Leading Australian almond producer Select Harvests has made a significant investment in upgrading its Carina West processing facility in northwest Victoria ahead of the 2015 season.
The listed company has spent A$700,000 (US$ 598,233) on the installation of an almond dryer, which will be commissioned early next year.
Paul Thompson, Select Harvests’ managing director, said the company’s drying costs exceeded A$315,000 (US$269,205) over the 2014 season. He estimated the new drying facility would have reduced this total by 50 per cent if it had been in operation.
“Rain at harvest is an inevitable part of growing almonds in Australia,” Thompson explained. “Nuts cannot be processed moist, so we need to be able to stabilise the nuts in a timely manner. Investment in a dryer and additional harvest equipment is the best way to mitigate this risk.”
Select Harvests will invest a further A$11.9m (US$10.1m) in a biomass electricity cogeneration plant at the Carina West site. Thompson said the plant will generate 2.5 megawatts of energy per year, slashing power costs at the facility.
“Select Harvests’ almond orchard and processing business generates substantial biomass in the forms of tree prunings, hull and shell,” he noted. “The electricity (generated from the plant) will be used to supply Select Harvests’ Carina West processing facility and some of its orchards, while the surplus will be fed back into the grid, ensuring a secure supply of electricity for the local community.”
Providing an early season update on the 2015 crop, Thompson said Select Harvests’ orchards in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia had experienced good blossoms and pollination, thanks to solid growing conditions across all three states. He said the company’s pool price estimate for the 2015 season was between 10 and 15 per cent higher than the average A$8.50 per kg (US$7.2) over 2014.