AS MILK producers around Australia struggle to make a living, one Harrisville farm has tapped into the fastest growing market in the dairy industry - camels.
Grazier Paul Martin and his business partner, biochemist Jeff Flood, opened The Australian Wild Camel Corporation earlier this year.
Paul spent seven years researching camel farming practices around the world before a single animal arrived on his 850 acre Scenic Rim property.
Paul and Jeff launched SNCAgri, one of the world's leading agricultural asset advisory groups, in 2015 and made The Australian Wild Camel Corporation their first major project.
Paul says camel milk is the fastest growing market in the dairy industry and could be the answer to a number of producers' problems.
"We want to get investment into agriculture and it's a problem. How do we create jobs in agriculture, how can we stimulate growth and how do we get young people involved?," he said.
"Agriculture needs some success stories."
It's estimated there are more than 300,000 wild camels roaming Australia's deserts.
They are descendants of the camels first brought to our country in the 1840s to help explorers travel.
Now, many regional communities consider camels to be a pest, which has led to the Federal Government spending millions each year to cull the herd animals.
Paul says the waste of life and government funds was a major catalyst for his decision to open the Harrisville farm, which his corporation bought in June.
"It's such a great resource and people are shooting them. We can certainly turn camels into an asset," he said.
"We transport wild camels anywhere from central Queensland to Alice Springs to the farm and train them.
"We could have up to 1000 camels on the farm."
FACTS FROM THE FARMER:
- Paul says he has never been spat on and thinks camel spitting in a myth with Australian breeds.
- Camel milk is easier to digest and is good for gut health.
- Ice cream made from camel milk is creamier than regular gelato.
- Camel milk has been revered for its health benefits by indigenous communities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
- Paul hopes to produce 10,000L of milk per day once the farm reaches its peak.
- Women make better camels handlers. Paul says their naturally less aggressive body language and generally smaller stature makes it easier for women to work with the large desert-dwelling animals.
- A group of camels is called a caravan.
- Camel milk is currently priced at $20-$30 a litre, but Paul hopes to reduce that cost over time.
Aside from milk and meat production, the camel farm will also welcome tourist groups, offering tasty treats like camel milk gelato and cheese at a cafe inside a Queenslander-style building with views of the mountainous Scenic Rim.
"We will be targeting bus tours from early next year," Paul said.
"The vision is for people to come out and buy a hamper of camel products and have a picnic out on the lawn or visit the tea house.
"We plan to make the cosmetics, cheese, soap and all our products here so people can see how everything is made."
Paul said he would also like to see a research facility on site to learn more about the relatively unexplored field of camel breeding.
"We are working with the University of Queensland on nutrition and genetics research already," he said.
Scenic Rim mayor Greg Christensen said agritourism operators like The Australian Wild Camel Corporation were what would drive the region's economy in years to come.
"The camel farm is a great example of the opportunities around production and agritourism," he said.
"Growth in the agritourism sector provides vital diversification and income for an increasing number of our farming families."
While it may seem like Australia is a while away from putting camel milk on their cereal, the former beef farmer said there was a market here due to the milk's numerous health benefits.
"(My business partner) Jeff sourced camel milk to treat his son's eczema," Paul said.
"This product is the closest thing you can get to human milk so the proteins are offering a lot of healing properties for a lot of people.
"It is easier to digest. People we know of who use it have found it can help with Crohn's disease, diabetes, autism and a lot of gut disorders."