Eden Lassie Agave Spirit Farm
From its ancient beginnings in North America, to now emerging in the Australian agricultural landscape, Agave is leading the future of agtech adoption.
The agave farm is nestled in the heart of the Whitsundays between Bowen and Airlie Beach and is leading the way in research, development and the application of agtech.
Agave spirit production
GPS systems, drone technology
Eden Lassie Agave Spirit Farm is an initiative of Melbourne-based distiller Top Shelf International, one of Australia’s largest whiskey distilleries. Agronomist and Prospect Agriculture’s Mr Chris Monsour is the man behind the day-to-day operations at the agave farm.
Chris’s background is in horticulture including vegetable and tree crop production and has always been interested in alternative crops and bringing diversification to the region.
“I have grown different things on our research farm in Bowen, but when this project came along and we looked at the crop and how well suited it is to growth in this environment, it was an opportunity too good to pass up.”
And with diversification comes embracing technology, something that excites Mr Monsour, but it is not just about using agtech for agtech sake – it is about making sure there is a return on investment for growers.
“Over the years I have seen a lot of agtech that comes along looking for a home, looking for a way it can be applied in the field, and not everything makes it. You must have people out there pushing the boundaries, trying things, demonstrating its worth and working with growers on how we can apply the technology in a particular way.
“So sometimes there is feedback from growers and clients, saying it doesn’t really fit our purpose in this way, but have you thought about it in XYZ?
“It’s exciting from a grower’s point of view, they are getting pushed out of their comfort zone, they are always looking for ways to be innovative and a lot more efficient. Australians have a long reputation for being innovative, so we see agtech as another way Australian farmers can drive that innovation,” he said.
Mr Monsour said the farm was not just about the spirit production but is also a demonstration for other potential growers to see how it can be done.
“We are looking at developing unique systems for producing the spirit. The biggest one for us here in the field, is building a mechanical harvester, which will be the first time it has been done in the world.
Chris said there has been a range of agtech equipment from drones to soil moisture monitoring equipment they have used on the farm from inception to ongoing monitoring and understanding large volumes of plants.
He said everything on the farm is set up using GPS technology which wasn’t just important for getting the crop in the ground but was also the basis for any advancements in technology such as robotics which rely on GPS guidance for operation.
“Drone technology, with multi spectral cameras, monitors the health of the plant; monitors their growth so we can look at modelling plant development and ultimately use it as a way of determining when the plants are ready for harvest.
“What we are dealing with here it is all about scale, so we need the agtech do something that we just couldn’t physically do with human resources.”
Chris said in the next ten years he would like to see the farm as a world class agave production and processing facility.
- Next year there will be one million agave plants thriving on Top Shelf International’s Eden Lassie Agave Spirit Farm, only four short years since planting began in 2020.
- The farm will harvest close to 250,000 plants a year and will require them to do that in an automated way.