Air Liquide to build an Australian CO2 production facility

Air Liquide and Gippsland Basin Joint Venture have signed a long-term CO2 supply agreement which will see a new CO2 purification and production facility being constructed. The Gippsland Basin Joint Venture consists of 50-50 BHP Petroleum (Bass Strait) Pty Ltd and Esso Australia Resource Pty Ltd. Read more

Wineries band together to attract visitors

Three Victorian wineries are putting aside traditional rivalries to help each other recover from the coronavirus.
And they’re using award-winning wines and food, nature, and the relatively low profile of
the region as their biggest drawcards.
Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton — three, five-star rated wineries, located in the Strathbogie
Shire, approximately 90 minutes north of Melbourne — have been hit hard by border closures and Melbourne’s recent ‘ring of steel’, which separated regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne:
• The historic Tahbilk Winery is Victoria’s oldest winery situated on the banks of the Goulburn River. Once referred to by the first people as ‘tabilk-tabilk’ (or the ‘place of many waterholes’), Tahbilk is a carbon neutral winery nestled among river flats and kilometres of backwaters, creeks, and walking trails.
• Just up the road, also fronting Victoria’s longest river, is Mitchelton Wines, a mid-century architectural masterpiece, which has been recently updated to include the iconic Ashton Tower, overlooking the Goulburn River and ranges, award winning cellar door, 58 room hotel, restaurant, major events, and one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal art galleries.
• Fowles Wine is the relatively new kid on the block – a five-star winery and farm located in the small township of Avenel, a short drive from the other two wineries. Fowles has also invested in its future, opening a new cellar door and renovating its restaurant, drawing on inspiration from the quintessential Aussie shed and majestic views of the Strathbogie Ranges.
“Each winery is completely different. Yet, by coming together, we offer the chance for guests to experience the best of the Victorian wine industry in a day. This is a great opportunity for people who want real, authentic experiences,” according to Fowles Wine owner Matt Fowles.
Like most businesses in the region, Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton depend upon holiday makers and daytrippers using the Hume Highway, which completely dried up as a source of tourism in 2020. But now the renowned Shiraz and Riesling producers are fighting back, using the region’s natural hidden gems, and relatively low tourism profile, as part of a new campaign to secure their share of Victoria’s $10bn regional tourism market.
“Relatively little-known wine regions and townships, like nearby Nagambie and Avenel, now have a fighting chance to compete with better-known visitor destinations because of the virus,” Fowles said.
Tahbilk CEO Alister Purbrick said there were about 4.4 million people visiting and spending money in regional Victoria every month in 2019.
“That’s a lot of visitors, even before the pandemic begun, and that gives us a lot of heart to make a serious comeback from the ravage of this pandemic,” he said.
With Victoria’s regional tourism boom expected to go deep into next year, Mr Purbrick said it made sense for the three wineries to band together to offer an attractive alternative to the regular touristy spots.
“In the coming months, we expect to see a surge in visitors from Melbourne, within the region, and even interstate, looking for places to visit and explore, which are different, unexpected, and safe.
“People will still want to have a great food and wine experience in a beautiful regional setting. But, post-lockdown, they will also want to be able to stretch out, breathe, feel safe, and be totally free from the hassle of queues and crowds, which is exactly what we are offering,” Purbrick said.
Chief winemaker at Mitchelton, Andrew Santarossa, said the Take Nature’s Road Trip campaign exploited the fact the region is not always top-of-mind, or on the ‘map’, for most day-trippers.
“For us, this has become one of our greatest strengths as we don’t have the same crowds, or traffic problems, which other more frequented regional wine destinations are likely to encounter this coming summer.
“But what we do have is an amazing natural setting boasting some of Victoria’s best wineries and dining, wide-open spaces, the Goulburn River and Ranges, bush trails and billabongs, and friendly smiles,”  Santarossa said.

Innovative ideas to boost regional economies recognised

Three Victorian finalists have been announced for the 2019 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, which is to be announced in March in recognition of ideas to support Australia’s rural and regional communities.

