The Mirror News

ViPlus revitalising Toora

TOORA is getting a new lease of life with the revitalisation by ViPlus Dairy Pty Ltd of the old dairy factory on the edge of town.

A new partner in the Gippsland dairy industry, the family-owned Australian company plans to manufacture up to 20,000 tonnes per annum of highest grade infant formula and export it to China.

For some months work has been in progress to ready the Jetty Road factory for production to begin next month. At first the focus will be on blending milk powder and supplements and canning the finished product for export.

The company has secured Chinese customers for its entire initial infant formula product through existing strong business links.

By this time next year ViPlus Dairy hopes to be buying milk from local suppliers and drying it at the factory to make its own milk powder.

In recent weeks the heavy equipment necessary for the first stage of production has arrived – nine huge shipping containers each with around 20 tonnes of state-of-the art technology all the way from the manufacturer in China. It arrived at the Port of Melbourne and travelled by road to Toora, the same route the end product will take in reverse, though eventually the plan is to ship the powder out of Port Anthony at nearby Barry Beach.

Five Chinese engineers involved in the design of the equipment accompanied it to Toora and are now busy installing it. On Wednesday the power should be turned on and next week the engineers hope to begin training the local operators. Preliminary testing of the equipment is scheduled for later this week.

Blending and canning will take place in two huge rooms at the factory, each with a hospital-grade sterile environment, for in making infant formula it is critical to ensure the highest level of hygiene.

“We are buying in Australian and NZ powder initially, blending it with supplements – up to 100 different additives – to customers’ specifications,” said the factory’s liaison consultant, Jennie Deane. “Some will be sold under the ViPlus label, some as a third party product.”

ViPlus Dairy promises to employ local personnel as a priority and keep training up to its workers. Already those locals who have been employed to clean the old factory and assist the engineers in installing the equipment have impressed factory management. They have taken only four weeks to complete tasks expected to take six. “They are a credit to the South Gippsland workforce,” said Ms Deane.

When the blending and canning begins in the middle of June it is expected that the factory will require 18 machine operators, working in four ten-hour shifts. When production peaks in a year or so the factory could provide as many as 80 direct jobs.

Already a high proportion of the workforce is female.

Not only the local population but also the local environment should reap the benefits of Toora’s revitalised dairy factory.

The ViPlus Dairy brochure spruiks world’s best practice in its operations, “ensuring minimum harm to people and the environment”. The aim is for efficient energy consumption, the use of renewable energy as far as possible, and a strong focus on re-use and recycling of water and waste. Already as much as possible of the timber, metals, plastics and paper from the old buildings currently being dismantled has been recycled.

As reported a few weeks ago, plans are under way to grow a community garden in the grounds of the factory and turn some of the vacant buildings into community facilities.

Negotiations have begun with icecream and cheesemakers with a view to perhaps having them on site one day. With the Toora-Foster leg of the Great Southern Rail Trail only metres away and due to be completed shortly, such ventures could be the tourist drawcard Toora has long needed.

Watch this space for more exciting developments in the rejuvenation of historic Toora.

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