IN an Australian-first, a ship which set sail from the CBH Group Albany Grain Terminal on Sunday was not only carrying sustainably grown grain but was also powered by biofuel.
CBH partnered with leading dry bulk operator Oldendorff Carriers to ship 30,000 tonnes of sustainably certified malting barley to Vietnam aboard a vessel which will be bunkered with a biofuel blend, supplied by BP.
It is estimated that the blend, which is made from 20 per cent recycled cooking oil, would produce about 15pc less greenhouse gas emissions for the journey than conventional fossil fuels.
CBH chief marketing and trading officer Jason Craig said the co-operative was proud to be pioneering efforts to explore ways to reduce its carbon footprint along the supply chain.
"Customers across the world are increasingly seeking to source sustainable products, including sustainable grain," Mr Craig said.
"It is our role, as Australia's leading grain exporter, to take the necessary steps to lower carbon emissions along our supply chain and biofuel is one low-carbon option that could be part of the solution to reducing emissions in the shipping industry."
In 2020-21, CBH sold 1.2 million tonnes of sustainably certified grain and reduced scope one and two carbon emissions on a per tonne basis by 38pc from the previous year.
"Our growers have been doing their part in growing sustainable grain, however it's important for us to be able to demonstrate to both growers and customers that we are also working to reduce our own carbon emissions," Mr Craig said.
"Our increased focus on sustainability means our co-op will remain strong for future generations and Western Australian growers are well placed to meet future market expectations."
Last year, CBH conducted a sustainability survey with its customers to break down where their priorities lay.
In that survey, when sustainability was broken down to its various factors - such as climate change, carbon neutrality, human rights - meeting chemical residue requirements was by far the most important to customers, with 91pc rating it either extremely or very important.
That was followed by traceability at 69pc, nutrition at 68pc, accreditation at 43pc and human rights at 39pc.
Out of the 10 sustainability traits customers were polled on, carbon neutrality came in second last at 25pc, however many customers stated that sustainability could attract a pricing premium.
When it came to sustainability accreditation, 47pc of those surveyed listed International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) as their preferred method, which was surprising given that up until recently ISCC was only applicable to canola buyers in Europe.
With that in mind, the malting barley which was loaded onto the Edwine Oldendorff on Friday, before starting its 14 to 20-day voyage over the weekend to Vietnam's leading malting company, Intermalt, was ISCC accredited.
Intermalt services brewing customers, the largest being Heineken, which has set a target to decarbonise its own production by 2030 and to achieve a carbon neutral value chain by 2040.
"We need to meet the growing market demand for sustainable or carbon reduced grain by being proactive, practical and adapting," Mr Craig said.
"By doing this, we are making sure we can continue to keep our WA growers competitive."
The trial will provide information on how the vessel engine responds to biofuel, its speed and efficiency, as well as measuring the emissions it produces.
After gathering that data, CBH plans to look at what other alternatives there are and see if they can continue to do trials such as this one to reduce carbon emissions.
While Oldendorff is a very important ship owner for CBH, the co-operative does work with multiple companies and will look at what other opportunities there are in the future.
Given that the voyage is the first trial of its kind, there were undeniably extra costs involved, however the co-operative maintains that the economics did work.
"This is a really important step for Western Australian growers," Mr Craig said.
"It demonstrates the sustainable capabilities that they have, but it also shows how we can do that within the supply chain in order to provide our customers with grain that is sustainable from beginning to end and lead Australia in that space."