development findings.
Samples of Cocoveneer.
The project has an excellent website ( which provides good information about the research and the findings.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Australian volunteer assists in development of an ornamental fish hatchery in Indonesia

Alexander Basford was a volunteer at Mars Symboscience in Indonesia from May 2015 to February 2016 under the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. Below he shares his recent experience traveling to several aquaculture production and research facilities in Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The final stage of microalgae culture at BBPBL Lampung - 30 tonne tanks that are the base of the food supply of the entire hatchery. Photo: Alex Basford
Aquaculture is a growing industry crucial to maintaining the health of fish stocks across the world. A newly emerging, but important, aspect of aquaculture revolves around the ornamental fish trade. Currently, a vast majority of fish in the aquarium trade is wild sourced. In developing nations, damaging methods such as the use of cyanide are used to catch fish for the aquarium trade. Mars Symbioscience Mariculture (MSM), supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, has been working for many years to address this issue in Makassar, Indonesia by implementing ornamental aquaculture as family based small business opportunities to replace wild collection.

Between November 2015 and January 2016, ACIAR provided funding for me to  travel to several aquaculture production and research facilities in Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea. Travel to these locations allowed my colleagues and I to meet with ornamental fish aquaculture experts. These trips and meetings have already significantly improved the aquaculture procedures in the MSM hatchery. Improved ornamental fish aquaculture operations will ultimately benefit the local communities who grow out ornamental fish (such as clownfish and seahorses) cultured at the MSM hatchery by providing healthier and larger volumes of juveniles to grow out.
Dozens of clownfish broodstock tanks lined i[ at BPBL Ambon. Photo: Alex Basford.
Staff and farmers at BPBL Ambon sorting clownfish from sea pens for sale. Photo: Alex Basford.
I also traveled to the Balai Perikanan Budidaya Laut (BPBL) Ambon and Balai Besar Perikanan Budidaya Laut (BBPBL) Lampung in Indonesia. On each of these trips a manager from the MSM hatchery in Takalar, where my volunteer work is based, joined me to help give them first hand perspective on other aquaculture operations as well. We learnt from BPBL Ambon’s large-scale Amphiprion percula clownfish production (over 100 broodstock pairs on site, with between 20,000-50,000 eggs laid per month) how to effectively manage and scale up clownfish production. We also saw first hand the challenges involved with growing out clownfish in sea pens instead of aquariums and tanks, a popular, but risky (due to disease risk) method of growing large numbers of fish. Fortunately, Mars Symbioscience plans to implement family run small-scale grow out facilities on nearby islands, meaning the safer aquarium grow out method is preferred. At BBPBL Lampung we were also fortunate to learn methods involved in culturing the seahorse Hippocampus kuda as well as successful scale up of microalgae (the base food of any hatchery) to 30-ton cultures. These feats have not yet been achieved by MSM, but thanks to the input from BBPBL Lampung it should be feasible in the near future.

I also traveled internationally to the Nago Island Mariculture and Research Facility (NIMRF) in Kavieng, Papua New Guinea to visit ACIAR-supported James Cook University PhD candidate Thane Militz. Thane shared his extensive experience with ornamental fish and thus has helped improve the larval rearing methods used for clownfish at the MSM hatchery. Larval rearing is one of the most difficult aspects of aquaculture, and this trip allowed me to see first hand how successful the larval
rearing methods at NIMRF to help implement them at the MSM hatchery effectively.

Finally, a day trip to the National Marine Science Center (NMSC) in Coffs Harbour,
Australia was planned to investigate the benefits of using red microalgae as a food for the zooplankton at the MSM hatchery. Researcher Dr. Symon Dworjanyn explained the results of its use at the NMSC, and it’s a novel idea MSM is eager to explore at the hatchery in Takalar. 

The bright red microalgae Proteomonas sulcata in culture at the NMSC. Photo: Alex Basford.

By Alexander Basford, former AVID volunteer, Mars Symbioscience

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Inaugural Bougainville Chocolate Festival a sweet success

The inaugural Bougainville Chocolate Festival was held in Buin and Arawa on 5 and 6 July 2016. The festival was an initiative of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville led by the Department of Primary Industries in partnership with the Australian Government and was strongly supported by a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded ACIAR project “Developing the cocoa value chain in Bougainville”, which is being implemented through a partnership of PNG and Australian research organisations led in Australia by the University of Sydney.

The two-day festival aimed to encourage good cocoa farming and processing practices and raise awareness of the efforts of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and its partners to develop the chocolate industry and market links.

Canberra-based bean to bar chocolate makers Peter and Li Peng from Jasper and Myrtle attended the festival. Below, they tell us all about their Pacific chocolate adventure.

Friday, 15 July 2016

ACIAR forestry project helps locals rebuild their houses following last year's devastating earthquake in Nepal

Research conducted as part of an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) forestry project in Nepal has helped locals in Chaubus, Kavre, rebuild their houses following the devastating earthquake that destroyed communities in 2015. 

The project, ‘Enhancing livelihoods and food security from agroforestry and community forestry in Nepal’, began in 2013 and aims to provide diverse benefits to farmers, support livestock and agriculture, and increase the resilience of forests to climate change.  

Below, Project Leader Dr Ian Nuberg and Research Officer Dr Edwin Cedamon, report on recent benefits that have emerged from demonstration plots that were established as part of the project.

Purna Darjee, who lives in in the village of Chaubus, in Kavre Palanchok District, and was a victim of the 2015 earthquake, appeared relieved while carrying a load of sawn planks of pine timber distributed by his community forest. Purna, along with 30 others who lost their houses last year, can now construct a temporary one using timber from their own forests. The timber was available from silviculture demonstration plots, which were established under the ACIAR-supported forestry project.

Photo: ACIAR

Monday, 11 July 2016

ACIAR pledges ongoing support for technical cooperation with Son La Province, Vietnam

At a workshop held on 7 July in Son La Province, Vietnam, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) entered into a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Provincial People’s Committee of Son La Province that will promote cooperation in agriculture and rural development.

Signing ceremony of Aide Memoire on cooperation in agriculture and rural development. Photo: ACIAR

Monday, 4 July 2016

Visit from Ethiopian Minister for Livestock and Fisheries

ACIAR welcomed a delegation from the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to Canberra last week. Led by the State Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Gebregziabher Gebre Yohannes, the group of agricultural researchers from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and the Ethiopia Policy Study and Research Centre met with the CEO and Research Program Managers (RPMs) to discuss synergies between ACIAR’s work in Africa and livestock research for development in Ethiopia.

Friday, 1 July 2016

This is way two MAD!

At the beginning of June a group of Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Centre (ACIAR) project teams and other interested groups were brought together at a three-day Masterclass in Canberra to learn more about the powerful features of apps and how to harness them for best use in the agricultural sector.

Conor Ashleigh (left) sharing his tips-of-the-trade of story capture with Keith Antfalo, Simon Quigley and Cherise Addinsall (right). Photo: ACIAR
The class occurred as part of the second phase of the Mobile Acquired Data (MAD) evaluation, which began last year and is being commissioned by ACIAR.