The award recognises Australian women that use and develop their skills to benefit their industries and communities, including Victoria’s $14 billion agriculture sector.

This year’s finalists include:

  • Carly Jordan, from south west Victoria, who wants to continue developing a migrant resettlement model that assists regional towns to boost their populations and economies.
  • Claire Moore, from Kyneton, who wants to breed a genetically diverse range of queen bees that are healthy and adaptable in a variety of climates to address declining bee colony numbers.
  • Odette Suitor, from Sunbury, who wants to continue developing a grains storage concept to improve the efficiency of grain harvest by taking the concept to industry.

The Victorian winner will be announced at an upcoming ceremony and will receive a bursary of $10,000 to implement her project. The national winner will be announced at an award ceremony in Canberra held on 11 September 2019.

“Victorian rural women are at the forefront of innovation and I congratulate our three finalists who I know will do our state proud,” said state agriculture minister, Jaclyn Symes.

“The Andrews Labor Government is focused on the positive future of women in rural communities and we’re getting on with driving growth in agriculture, creating jobs and supporting the health and wellbeing of our overall regional and rural communities.”

Support workshops to help with flash flood recovery for Victorian farms

A series of Agriculture Victoria workshops will be held in March, targeted at supporting producers recovering from the December flash flooding and ongoing dry conditions.

Two workshops will be held in March in collaboration with the North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA).

In addition, farmers can contact Agriculture Victoria if they would like to engage in a free one on one consultation to assist in planning for the months ahead.

State agriculture minister Jaclyn Symes said that the Victorian government was encouraging farmers to attend.

“We recognise the significant impact the December flood had on many landholders in Northern Victoria and that’s why Agriculture Victoria has been on the ground from day one, supporting farmers and the community to recover from the flooding,” Symes said.

“In addition to these workshops, Agriculture Victoria is also offering affected farm businesses a one-on-one consultation to assist them to manage the impacts of the flash flooding and continuing dry seasonal conditions.”

Topic experts will present at the workshops on farm water planning and management, planning on-farm fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements and feed budgeting through 2019.

The first workshop will focus on options for farm water management and will be held at Rutherglen on Monday 4 March.

The second workshop will focus on options for fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements, feed budgeting and planning ahead for the Autumn break.

The second workshop will be held in the flood impacted area at Tarrawingee on Monday 18 March.

The Victorian government is currently offering On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants of up to $5,000 to producers within Northern Victoria, including the shires impacted by the December flooding, to improve drought management and preparedness.

Assistance was made available to flood impacted farmers and the community through a range of mechanisms including Emergency Relief Assistance Payments, which provide up to $540 per adult and $270 per child (up to a maximum of $1,890 per eligible household) to help meet immediate needs, including emergency food, shelter, clothing, and personal items.

Coca-Cola Amatil to sell SPC

Coca-Cola Amatil will sell its fruit and vegetable processing business, SPC, which is expected to record a $10 million loss for the 2017-18 financial year.

The beverage company’s decision to sell SPC comes four years after the Victorian government and Coca-Cola Amatil co-invested $100 million ($78 and $22 million respectively) to help the struggling business.

Coca-Cola Amatil initiated a strategic review into SPC in August. The company’s group managing director, Alison Watkins, said that while there were no plans to close SPC, the review had concluded that selling the Shepparton-based firm would provide the best means of enabling it to grow in the future.

“We believe there are many opportunities for growth in SPC, including new products and markets, further efficiency improvements, and leveraging technology and intellectual property,” Watkins said.

“The review has concluded that the best way to unlock these opportunities is through divestment, enabling SPC to maximise its potential with the benefit of the recent $100 million co-investment, while Amatil sharpens its focus as a beverages powerhouse.”

Watkins said that while SPC production would for now continue as normal at Shepparton and Kyabram, Coca-Cola Amantil would develop a divestment timeline and process over the coming months.

