AN INNOVATIVE outback business built around turning gidgee hardwood into restaurant-quality charcoal is exploring a wide range of new markets for its organic, renewable products.

Leannda Dierke founded Charleville Charcoal back in 2014, originally manufacturing the product in huge underground pits.

Then she partnered with entrepreneurial Toowoomba brothers Adnun and Albab Khan and local tradesman Steve Hockham to rebrand as Chef’s Choice Charcoal in 2018.

Now the team uses kilns to cook its charcoal, turning wood which would have been left to rot on outback farming properties into fully carbonised Aussie hardwood charcoal.

“We’re cleaning up their property for them (farmers), picking up their rubbish,” Dierke said.

“They have been fine with it, it’s just waste to them.

“Instead of the tree naturally decomposing, we carbonise it so no carbon dioxide emissions are released into the atmosphere.

“We are then left with a high quality charcoal. It’s all organic, it’s got the smoky flavours and it’s just beautiful.” 

Steve Hockham and Leannda Dierke with their gidgee charcoal

Chef’s Choice Charcoal expanded its offering through the pandemic, when importing charcoal from overseas became more complex and expensive for Australian restaurants.

Now it’s the wider applications for the group’s latest business venture, Australian Country Carbon, that has Dierke really excited.

“We came into it just to make charcoal and we’ve been able to grow it bigger than what we ever thought,” she said.

“We have big plans, we want to do it in a big way.” 

The team has been working on a form of charcoal called biochar which is created at a very high temperature over an extended period under controlled conditions called pyrolysis.

Biochar is highly porous and holds onto water and nutrients and is a way of adding organic matter to sandy soils, reducing fertiliser requirements and leaching.

Dierke said the team was also exploring opportunities for Australian Country Carbon products to be used in water and alcohol filtration, animal feed additives and even cosmetics.

The business has been supported by Murweh Shire Council from the very beginning, with every bag of Chef’s Choice Charcoal also proudly displaying the ‘Experience Charleville’ logo.

Murweh Mayor Shaun ‘Zoro’ Radnedge said it was a great partnership, helping raise the profile of Charleville nationwide.

“Turning gidgee wood into charcoal – it’s very exciting,” Zoro said.

“It’s pretty broad what they can do and who would have thought – this product was just laying in paddocks, the wood could have been pulled 50 – 100 years ago.”

Leannda Dierke said she’d always wanted to do something for Charleville and she felt proud to be involved in the business and the opportunities it presented.

“I’m so proud to be a local, I’ve lived here all my life,” she said.

“I just know the plans we have, it’s going to be something I can leave for the rest of my family. 

“Australian Country Carbon – it’s got so much to offer yet, watch this space.”

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