TFI's state-of-the-art plant a boon for 'Bridge

TFI's state-of-the-art plant a boon for 'Bridge


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Livestock processing isn't just returning to Murray Bridge, it's likely returning in a form we haven't seen before.

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I STILL remember where I was when a fire broke out in Thomas Foods International's Murray Bridge abattoir (pictured above by Peri Strathearn) in January 2018.

The memory of driving across a paddock on our family farm, looking up and seeing smoke billowing high in the air remains vivid. I was 50 kilometres away, but could see the smoke rising and then moving along the horizon, trapped by an inversion layer.

My first thought was for all those who relied on the plant for their income.

Being the start of January, I thought it must've been a header ablaze, or a fire started by a ute driving across stubble.

When I found out the real story, I was horrified. Murray Bridge was the closest 'big' town to our farm growing up, and I drove past the plant more times than I could remember throughout my childhood. It's what helped me learn about what happened to our livestock post-farmgate - an important lesson for a young kid.

I have a soft spot for Murray Bridge and its people, and after the fire my first thought was for all those who relied on the plant for their income, both directly and indirectly.

I was unsure about the impact it would have on the family-owned TFI, and on the future of the town. I was worried about what it would mean for producers who supplied TFI direct for years, or who benefited from the buying competition the company provided at saleyards.

But the company earned praise from many quarters for reassuring the Murray Bridge community it would be back bigger and better, and for quickly upping throughput at Lobethal and utilising interstate facilities to cover the processing shortfall.

The opportunities presented by emerging technologies in objective measurement, robotics and energy efficiency are exciting.

Last week, TFI detailed its plans to build a state-of-the-art processing facility 10km from the centre of Murray Bridge.

Livestock processing isn't just returning to Murray Bridge, it's likely returning in a form we haven't seen before. The chance to design a modern processing facility of this scale from the ground up is extremely rare.

The opportunities presented by emerging technologies in objective measurement, robotics and energy efficiency are exciting.

And it's not unreasonable to think the new plant will also lift the bar for good animal welfare standards.

With the Pirie Meats multi-species abattoir scheduled to open in the middle of next year, and feasibility studies being conducted into opening facilities on Kangaroo Island and the Fleurieu Peninsula, who knows - SA could soon be a world-leader in livestock processing.

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