Watkins also indicated that Coca Cola Amatil has decided that the IXL and Taylor’s brands will remain with SPC following the announcement on 21 November that an expected sale to Kyabram Conserves will no longer proceed.

Coca Cola Amatil has invested approximately $250 million into SPC since acquiring it in 2005, including in new tomato and high-speed snack lines, a new aseptic fruit processing system and new export opportunities including in China.

Watkins said that Coca-Cola Amatil expects its 2017-18 full-year results will weighed down by $50 million in expenses due to “cost optimisation programs” and that the company would possibly be unable to meet earnings growth target in the 2018-19 financial year due to factors that include the impacts of container deposit schemes in Australia, higher PET resin costs and a weak Indonesian rupiah.

Watkins said that SPC’s $10 million loss was “modest” and “not a big deal” in the  long-run.

“The challenge for the business is top-line growth, but the core structure of the business now is very good. So what will move that loss to a profit is growth, and that’s what the business is poised to do,” Watkins said.

“We really see a very bright future as a result of the investment we’ve made.”

Victoria’s wine industry gets a $2 million boost from the government

Victoria’s wine industry has received a $2 million boost from the government through the third round of the wine growth fund.

Member for Buninyong, Geoff Howard, represented minister for agriculture and regional development, Jaala Pulford, on the 30th of July, to announce the extra funding and expanded guidelines for the fund.

Howard said the wine industry contributed more than $7.6 billion to the economy.

“[It] employs more than 13,000 people in grape growing, wine making, cellar door sales and hospitality operations – that’s why we’re investing in its future.”

READ: Four of the five largest markets for Australian wine exports have grown in value

The fund aims to develop and sustainably grow the wine industry in Victoria by providing innovative growers, organisations and projects with money to build both domestic and international markets.

It supports activities including marketing, exporting, tourism and business development.

Funding guidelines have been altered so infrastructure projects that attract significant investment and create new jobs are eligible for grants of up to $100,000.

The first two rounds of the fund supported 106 projects worth nearly $2 million in Victoria.

These projects have created new jobs in the wine industry, generated an increase in visitation to Victoria’s wineries, and increased sales and exports of Victorian wines.

Pulford said the government was proud to announce a third round of this program.

“Victorian winemakers produce beautiful wines for every occasion, taste and price and we’re supporting them on the world stage and closer to home.”

Applications are open to businesses or organisations from all wine regions in Victoria directly involved in the wine industry, including the growing, making and marketing of wine.

Corangamite Shire’s agribusiness sector gets funding boost from government

Corangamite Shire’s agribusiness sector is getting a funding boost from the Victorian state government.

On Wednesday, Minister for agriculture, Jaala Pulford, announced a $260,000 investment from the government for three projects in Corangamite as part of the Local Roads to Market program.

The Corangamite upgrades are three of 39 projects worth $24 million that will be delivered under the second round of the program.

Pulford said the program supported communities that relyed on farming to ensure produce was delivered to market safe and on time.

READ: Wimmera Mallee road upgrades boost agribusiness in Vic

“These investments will boost the productivity farm businesses and their supply chains and put them in a better position to compete in international markets,” she said.

The grant, along with a co-investment from Corangamite Shire Council and industry, will fund infrastructure upgrades to enable and improve the access for heavy vehicle freight from the farmgate to arterial roads.

The three projects include a $200,000 upgrade to the intersection of North Robilliards Road and Timboon-Nullawarre Rd, which will allow heavy vehicles and traffic to safely navigate the intersection.

The project will also install an advanced warning signal to improve road visibility and safety for milk transport.

Tomahawk Creek Rd, up to the farmgate of Heytesbury Stockfeeds, will be widened and sealed for $40,000 and $20,000 will go to upgrading the intersection at Noskin and Browns Rd for heavy vehicle freight from Timboon Goat Farm.

Gayle Tierney, a member for Western Victoria, said the upgrades would improve agribusiness and supply chain productivity, as well as the country road network for all users.

Island Road funding to boost Koo Wee Rup’s agribusiness

Cardinia Shire’s agriculture sector will soon be transporting better quality produce to market, more efficiently with support from the Victorian state government.

Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford today announced a $90,000 investment from the second round of grants through the Labor Government’s Local Roads to Market program.

Pulford said, “The Koo Wee Rup community knows Agriculture is one of this state’s most important industries and we’re delighted to work with growers and local councils to deliver these grants.”

“Our farm businesses and their supply chains will see improved productivity and be in a better position to compete in international markets because of this investment.”

“These upgrades will improve agribusiness and supply chain productivity and improve the country road network for all users.”

The grant, along with a co-investment from Cardinia Shire Council and industry, will construct and seal the last remaining section of Island Road in Koo Wee Rup.

The Island Road upgrades will seal the gravel section, reduce dust contamination and bruising during transportation, and improve the quality of produce freighted from farms and parking sheds in the area.

Koo Wee Rup and the adjoining Dalmore area produces most of Victoria’s asparagus. More than 7,500 tonnes of produce grown, picked and transported to market each season, with over 60 per cent exported to Asia.

It will be especially beneficial for local primary producers near this section of unsealed road, who transport millions of dollars in produce on the road each year.

The $25 million Local Roads to Market program is a key pillar of the Labor Government’s Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund and supports rural, regional and outer-suburban councils to improve road transport connections.

The Island Road upgrade is one of 39 projects worth $24 million to be delivered under the second round of the program. The first funded 29 projects worth $22.2 million across regional and rural Victoria in 2017.

 

Wimmera Mallee road upgrades boost agribusiness in Vic

The Wimmera Mallee’s agriculture sector will soon be transporting produce to market with the Victorian state government’s Local Roads to Market program.

Victorian Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford had announced the $5.54 million through round two of the program to widen a dangerously narrow 1.5 kilometre-section of Minyip-Banyena Road in the Yarriambiack Shire to improve access for heavy vehicles to cart grain and other produce.

It’s one of 17 local road and bridge upgrades across eight shire councils in the region that will share in nearly $10 million to improve heavy vehicle access from the farmgate to arterial roads, receival centres and transport hubs.

The grants will be used to widen and seal roads, improve the load bearing capacity of bridges and intersection works, and fund the following key projects in the Wimmera Mallee region:

  • $1.3 million to seal and widen roads that service the large grain community in the Yarriambiack Shire.
  • $1.2 million for the Yeungroon Road and Birchip-Corack Road projects in the Buloke Shire, improving access for B-Doubles to grain storage facilities and to transportation hubs like the Geelong port.
  • $750,000 for the Meridian South Road Widening project to widen and seal a further 6 kilometre section of road, improving the quality of produce transported from the region to the arterial network, as well as bypassing the townships of Mildura, Irymple and Red Cliffs.
  • $700,000 for the Antwerp-Woorak Road and Rainbow-Nhill projects, improving access to markets for heavy vehicles in the Hindmarsh Shire and the broader region.
  • $548,000 for the Annuello-Wemen Road and O’Connor Lane projects to improve roads for almond and produce farms in Swan Hill Shire.
  • $687,000 in the Northern Grampians Shire for three projects to upgrade bridges and an intersection as well as bridges in the Logan area to support local piggeries and farms.
  • $128,500 to complete the final stage of the Wonwondah-Dadswells Bridge Road upgrade in Horsham Shire and $90,000 to support Gannawarra Shire to improve access to the Quambatook grain receival centre.
  • The Wimmera Mallee upgrades are part of 39 projects worth $24 million under Round Two of the program. Round One funded 29 projects worth $22.2 million across regional and rural Victoria in 2017.

Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said, “The Local Roads to Market program is supporting farming communities throughout the Wimmera Mallee, ensuring their top-quality grain, livestock and vegetable produce makes it to market as quickly and safely as possible. These important road and bridge upgrades will improve the competitiveness of agribusinesses across the Wimmera Mallee and improve the safety of country roads for all users.”

