||Technology in Australia 1788-1988
Table of Contents
I Technology Transported; 1788-1840
II Technology Established; 1840-1940
i Meat Preserving: Heat Processing Introduced
ii Horticultural Products: Heat, Sugar and Solar Drying
iii Refrigeration and the Export of Meat
iv Milling and Baking
v Dairy Products
vii Sugar: Supplying an Ingredient
III The Coming Of Science
IV From Science To Technology: The Post-war Years
V Products And Processes
Sugar: Supplying an Ingredient  (continued)The economic downturn of the eighties revolutionized all aspects of the industry. In particular, it swept away the one-stick-at-a-time-two-or-three-tons-per-day small mills and cruelly demonstrated the need for new techniques. In 1885 there were 102 mills in New South Wales, in 1890 there were 33, and the new technology was well established in Australia. By 1912, only the three CSR mills, Harwood, Condong and Broadwater survived in New South Wales. The Harwood mill was originally the Darkwater mill on the Macleay. It was relocated on the Clarence in 1874 and is the oldest working mill in Australia. In 1881, CSR moved into Queensland where the establishment of the pattern of farmers growing for a central mill was repeated and the system of plantation with matching mill disappeared. Co-operative mills on the same pattern followed and centralization and expansion up the Queensland coast came rapidly in the later years of the century. By 1898 there were eighty mills in Queensland producing some 100,000 tons of sugar and most of the small inefficient mills had gone.
There is little doubt that by the end of the century the equipment of the Queensland mills was quite sophisticated. Haulage by cane tramways had become standard practice, and factories were using three to five crushing trains of conventional three roll mills with cast iron rollers; the rolls in the Mossman mill, for example, were six feet long. Juice was clarified, concentrated in multiple effect evaporators and the sugar crystallized in vacuum pans. This was standard contemporary sugar technology and the equipment was either imported from Britain or made in Queensland, e.g., by Walkers in Maryborough. Some is still in use. Local engineers may not have been especially innovative but they were undoubtedly resourceful in maintaining production in isolated areas.
Attempts were made to grow sugar beet in Victoria and to establish a sugar industry based on it. Beet was grown near Anakie in 1873, but the factory at Staughton Vale closed in 1874 after only one year. In 1875 a large seven storey factory was built at Ross Town (now Caulfield) but survived precariously for only a few years before admitting defeat at the hands of the northern cane fields.
So called 'raw sugar' is about 98.4 per cent pure sucrose, but the remaining 1.6 per cent makes it an unsatisfactory ingredient for most formulated food products. The impurities lead to colour, flavour, and odour defects and the wet film around the crystals supports the growth of contaminating micro-organisms and thus reduces the shelf life of the sugar itself. Hence, refining has long been recognized as necessary. It is essentially a series of recrystallizations to produce increasingly pure sugar.
In 1855, the refinery at Canterbury did not become part of CSR which instead bought two independent refineries closer to Sydney. In 1857, CSR formed the Victorian Sugar Company and built a refinery at Sandridge (now Port Melbourne) and in 1874 Joshua Brothers built a large one at Yarraville. This was bought by Knox the next year when the Sandridge refinery was burnt down. The Pyrmont factory in Sydney was opened in 1878, replacing the older plants, and others followed in Adelaide (1891) and Brisbane (1893). There were other small refineries but CSR introduced the latest technology and they could not compete. They lasted only a short time.
The most significant technological advance at that time was probably not so much the opening of new refineries as the introduction to the sugar industry of chemical control. At least by 1873, Edward Knox was aware of the polarimeter for the measurement of sucrose and of its potential value to his business, and before the decade was out he had a chemist whose exploratory work led to the employment in 1881 of a Scottish refinery chemist, T. U. Walton, and in 1883 of a German beet sugar expert, Dr. G. Kottmann. The former became the chief chemist and the latter the inspecting chemist responsible for the overall performance of the mill laboratories. Together they developed methods of sampling and analysing cane and intermediate products, byproducts and wastes and in 1884, driven by the dramatic fall in sugar prices, a 'system of chemical bookkeeping', under test since 1882, was introduced into all the mills. It was essentially a mass balance of sucrose from cane received to finished product, including all wastes and by-products. This may well have been a world first in the sugar industry. It was certainly a very early application of what is now standard practice in the control of any manufacturing operation.
Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Colonial Sugar Refining Company (C.S.R.); Joshua Brothers; Victorian Sugar Company
People in Bright Sparcs - Knox, Edward; Kottmann, Dr G.; Walton, T. U.
© 1988 Print Edition pages 110 - 111, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher