Pirie abattoir goes hi-tech to increase value

Pirie abattoir goes hi-tech to increase value

Beef
REVEALED: Brian and Heath Tiller, Warnertown; Reg Smyth, Pirie Meats, and Robyn Verrall, Keith, with the collagen and bone by-products and the high-value end product.

REVEALED: Brian and Heath Tiller, Warnertown; Reg Smyth, Pirie Meats, and Robyn Verrall, Keith, with the collagen and bone by-products and the high-value end product.

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A NEW SA meat processing plant is back on the agenda, with a business model thought to be an Australian first.

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A NEW SA meat processing plant is back on the agenda, with a business model thought to be an Australian first.

In March 2020, Pirie Meats announced it would begin construction at its Warnertown site by July last year.

But within weeks of the geotechnical core sample tests in March, the impacts of COVID-19 hit the project.

Director Reg Smyth said export options dried up and so did some of the financing required for the multi-species service kill processor, which had aimed to process 300 cattle and 3000 small stock per shift.

But rather than give up on the project, Mr Smyth said they have used the past year to review their options.

"We took the opportunity to ask 'are we doing it right? is there more we could do?'," he said.

He said they came back with a plan to increase their carbon neutral goals, improve traceability and look at adding more value for producers.

While the initial project was already planning to link in with the NEOEN green energy project at Crystal Brook, the new proposal will take this even further with a target to be carbon neutral by 2030, including feedlotting.

It's great for all producers to have an opportunity to be pricemakers rather than pricetakers. - ROBYN VERRALL

Mr Smyth said they also wanted to optimise the value of each animal killed and improve on data for producers.

In order to achieve this, Pirie Meats has formed several partnerships, which were unveiled at an information event at the University of Adelaide on Monday.

These new partnerships include Siemens, who will be fitting out the high-tech facility; CH4, who produce a seaweed supplement to reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock; and waste reduction company Organic Technology Holdings.

Mr Smyth said the new facility had evolved from its original role as an abattoir to an advanced processor.

The facility is anticipated to cost about $90 million - a big increase of the $70m plant originally intended.

"There are new process lines, more processing automation and there will be multiple lines with the secondary processing system, so the price has gone up a bit," he said.

Mr Smyth said the benefits of the location still remained and had even improved, with the proximity to green power, a nearby feedlot, easy accessibility with the upgraded highway, and a potential workforce with a population of about 20,000 in the vicinity and a high unemployment rate.

He said the UniHub at Port Pirie was also attractive, since research and development would be a major goal of the new site.

"(SA) can become a hub of knowledge in this space," he said.

The project is expected to create about 270 jobs initially, but that figure is expected to grow to 550 direct jobs within two years.

Construction is expected to begin later this year - dependent on success with a federal grant - with processing of the secondary products to begin within the first six months, to allow accreditation and market development, with private kills expected late 2022.

RELATED: SA to gain a new abattoir by 2020

Pirie Meats project 'back on track' for 2021 start

While there is considerable competition among livestock processors already, Mr Smyth said there was definitely demand for a service kill domestic and export-accredited abattoir.

"And we want to create a pull for farmers with the extra value, that will determine the success as we go forward," he said.

Producer Robyn Verrall, who operates a direct sales meat company Bully's Meat from Keith, with husband Christopher Bullen, said the opportunity to have an SA-based export-accredited abattoir was already exciting, but the chance to get extra value from their animals was a "game changer".

"Everyone works on a grid, but there will be a couple of different types of grid for this," she said.

"It's great for all producers to have an opportunity to be pricemakers rather than pricetakers."

The Tiller family, HB Rural, Warnertown, live across from the planned site and hope to supply the processor with stock from their feedlot.

Heath Tiller said the move to reduce emissions appeared to be the way of the future, while there was potential in the other proposals.

"It's good to be able to use the latest technology to use 100 per cent of animal to give producers as much value as they can," he said.

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