Grower makes go of stubble

ON BOARD: Coleambally rice farmer John Gorman with his Ampan board made from recycled rice stubble.
ON BOARD: Coleambally rice farmer John Gorman with his Ampan board made from recycled rice stubble.

IT’S not quite turning water into wine, but a Coly rice farmer is poised to do the next best thing by turning worthless agricultural waste into a valuable building block.

John Gorman’s Ampan invention transforms rice stubble, which currently goes up in smoke at the end of each season, into a sturdy panel-board, able to be used to build anything from furniture to house frames.

Mr Gorman claims his product will plough money into the pockets of farmers and help protect the environment.

Ampan has won a swag of farm invention awards in recent years and the former diesel mechanic has already pitched the product in India, Rwanda, China and beyond.

“This can be produced efficiently every year and you’re not waiting 20 or 30 years for trees to grow,” Mr Gorman said.

“More than 200,000 tonnes of stubble goes into the atmosphere every year in this region alone so why wouldn’t we use it?

“The amount of available timber in the world cannot keep up with supply and here we have a product made from agricultural waste that has no other use in


“Some of the developing countries are keen as mustard on the idea.”

He said he had “sunk a small fortune” into developing the product but was hopeful he could finally start widescale production in the next 18 months.

Mr Gorman said farmers would be paid per tonne for stubble and have it removed from fields at no cost.

They would also receive greenhouse gas credits for every hectare of unburnt stubble used in the

production of Ampan.

The product, which has a similar consistency to chipboard, is made by fracturing rice stubble and bonding it at high pressure with a special resin.

It results in a light, heat and resistant panel-board that is able to be powdercoated and can be produced every year.

Mr Gorman is in talks with Murrumbidgee Shire Council general manager Carolyn Upston as he pushes to build a production plant in the shire.

Further research and development of the product is being undertaken with the CSIRO and RMIT.