Vic gov boost for agricultural manufacturing

The Victorian state government is backing two Ballarat agricultural machinery producers to expand their operations, creating 27 jobs and driving Victoria’s competitiveness as a producer of Australian-made farm machinery.

Goldacres is a sprayer company with 40 years’ history in Ballarat, producing Australian-made products that suit local conditions and the needs for Australian farmers.

A $2.78 million project will reconfigure Goldacres’ manufacturing facility with new infrastructure, equipment and technology that will enable the company to produce larger models of self-propelled sprayers.

Customer demand for larger and self-propelled sprayers is increasing and Goldacres is looking to respond to this by producing a 48-metre boom sprayer.

Goldacres will also use the funding for research and development to diversify its operations into the horticultural sector with different models suited to the different industry needs.

Southern Spreaders designs and manufactures agriculture spreader machinery and has a 30-year history in Ballarat, supplying made to order spreaders for the Australia and New Zealand market.

The company’s $860,000 investment will allow Southern Spreaders to create an additional arm of its business, producing a range of spreaders for a national dealership distribution network.

The new product line, under the brand name ‘Hansa’, will be one of the only Australian made spreaders in the market, and is expected to replace 10 per cent of imported products.

The investment will go towards modifications of the shop floor for better efficiency, and the installation of new cranes and painting equipment to support a more intensive production line.

The Labor Government is supporting both projects through the Regional Jobs Fund, backing Ballarat’s manufacturing strengths and creating new jobs.

Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford said, “Goldacres and Southern Spreaders have a long and proud history in Ballarat, and with our support, we look forward to watching these Ballarat manufacturers thrive into the future.”

 

Fonterra opens Stanhope dairy facility

Fonterra, Australia’s largest exporter of dairy products, officially opened its rebuilt Stanhope Facility today.

Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford officially opened Fonterra’s rebuilt and expanded facility, which has helped retain 120 jobs and create an additional 30 jobs.

Throughout the 18 month building and commissioning phase of the project, over 200 contractors worked to build the new plant.

The project included demolition and rebuilding of the fire damaged hard cheese room and installing modern processing equipment to increase production of a range of cheeses.

In addition, a modern mozzarella manufacturing facility was installed and a whey production and processing has been reinstated.

In December 2014, the existing cheese production facility at Stanhope was destroyed by a major fire at the plant.

The new facility has increased cheese production by 50 per cent each year on the previous plant, and will make hard cheeses such as cheddar and mozzarella for the domestic and export markets.

Nearly three-quarters of the 2 billion litres of milk processed by Fonterra each year is supplied by 1000 Victorian farms.

“We’ve worked closely with Fonterra Australia to facilitate the investment in rebuilding, modernising and expanding their Stanhope facility,” said Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford.

“Fonterra will be making cheese right here in Stanhope, in the heart of Victoria’s dairy country, and sending it around Australia and to the world.”

Barnaby Joyce accuses Victoria of playing politics with dairy farmers

The Victorian Government is politicising the struggles of dairy framers and “dithering” on providing them support, says Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

As the Herald Sun reports, the Victorian Government wrote to Joyce requesting amendments to the support package it announced for dairy farmers in May.

The changes suggested by Victorian Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford included making all dairy farmers, not just those that supply Fonterra and Murray Goulburn, eligible for assistance and providing Victoria with $750,000 to initially administer the loans.

In addition, the Victorian Government wants the loans to be offered at a 1.7 per cent interest rate, not at 2.71 per cent as Joyce announced.

The disagreement has delayed implementation of the assistance package and, as a result, no farmer has yet received a loan.

“While they dither, farmers are waiting,” Joyce (pictured) said.

Dairy farmers are dealing with the recent dramatic drop in the amount they are being paid by milk processors. Murray Goulburn cut its price from $5.65 to between $4.75-$5.00 kgMS, while the other major dairy processor Fonterra cut its price from $5.60 per kgMS to $5.00 per kgMS.

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter adds a new channel to its brand

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, Australia's oldest dairy operating since 1888, has acquired Lion Dairy and Drinks' everyday cheese brands – Coon, Cracker Barrel, Mil Lel and Fred Walker and now will be focussing its energies on its Foodservice business. 

