Longwarry Food Park won Environmental Solution of the Year at the recently-held Endeavour Awards.
A dairy business, Longwarry is based in the Gippsland region of Victoria. It converts fresh milk from the region into various products for domestic and export market.
Its products are sold in all three major supermarkets (ALDI, Woolies and Coles) and exported to over 30 different countries. Their business has grown every year, except for a year when they had a serious fire at the factory.
Longwarry purchased a sick factory from Bonlac Foods in 2001, which Bonlac had closed four years earlier. Longwarry has grown from being a one-product company, and exporting 200 containers per year in 2006 to now exporting over 1,200 containers per year as a multi-product company.
When it was purchased, the plant had obsolete technology and was uneconomical to operate, and was converted into an energy efficient and growing business, which has received numerous awards (including the fastest growing business award 2008 by BRW).
The plant has been upgraded from 2.3 MT/hr to 6.0 MT/hr using inhouse technology.
The company is engaged in continuous R&D involving improving plant efficiency, process automation and productivity.
In the last two years plant capacity has been increased to 6.0 MT to reduce the cost of production and increase productivity. This was achieved by in-house innovation and process optimisation. It has involved about 20 innovations (one patented as well) like viscosity control, preheat, Humidity measurement, cleaning time reduction with higher velocities etc.
A $500,000 Ausindustry grant for reducing energy consumption helped them match the best practice through a project that has made a significant impact on productivity and energy consumption.
“The time that we got the AusIndustry grant it was very important for us,” said Rakesh Aggarwal, the company’s managing director (and also finalist in the Lifetime Achievement category of these awards).
“We were going through the fire stage and without the grant it would be very difficult for us to continue this project. So it was really helpful for us.”
Then installation and marketing took place for two new product lines, Cream Cheese and UHT Milk. They are struggling to meet the demand for these two products.
Challenges for Longwarry are a declining milk supply in Australia, milk powder being a commodity exposed to world markets, currency fluctuation (all trade is in USD and managed by a conservative hedging policy) and rebuilding customer confidence post-fire.
The $500,000 AusIndustry Retooling Grant environmental friendliness grant was used to increase Longwarry’s milk powder evaporator efficiency, updating an inefficient steam process by adding mechanical vapour recompressor (MVR) technology to achieve a 57.9TJ reduction in energy consumption for the evaporator process.
A project funded by a $50,000 Victorian state grant helped reduce the use of packing material by increasing the carrying capacity of a pallet from 1.6 MT to 1.8 MT.
A $1 million project for insulation of the factory buildings to reduce the noise impact on the community has also been undertaken, as have other projects including the installation of waste compactor and waste segregation and the installation of product recovery stations at the point of bottle milk filling to recover milk from the over-production and damaged bottles.
Given that his company has successfully earned grants to improve its efficiency, Aggarwal was asked his view on the Abbott government’s apparent hostility towards such things.
“The current government has got a different view in terms of energy efficiency and grants,” he said.
“But I guess the [elimination] of the carbon tax is going to be a lot more helpful to a company like ours than an energy efficiency grant could be. Our energy bill has gone up by 25 per cent with the carbon tax and we’re looking forward to the carbon tax coming off.