Beef industry stakeholders figured prominently in the 2011 NAB Agribusiness awards for excellence announced in Melbourne last night.
In a strong field representing a broad cross-section of agricultural and agribusiness activity, Gippsland multi-species processor Robert Radford was named agribusiness leader of the year, while his business, R Radford and Son, earned the award for environmental and energy management.
Radfords is the only large-scale domestic abattoir in Victoria’s Gippsland district. Its operations are critical to the region’s red meat industry in general, and to the region’s growing status as one of Australia’s main hubs for Certified Organic red meat production in particular.
Under Mr Radford’s stewardship, the multi-generational business has continued to expand, reflecting his confidence in and commitment to the business, the industry and the Gippsland region.
Radfords is one of the single biggest employers in the region, doubling its throughput to a point where it now processes 80,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and lambs annually.
Embracing technology and innovation was a key to both ongoing growth and long-term sustainability of the business, judges said.
Importantly, while ensuring the ongoing viability of his own business, Mr Radford’s long-term perspective had provided alternative employment opportunities for many staff affected by the closures of other meatworks, ensuring that valuable skills were not lost to the region and, ultimately, to the industry.
In his industry roles, Mr Radford is chairman of the Victorian Processors Council and deputy chair of AMIC’s National Domestic Processor Council and sits on the red meat industry domestic market taskforce.
$9m investment in environment/energy management
In earning the environment and energy management award, Radfords was acknowledged for investing more than $9 million in state-of-the-art technology over the past decade, continuing to develop its Warragul facilities into an Environmentally Sustainable Centre of Excellence in red meat processing.
Since the implementation of an Environment Improvement Plan in late 2005, Radfords has increased tonnage throughput by 38 percent while simultaneously reducing electricity consumption by 4.2pc, gas by 30pc, motor fuel by 19pc and water by 45pc.
The company’s waste water recovery and recycling system is an Australian red meat industry first, adapting ultra-filtration and supporting technologies to capture and treat essentially all process effluent to potable quality.
A rigorous and extensive validation regime has been undertaken to satisfy regulators, PrimeSafe that the recycled water is suitable for general abattoir use.
The system effectively secures Radfords’ future water needs – currently about some 46 megalitres annually.
The system greatly reduces the area of pasture cropping required for nutrient removal, freeing up this resource for potential forestation and CO2 sequestration. The system also facilitated the decommissioning and reclamation of settling ponds, further enhancing both the appearance and functionality of Radfords’ processing site.
The company’s water treatment system has attracted the interest of the broader food industry. Open site inspections have been held for fish, poultry, brewery, dairy and vegetable representatives, along with a number of regional meat processors.
Energy-related Key Performance Indicators are also set, monitored and reported-on, connecting the essentials of production and natural resource usage as key to business sustainability.
A heat and energy recovery project has seen the replacement of inefficient evaporators and cooling towers and the incorporation of heat-exchangers. Total expected annual electricity savings are 264,000kWh, with an attendant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Capturing otherwise waste heat generated by refrigeration compressors and cooling towers to pre-heat boiler feed water has added to these efficiency gains.
ACC earns Employer of Choice crown
Also earning the important Agribusiness Employer of Choice award was vertically-integrated Brisbane beef processor Australian Country Choice.
ACC is a privately owned and operated company managed by third and fourth generation members from the founding Lee family. It has from its origins in beef production in Queensland’s Roma district to become one of the country’s largest and most successful integrated supply chain organisations.
Today that chain encompasses ownership, management and control from the farm paddock to the retail shelf with operations covering cattle breeding, lotfeeding, beef processing, value-adding, packing and distribution to retail or food service customers across the domestic and international market place.
The company has a staff of 1000 full-time equivalents. Rural operations turn off 145,000 head of cattle and farm 5600ha of crops. The company packs and distributes 13,000 tonnes of fresh meat products and manufactures, packs and distributes more than 10,000t of value-added fresh beef and lamb lines.
The core philosophy of management is to provide a workplace and programs to attract staff, through the development of schemes to provide education and training opportunities with developed policies and disciplines to manage and retain employees. The success of the program will ensure career and operational benefits in the delivery of personnel proficiency, production efficiency, financial viability and business sustainability.
The key program philosophy is to develop young professionals in a commercial environment for the future and contribute to the sustainability of the industry in a competitive global marketplace.
To this end, 29 awards have been issued in undergraduate projects, undergraduate scholarships and graduate cadetships.
- Run by Monash University, the NAB agribusiness awards recognise the importance of agribusiness to the Australian economy. University vice-chancellor and president, Professor Helen Bartlett, said the 2011 award winners stood out in a strong field of finalists. “These individuals and companies are showing the types of innovation and best practice management that are keeping Australian agribusiness competitive, profitable and sustainable,” she said.