Taking over the iconic Coon, Cracker Barrel, Mil Lel and Fred Walker brands, coupled with its award-winning Warrnambool Heritage cheddars, provides WCB the platform to leverage and grow in the Foodservice channel, the company said.

"We have always provided the input cheese to the Lion business and now we have these iconic brands coupled with our award-winning Warrnambool Heritage range it makes perfect sense to beef up and have a deliberate focus on our Foodservice offering," said WCB's National Business Manager for Foodservice & Industrial, Damien Sorensen.

"That means more simplified processes, a more efficient supply chain, better on-time delivery, regular customer contact – all the things that our customers expect a key supply partner to be. We just want to be easier to deal with, whilst providing a premium dairy offer," Sorensen said.

This focus has included boosting its Foodservice team around the country – a team that will continue to grow with the needs of the business and requirements of our dynamic and changing marketplace.

While WCB has had a relatively low profile in Foodservice previously, it is the engine-room to many of the country's highest profile dairy processors and this is just the beginning for WCB with bold plans to make Foodservice a key ingredient of its business.

To ensure the continued quality and consistency of all its products, WCB has also invested in additional staff including recruiting highly regarded cheese grader Dave Mellor from UK dairy giant Pilgrims Choice.

"Thousands of tonnes of cheese comes out of the dairy every year and it is up to me to grade it all. It's lucky I love cheese," Mellor said.

Fonterra to invest $128 million in cheese plant

Fonterra Australia will invest AUD$128 million in building a state-of-the-art cheese plant at its Stanhope factory in Victoria. The new facility will replace the hard cheese plant, which was destroyed by fire in December 2014, with a larger, modern facility that will produce cheeses for Australian consumer, foodservice and export markets.

 
Fonterra Oceania Managing Director Judith Swales says investing in the new plant will help Fonterra to deliver on its multi-hub strategy to get the maximum value out of every drop of milk and drive increased returns from the business.
 
“Today’s announcement is strategy in action, where we are delivering on our strategic plan to transform our Australian business and return it to strong and sustainable profitability.
 
“We are focusing on areas where we can win in a highly competitive market, and that means optimising our product mix and investing in higher value add products that will deliver the best returns for our farmer shareholders. Rebuilding and expanding our Stanhope cheese plant is key to this.
 
“The new state-of-the-art facility will be able to produce 45,000MT of cheeses each year including parmesan, gouda and mozzarella, an increase of 15,000MT on the previous plant.
 
“As the branded market leader in the AUD$1.95 billion retail cheese category, with Bega, Mainland and Perfect Italiano commanding 23 per cent market share, the new plant will supply our Australian consumer and foodservice businesses, and export markets.
 
“It will leverage our footprint in 100 markets and also the recent free trade agreements with China, Japan, and Korea.”
 
“The new cheese plant is an important part of our multi-hub strategy, which sees our Australian business play to its ingredients strengths in cheese, whey and nutritionals complemented by our consumer and foodservice businesses. It will provide whey to our Darnum and Dennington plants, which are at the core of our growing Australian nutritionals business.”
 
”Importantly, the new plant will require significant growth of the local milk pool by 2020, and demonstrates Fonterra’s commitment to growing the industry long term. It means our local farmers can be assured of the future of dairy in northern Victoria,” said Ms Swales.
 
The multi-million dollar project will secure the future of the site and generate up to 30 jobs and is being supported by the Victorian Government through its Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.
 
 
Speaking at the unveiling of the plans, Victoria’s Minister for Regional Development, the Hon. Jaala Pulford said Fonterra’s investment demonstrated its confidence in the future of Australian dairy.
 
“Fonterra’s significant investment in their Stanhope facility is a major vote of confidence in Victoria’s dairy industry and confirms regional Victoria’s reputation as a great place to do business.” 
 
Construction of the new plant will begin next year, and is expected to be completed in 2017.