SIX months on and Viterra’s new purpose-built grain analysis laboratory at Thebarton has breezed through its first harvest.
Viterra quality services manager Jade Saunders said the complexity of the 2018-19 harvest showed that the $3-million state-of-the-art lab was capable of managing variable crop volume, commodities and quality.
“Weather events have made managing the quality of grain challenging, but with improved efficiencies and closer monitoring, we continue to provide our customers with the quality that they expect when buying from our system,” he said.
The lab undertakes testing to monitor all grain delivered into the Viterra storage and handling network.
It employs seven full-time specialists that oversee all quality testing to ensure the consistency and reliability of grain supplied to customers.
These specialists were supported by a further 16 laboratory technicians during harvest.
Mr Saunders said the relocation from the previous laboratory in the heart of Adelaide had created more efficient monitoring and reporting back to sites, which provided a more effective service to growers and end-use customers.
“Efficiency has been improved by a number of features in the new laboratory including an open plan layout customised to workflow, sample receival, preparation and cool room at the one site and dedicated training areas,” he said.
Several groups including end-users and external industry representative groups have already visited the laboratory for tours, forums and workshops.
“Customers from countries including China and Japan representing various food, beverage and feed product companies, with varying quality requirements, have travelled to Australia and toured the facility,” Mr Saunders said.
“The laboratory has been well-received by end-use customers and it has reinforced their view of the high standards in quality management and food safety that Viterra maintains for its customers.”
If Australia wants to maintain its reputation as a quality supplier of grain, then facilities such as Viterra’s new lab were very important, according to Nick Goddard, chief executive officer at Pulse Australia and the Australian Oilseeds Foundation.
“The lab testing ensures the commodity matches standards set by us and, more importantly, it meets the quality specifications of customers,” he said.
“We are seeing increased pressure from domestic and international customers, who are wanting greater information about our products, including where the grain has come from, what chemicals have been used, any residues present, any unwanted foreign materials within – so it is good that we have these checks and balances along the way.”
All facilities throughout Viterra’s supply chain are ISO 22000 accredited – the highest accreditation of any grain supply chain in Australia and meets the highest international standards in quality and food safety.
“Our ISO accreditation has recently been audited and approved to meet the new 2018 standards, which includes greater accountability of process, monitoring and risk management for food safety and quality,” Mr Saunders said.
To support the company's focus on food safety and quality management, Viterra also recently created a new quality program, Verified Viterra, to reflect the high standards and systems needed to deliver quality grain.
“Since the opening of the laboratory, we have also introduced our new grain management system, SIMS, which has allowed for better reporting and easier access to information,” Mr Saunders said.
“A direct comparison in real time is available between site and laboratory results for each sample tested.
“Data entry times for each sample has improved and further enhancements in 2019 will see a further reduction. It has also facilitated the introduction of wheat dynamic binning to growers this harvest.”
At the lab opening, Viterra general manager Tim Krause said the company made the $3m investment as part of its ongoing support for the state’s $2-billion grain industry.
“We want to ensure that growers can achieve full value for their crops by encouraging buyers to source grain from SA ahead of other origins in Australia and globally,” he said.
“More than 30 grain buyers operate within our supply chain, supplying grain to consumers across the world, and they value our commitment to quality management and food safety.”